The 2007 Detroit Tigers team was fun to watch. They had been swept aside by Tony La Russa‘s Cardinals in the previous year’s World Series, so their postseason TV appearances had made many of the players familiar to me.
My personal favourite was third baseman, Brandon Inge. The diminutive defensive whizz had just come off a career year [Editor’s note: Is 5-foot-11 diminutive?], and although his 2007 was nothing special – he hit .236 with 14 home runs – there was something about his energy, his tenacity that made you want him to succeed. A couple of years later, Inge appeared in the Home Run derby yet was eliminated with the unfortunate accolade of failing to hit even one homer.
My affection for Inge was solidified at the end of the 2009 season when he underwent patellar tendonitis surgery, at almost exactly the same time as me. This was where my similarity with an elite athlete starts and ends. Although it’s fair to say that post-operation, neither of us ever reached a level to make a splash in the big leagues.
The 2007 Tigers were marshalled by catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez – the Yadier Molina of his day – an irrepressible force behind the plate, controlling pitchers and intimidating hitters.
Power was brought by Curtis Granderson, Magglio Ordonez and Gary Sheffield. 38-year-old Sheffield, although in the twilight of his career, reproduced glimpses of former magic with a 25-homer campaign, complete with his trademark waggle.
The Tigers also had a 24-year-old pitcher who led the league with wild pitches and hit batsmen. If he improved his control, the young Justin Verlander had a chance of a decent career ahead of him.
I don’t recall the game when the Tigers gave a debut to their first-round pick from the 2005 draft. Ranked as the sixth-best prospect in all of baseball, 20-year-old Cameron Maybin had destroyed Single-A pitching in 2007. He stepped up a level and promptly despatched four homers in his only six Double-A games to earn an immediate promotion to The Show.
In his debut, with Yankees’ Andy Pettitte on the mound, Maybin went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. The next day, 18 August 2007, Maybin got his first big league hit – a home run off Roger Clemens – one of the final long balls allowed in Rocket’s legendary career.
Over the next 15 years, Maybin was a fixture in the majors, representing ten different franchises. He played more than 1,100 games with 973 hits and 556 runs. Always a threat on the basepaths, the centre fielder has a 40-stolen base season to his name as part of a tally of 187 swiped bags.
Some players fail to deliver in the postseason, but Maybin upped his game with .820 OPS (compared to his career regular-season .697 OPS), with the pinnacle being a defensive substitution to help the Astros secure victory in Game 7 of the now-infamous 2017 World Series win.
Although never recognised sufficiently to get an All-Star nod, Maybin lived the dream. The 34-year-old announced his retirement on Tuesday with “Although my journey as a professional baseball player ends here … my work in this game is just getting started.”
Take a bow Mr Maybin for an excellent career.
Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images
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