Baseball has had its share of notable twin killing combinations over the years. Just saying the word "double play" evokes certain names, teams and feelings.
Tinker to Evers to Chance. Jeter to Cano. Rollins to Utley.
Detroit, though, knows a bit more about what it's like to have a special connection between second base and shortstop. Over time, the Tigers have had a few combinations that have proven elite. Billy Rogell and Charlie Gehringer turned double plays in the 1930s for one title in 1935, and significantly after that, perhaps the most notable duo came along.
Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker. Just the names themselves are likely to stir special feelings all over the Motor City. It's a double play combo so famed they made appearances on popular television programs as routinely as on baseball leader boards. For years, the defensive combination of "Sweet Lou" and "Tram" were the talk of the town, and managed to help contribute to a title run of their own during the magical 1984 season.
John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press examined how the Tigers' new duo of Jose Igelesias and Ian Kinsler might match up, and found that both have a particular affinity for history and understand the significance of Detroit's role in double play fame after catching up in Lakeland. Kinsler himself has even decided to wear the number 3, with Trammell's blessing.
"I thought it would be cool to have those two numbers in the middle again," Kinsler said. "For fans to be able to talk to their kids about it: 'I remember when there was 1 and 3 up the middle, and they were the longest tenured up the middle guys."
Last season, Iglesias, who had worn the same number in Boston, asked for the number 1 after a mid-season trade and with a bevy of slick plays ushered in significant memories of Whitaker. When Kinsler came along in the offseason also via trade, he immediately recognized the historical significance of a number change given his position on the diamond and the realization that his traditional number 5 was unavailable thanks to the greatness of Hank Greenberg.
"The last time we won the World Series was with Trammell and Whitaker in the middle," Kinsler said…."I was starting to connect all this stuff and I was thinking, 'It's a pretty cool deal to have these two numbers in the middle again.'
After Trammell and Whitaker hung up the cleats, the Tigers have had a revolving door at both second base and shortstop. Deivi Cruz and Damion Easley were the closest thing the team has had to a true combination since, but neither were considered elite enough or on good enough teams to get recognition. Now, with the talented Iglesias and Kinsler in the fold for a considerable amount of time and Detroit's World Series window still open, big things could be on tap.
In order to make history, players have to first embrace it. Both Iglesias and Kinsler have bought in to the traditions of the team first and foremost, and already have the talent to match that positive mindset. Iglesias has turned in fantastic plays, while Kinsler has a steady .978 career fielding percentage, good for a solid 18th in the game with regards to active players.
2014 could end up being a big year for the Tigers remade infield, and it starts up the middle, where what was once old is new again in a small way. If Motor City baseball glory returns, Detroit fans will likely have historical appreciation and an electric double play combination to thank most.
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