Former Detroit Tiger outfielder Marcus Thames has kind of been lost in the conversation when it comes around to ex-Tigers outfielders. The talk about centerfielder, Curtis Granderson, was all the rage when he was traded to the New York Yankees in the off-season and rightfully so.
When the Yankees made their only visit to Comerica Park last week, quietly sliding into town with the Bronx Bombers was Thames carrying a solid .341 batting average in 16 games for the Yankees.
“So far everything has been going pretty good,” he said. “I’m playing consistently against left-handed pitching. I know my role on this team and that’s what I came here for. I’m hitting the ball, but I have not got it going like I know I can. I have not got my homerun stroke going yet, but I’ll just keep grinding and things will work out.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Thames had a productive if not spectacular six-year run with the Tigers. In the Tigers’ magical 2006 season that resulted in a World Series appearance, he had career highs with 348 at-bats and 26 home runs while adding 20 doubles.
At one point the Tigers posted a 51-19 record when Thames hit a home run – and that includes a 12-1 mark in 2008.
“Marcus hits them when it means something, he hits the big ones,” Leyland said in an interview at the time. “He can get hot and carry a team for a short stint. There’s not a player in the American League that has more raw power.”
In 2007, despite playing in only 86 games, he hit 18 home runs in a mere 269 at-bats. He followed that up with 25 home runs in ’08. At the end of the ’09 season he was not re-signed by the Tigers. No matter. He said Detroit was a very special period for him because he got his first real opportunity to show he could hit big league pitching.
“In the ‘06 season we made it all the way to the World Series,” Thames recalled. “That is what every player dreams about doing. I will always remember how the city and state responded to us that year. We did not win it all, but it was a fun season.I thought about how the fans would treat me when I showed up in a Yankees uniform, but they were cool about it. I have a lot of friends still here in the city and on the Tigers team.”
Thames said the transition to the so-called baseball Mecca and defending World Champions was made smoother because he started in the organization in 2002.
“I came up in ’02,” he said, “but I was only there long enough for a cup of coffee. Still I got to learn a little about the area and the organization.”
After the Tigers let him go, no team came calling until the middle of February when he got the call from the Yankees.
“Man, I’m happy just to be up here playing,” Thames, 33, said. “Jermaine Dye and Craig Monroe (a former Tiger) are still sitting at home. So I really feel blessed to be here and with a team that will challenge for a title is just icing on the cake.”
Thames said the Tigers have a very good team and it would be great if New York and Detroit could meet in the playoffs.
Leland Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.