DETROIT -- The debate over the greatest seasons in Tigers history is heating up as fans cast their vote for the All-Time 9s at MLB.com. Not surprisingly, given a team with almost 110 years of history, the tight contests are many, pitting recent greats against longtime legends, and Hall of Famers against guys who arguably should be.
More than 4.1 million votes have been cast since the 9/9/09 debut of the "All-Time 9s," a platform for fans to debate the greatest single-season performances for all 30 Major League franchises. The voting marks the start of MLB.com's Lineup Card campaign, a gathering place for the posting and never-ending discussion of the greatest past and present lineups.
Detroit's rich history yields plenty of choices at many positions, especially at some key infield positions. Add in the fact that so many longtime Tigers had great single seasons, and the debate comes down to more than simply career achievements.
The closest races for Detroit start behind the plate, where Ivan Rodriguez held about a 400-vote lead over Lance Parrish, who coached Pudge on the 2004 and '05 Tigers. Rodriguez is arguably a sure Hall of Famer and one of the best to play the position, while Parrish had his best years in Detroit while playing a key role on a World Series champion.
At second base, the choice is even tougher. Charlie Gehringer is in the Hall of Fame and has his number retired by the club, having been a cornerstone on championship teams. However, he played the same position as Lou Whitaker, one of the greats of his generation and part of one of the best double-play combinations in the game. At last count, Gehringer led by 2,400 votes.
First base is an even tougher call, given the greats who manned the spot at Tiger Stadium. Though Cecil Fielder's 52-homer season in 1990 was a historic breakthrough past the 50-homer mark in that generation, it isn't getting the votes of Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg or former batting champion Norm Cash. So far, Fielder is a distant third in balloting.
Even at designated hitter, there's a surprising race developing. Willie Horton leads for his successful transition to DH in 1975, but his lead is down to about 700 votes over Rusty Staub, who hit 24 home runs with 121 RBIs in 1978.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.