When you have a lineup speckled with prospects and filled in with minor league veterans, you're not always sure what direction your team is going to go in. For the Mud Hens though, everything ran smoothly, and the midseason addition of a pair of big bats from the Tigers helped solidify the group.
Now with a pair of guys capable of blasting a home run any time they come to the plate (having already proven capable of doing so at the big league level), along with players like Curtis Granderson, the team was ready to make a run.
And what a run it was.
Toledo ran away with the regular season crown, holding the place as the top team in the International League for almost the entire season. They closed with 89 wins; seven better than the next closest team in Buffalo.
Of course, as the Atlanta Braves can attest to, wins in the regular season don't mean much when it comes playoff time. Concerns began to mount especially as the season came to a close, and the ‘Hens lost the likes of Granderson, as well as Carlos Pena and Sean Douglass earlier in the year.
But the 2005 Toledo Mud Hens weren't about one player doing this or any notable individual accomplishment. Rather, the '05 ‘Hens were about a group of has-beens, prospects and minor league veterans coming together and go from a group of guys to a championship team.
There was Mike Hessman, the long-time Atlanta farmhand that helped provide a veteran presence in the clubhouse. At 27, he's past prospect status, but that didn't keep Hessman from filling whatever the role the team needed him to do. His 28 home runs didn't hurt either.
There were Gomez and Dewayne Wise, who were originally brought on via waivers to challenge for a backup spot in Detroit, but when they ended up in Toledo, they gave it their all anyway, despite being overshadowed by the lofty prospect status of Granderson and the power swing of Marcus Thames.
There was Jason Grilli and Andrew Good, who after being cast off from other organizations, made their way to Detroit, trying to battle their way back to the big leagues after having a taste of it earlier in their career.
It all came together to produce a championship season, bringing the Governor's Cup back to Toledo for the first time since 1967.
The Tigers may still be searching for their first winning season since the beginning of the Clinton presidency, but Mud Hen fans will be smiling all winter long.