Total Access: Burn Unit

The Tigers are getting their bite back one drop of sweat at a time.

Updated: April 18, 2003, 6:38 PM ET
By By Tim Struby, ESPN The Magazine
In the search for the next Anaheim Angels, we bring you to Detroit, where & Ha! Right. The Tigers will stink this year, same as last year (and the eight years before that). But the new management team here is at least trying to lay the groundwork for a breakthrough a few years down the line. Manager Alan Trammell and bench coach Kirk Gibson -- both of whom know a little something about winning Tigers baseball -- have implemented one of the game's toughest strength and conditioning programs. Their theory: Rigorous training means a few more feet off the bat, a quicker step in the field -- and a new attitude. Says conditioning coach Dennie Taft, "It's about installing a work ethic that lasts. We're raising the bar." How high, exactly? We visited the opening of Tigers camp in Lakeland, Fla., to witness the carnage. Wasn't pretty. Wasn't meant to be.

THE SPECIALIST The Tigers promoted Dennie Taft from their minor league system in 2000 for the purpose of whipping the boys into shape. Trammell has given the former A-baller and Xerox fitness specialist the green light to up the ante this year. Equipped with a voice that sounds like antiaircraft fire, Taft earns respect by joining in the drills with the guys. "Cuts down on the complaining," he says.