Congrats to the Atlanta Braves on winning the World Series! Congrats to Freddie Freeman! That man deserves everything. Congrats to Ozzie Albies, Mike Fiers, Jeff Mathis, Austin Riley, Will Smith, and especially congratulations to Drew Smyly!
Why am I pointing out Drew Smyly specifically? He didn’t even pitch well in this series, surrendering three earned runs on seven hits in just four innings, so why am I congratulating him? Well, Smyly has been to a World Series before, as a rookie on the 2012 Detroit Tigers. In fact, Smyly made two appearances in that Series against the Giants in Games 2 and 4.
Smyly remained on that Tigers team for two and a half seasons, joining the Tampa Bay Rays midway through 2014 in a trade involving former Cy Young Award winner David Price. That year, the Tigers had several big names on their pitching staff: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, David Price, Aníbal Sánchez, and Rick Porcello. Along with Smyly, that makes six pitchers on that 2014 Tigers team who have gone on to win a World Series title — with another team.
That has become the legacy of the 2014 Tigers — a team with immense talent that couldn’t win it all, then lost all those talented players only to see them thrive elsewhere.
The Tigers haven’t won a World Series since that magical year of 1984. Yet somehow some of the best players of the last 12 or so years have come from the Tigers’ organization. Not only were they part of the Tigers’ organization, they were all part of those early 2010s teams that could never win it all. I still haven’t named every big-name pitcher on that 2014 Tigers squad. Toronto Blue Jays’ ace, Robbie Ray, spent his rookie season in the Motor City. Ray appeared in just nine games and posted a 1-4 record and an 8.16 ERA.
Ray was promptly shipped to Arizona in a three-team trade. While the Tigers did acquire reliever Shane Greene in the trade, who wound up being an All-Star for the team in 2019, Ray has gone on to become arguably the most prolific strikeout pitcher in MLB history. He made an All-Star team in 2017 and finished 7th in NL Cy Young voting. Now, in 2021, as a member of the Blue Jays, Ray is in contention for the AL Cy Young Award. If he wins, that would make five members of the 2014 Detroit Tigers pitching staff to have won the Cy Young for a different team.
I haven’t even gotten to the hitters on that 2014 squad yet. There are three members of the lineup who went on to earn All-Star nods with other teams: J.D. Martinez, Nicholas Castellanos, and Eugenio Suárez. To be fair, Martinez did earn an All-Star invite with the Tigers in 2015, but that’s still three of the best players of the late 2010s all on the 2014 Detroit Tigers, as well as a pitching staff with four (potentially five if Robbie Ray wins the Cy Young this year) Cy Young winners. That’s potentially a whole rotation filled with Cy Young winners. Oh, and not to mention, the bullpen consisted of several future and former All-Stars as well: Joakim Soria, Joe Nathan, Corey Knebel, and Jim Johnson were all in that 2014 Tigers’ bullpen. They all have All-Star selections to their name, yet none were named All-Stars as a member of the Detroit Tigers.
That was a metric fucking ton of talent on that team. And they were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Baltimore Orioles. That’s heartbreaking on its own. Seeing those same players experience immense success on different teams though... that’s hurt on a whole ‘nother level.