So the Detroit Tigers open their 2020 regular season Friday night against the Cincinnati Reds (heard on Lansing's Big Talker 1240 WJIM-AM @ 5:45 pm).  And this is a season that will be unlike any other in Major League Baseball history.

Yes, you had the strike years of 1981 (which forced a split-season playoff structure much like minor league baseball), and 1994 (don't get me started on the dumbest thing I've ever seen in sports).  But this is different than those years because it's only 60 games long (basically a college season, which is 56 regular-season games).

You also have a unique playoff structure for this year only.  16 teams qualify for the postseason this year, eight in each league.  Read about the structure in detail here, courtesy of

As for the Motor City kitties, not much is expected considering that the team was 47-114 last season and hasn't made the playoffs since 2014 (Brad Ausmus's first year, and Max Scherzer's last year in a Tiger uniform).  First, you have the last year of dead money coming off the books with Prince Fielder's $6 million payout as part of the Ian Kinsler trade 6 1/2 years ago.  And this is the final year of the massive Jordan Zimmermann contract (quite possibly the worst deal in Detroit sports history, IMO).  Because of the shortened season, he's "only" going to get $9-$10 million of the $25 million he was supposed to get.  So the team gets a break there.  He's likely thrown his final pitch in a Tigers uniform (he's on the 45-day IL with a forearm injury, MIGHT be ready in September).

The team does have many top prospects that are getting closer to Detroit (Casey Mize, et al), but is it a good idea to bring them up now to start their service time clock towards free agency on a weird season like this??  I don't think so.

The infield looks just ok with Jeimer Candelario at 3rd base (he needs a good year if he wants to stay in the majors), Niko Goodrum at shortstop (I think his best position is 2nd base), Jonathan Schoop at 2nd (solid, but not great pickup), and CJ Cron at 1st (see Jonathan Schoop).

The outfield could be decent if they all stay healthy. Left-fielder Christin Stewart is running out of time to prove himself as a major leaguer (26 is old for a 2nd-year man), Centerfielder JaCoby Jones surprised me with a decent year in 2019 before he got hurt.  And veteran right fielder Cameron Maybin is in his third tour of duty with the club that drafted him in 2005 with the 10th overall pick in the first round (who knows what you'll get with him).

And can Miguel Cabrera rebound from all his injuries and personal issues to be anywhere close to the offensive juggernaut he was earlier in his career?  Doubtful, but with three more years guaranteed on a $300 million deal (signed through 2023), he needs to be better all the way around.  Being the primary designated hitter might be a big help to him.

The pitching staff?  Who knows?  Matt Boyd is their best starter without a doubt, and he's the Opening Night starter.  Michael Fulmer is coming back from Tommy John surgery, and will likely be an opener in this shortened season.  Ivan Nova? Tyler Alexander?  Your guess is as good as mine.  The bullpen outside of closer Joe Jimenez (solid, not great yet) is sketchy at best.

As for manager Ron Gardenhire, he's in the final year of a three-year deal.  IMO, as long as the Tigers don't finish below 15-45, he'll be back in 2021.  I think he deserves to have a chance to manage the young prospects that will likely be on the squad in 2021 for a full season.

My prediction?  22-38 and out of the playoffs.  Some improvement, and just enough hope to get people thinking positively about the future.

DISCLAIMER:  The preceding article contains the opinions of the author, and the author alone.  They do not necessarily reflect those of the management and staff of WVFN.

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