Yeah, there were no impact pitchers available on the July trade market.
No one but Ubaldo Jimenez, and no one was sure that he was a real top of the rotation starter anymore.
No one but Ubaldo Jimenez -- and Doug Fister.
How did we miss him? How did everyone except the Tigers miss him?
"If you hit against him, you know him," Johnny Damon said the other day. "You see the ball. You just can't hit it."
What you see now is the Tigers spraying champagne -- the first major-league champagne celebration this year -- because Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski and his staff identified Fister and went and traded for him.
Justin Verlander is the Tigers' MVP, and he may well be the MVP of the entire American League. Miguel Cabrera is the Tigers' best player, and Victor Martinez may be the most important offseason addition any AL team made last winter.
But just as the Kirk Gibson/Alan Trammell Tigers needed to add Doyle Alexander to win a division title in 1987, the Verlander/Cabrera Tigers needed Fister to win it 24 years later.
Between Doyle and Doug, the Tigers made one trip to the World Series (in 2006), but they never won a division.
Friday, Fister retired 17 in a row at one point. He pitched eight innings and allowed just one run. He improved to 6-1 in nine starts as a Tiger, and he lowered his Tiger ERA to 2.12.
You know the only guy in the last 38 years to make that many starts in a Tiger season with a lower ERA than Fister's 2.12?
Yeah, that would be Doyle Alexander, with a 1.53 ERA in his 11 starts in 2007.
Doyle's Tigers needed an incredible final week, to win the division on the final day. They were spent by the time they got to the playoffs, and lost to the Twins.
Fister's Tigers became the first team to clinch a division (the Phillies clinched a playoff spot earlier this week, but they're waiting to clinch their division before celebrating).
The Tigers have two weeks to get ready for the playoffs, two weeks to line up their rotation.
They'd love to win a few games in those two weeks. They want to stay ahead of the Rangers (who they now lead by two games), so that they'll open at home against the wild-card team (likely the Red Sox). They wouldn't mind winning enough games to pass the Yankees for the best record in the league (they're now three games behind), which would give them home field in a possible American League Championship Series matchup.
"Right now, they look like they could be the scariest team," said Damon, who played for the Tigers last year and plays for the Rays now.
A month ago, baseball people saw the Tigers as a dangerous playoff opponent, simply because of Verlander. Now, scouts watching the American League say they might be the league's best team, because of Verlander, Cabrera and Martinez -- and because of Fister.
They say Cabrera is playing harder -- and running harder -- than he ever has. They say Martinez may get more big hits than even Cabrera.
And they say Fister is the type of starter everyone was looking for in July. The Yankees, the Red Sox, the Indians, the Rangers . . . everyone, probably, except for the Phillies.
The Tigers were the ones who found him languishing with the Mariners. The Tigers were the ones who traded for him.
Now the Tigers are the ones celebrating. They're the first ones celebrating.
And now, the question is whether they'll also be the last ones celebrating.