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Don't drop the Tigers so easily

October 31, 2012
By Justin Marietti - Sports Reporter ( , Daily Press

"If we don't win the last game of the Series, they'll dismiss us. I know these guys, I know the way they work, and they will erase us. And everything we have done here, none of it will matter."

In the 2011 film "Moneyball," Brad Pitt plays Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane. It captures the 2002 A's season; one that started out looking rather mediocre, but shaped up into something truly great.

But after the Athletics lost in the 2002 American League Divisional Series, Beane (Pitt) views the whole season as being unremarkable. He says the above quote to one of his associates in regards to the way that sportswriters throw teams to the curb if their season ends with anything less than a ring.

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Justin Marietti

Unfortunately, I'm sure that some writers and sportscasters will react this way to the 2012 Detroit Tigers team as well. No matter how far they have come, being swept in the World Series is just not acceptable.

There isn't a Tigers fan in the world who wasn't disappointed on Monday morning. But that doesn't mean this season was a failure.

After picking up Prince Fielder in the offseason, the Tigers received high praise from nearly everyone in sports. They were expected to virtually run the table against their divisional rivals.

However, Detroit didn't begin the season as the well-oiled machine that everyone expected. At the end of May, the Tigers were three games below .500 (23-26), and they were in third place behind the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians, respectively.

On the first day of July, they were still positioned in third, sitting a game below even at 39-40. Fans began to wonder what happened to this team that was supposed to blow everyone away.

As August drew to a close, the Tigers were 69-61; they had claimed second place from Cleveland, and they only trailed the White Sox by three games. Things weren't what people had expected coming into the year, but they were looking hopeful nonetheless.

However, Detroit was still three games back on Sept. 19, and there were only 14 games left in the season. They were also too many games behind to be in contention for a Wild Card spot. The Tigers were running out of time. Things had to start falling their way if they were even going to make the playoffs.

We had run a photo in the Daily Press to coincide with a Tigers loss that week. It showed a White Sox fan holding a sign that read "Detroit is (done)." In all honesty, I thought he was right.

One week later, the Sox and Tigers were dead even for the division lead. On Oct. 1, Detroit clinched the AL Central Division when they beat the Kansas City Royals 6-3. The Sox had slaughtered the Indians 11-0 that same night, but the damage was done. Detroit was going to the playoffs.

On Oct. 3, Miguel Cabrera received a standing ovation from the Royals crowd as he came off the field. Ordinarily, that might be very odd. However, Cabrera had officially just won the first Triple Crown in 45 years and even the fans of a rival team see that as something worthy of respect.

It was a close race, but Cabrera earned his crown as he finished with 44 home runs, a .330 batting average, and 139 RBIs.

The Tigers ended with an 88-74 record, which was the worst division record of any playoff team this year. But they also had a remarkable 1,318 strikeouts, and their bullpen was a huge contributing factor to their late-season success.

Detroit won the first two games of the ALDS and Oakland battled back to win the next two. However, the Tigers would send their ace, Justin Verlander, to the mound in the pivotal game 5, and he would deliver. Verlander threw a near-flawless game and earned the first postseason shutout of his career as they ran past the A's 6-0 to head to the ALCS against the New York Yankees.

I assumed the bats of the Yankees would make this a very difficult series to win. However, the pitching of the Tigers flustered New York so much that it made them look like a triple-A team. Detroit easily swept the series, and they headed to their first World Series since 2006.

The Tigers' glorious run would come to an end the night they doused each other in champagne after taking the ALCS in four games. The San Francisco Giants would sweep them in convincing fashion, just as Detroit had done to the Yankees. With the exception of the final game, the World Series appeared to be over before it had even started.

"It's hard not to be romantic about baseball," Beane (Pitt) said, after his Athletics team won their 20th straight game to set an MLB record in "Moneyball."

Looking back at this season, I couldn't agree more. When a team doesn't win it all, it is always going to be disappointing. But Detroit has certainly seen much harder times than the ones they are currently facing, and their fans have a lot to be thankful for. For the Tigers, 2012 may have ended in heartache. But in retrospect, they have nothing to hang their heads about when they look back at this year.

And looking forward, 2013 appears even more promising.



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