Tigers haven't finished .500 since 1993

A 36-37 record might be cause for distress in Boston or the Bronx, but it's not bad when you've experienced the ugly alternative. No one understands that better than Dave Dombrowski, president, CEO and the man in charge of turning chaos into order in Detroit.

Dombrowski can still recall the events of two years ago, when the landscape was so grim, even franchise icon Al Kaline was tempted to wear a paper bag over his head.

In the fall of 2003, the Tigers had to take solace in small favors – like going on a roll at the end of the season to avoid tying the modern-day record of 120 losses held by the lovable, eternally hapless 1962 New York Mets. When the Tigers beat Minnesota on the season's final day to finish at 119 losses, players exchanged hugs, the word "Victory!" flashed on the Comerica Park scoreboard, and Kool & The Gang's "Celebration" played over the stadium loudspeakers.

It was the kind of celebration typically reserved for the fall of an Iraqi dictatorship – or Carrie vanquishing Bo on "American Idol."

Fans in Detroit can still remember Alex Sanchez and his run-til-you're-out baserunning strategy, and a young catcher named Brandon Inge's batting .203 on top of his .180 and .202 efforts the previous two seasons. They remember Mike Maroth's reacting with grace while becoming baseball's first 20-game loser since Brian Kingman, and Bobby Higginson's giving the team one RBI for every $227,884 invested.

During one particularly bloodthirsty week, local columnists urged owner Mike Ilitch to sell the team, but only after firing Dombrowski and dumping manager Alan Trammell.

So with the Tigers poised to have 43 wins by the All-Star Game – which will take place July 12 in Detroit – it's time for gratification and a few back slaps. Two years ago, Dombrowski felt like a rescue worker sorting through tsunami wreckage. Now his team has a chance to finish .500 for the first time since 1993. This is called "progress."