Sunday, October 01, 2006

Royally Futile

When I woke up this morning, I was genuinely excited about the postseason. As I sit here at 10pm on Sunday night, I am burnt out. My excitement has been extinguished. The best part of my day turned out to be the knowledge that I will get my money returned to me for game three of the ALDS that won’t be played at Comerica Park. I wrote just a few days ago that all that mattered to me was that the Tigers had made the playoffs for the first time in nineteen years. I honestly didn’t care if they lost to the A’s in the ALDS. I was just happy with the knowledge that I would get to watch something happen for the first time in Tigers history; a home playoff game at Comerica Park.

I’ve had a splitting headache for the last five hours. Today’s regular season finale was the worst sporting event that I have ever attended. It was physically and mentally debilitating. The Tigers were destroyed by the Kansas City Royals in a three-game set at home. The Royals featured a lineup full of no-namers and recent minor league call-ups. They used a bevy of pitchers with 5.00+ ERA’s to shutdown the Tigers offensively late in games. KC pounded out 49 hits and 28 runs in three games. This was a team effort with the surprising exception of Todd Jones. I feel obligated to thank Matt Stairs for giving it his all while he was with the Tigers. He knew he wasn’t going to be in the playoffs so he could’ve easily “mailed it in”. He didn’t, and I am honestly thankful for that. As far as credit goes, that’s about all I’m going to hand out. The starting pitchers were terrible. The fielding was miserable. The offense was erratic at best with virtually no runs coming after the fifth inning. The Tigers played 18 innings after the 5th inning in the series. They managed a paltry three runs in those 18 innings. The starting pitching never even showed up. In the three games, Tigers starters lasted a whopping total of 9 2/3 innings. I wish there was an explanation for what went on this weekend. It would be great to put all the blame on Jamie Walker or Jim Leyland. But, this was such a team-fueled implosion that it would be impossible to point the finger at one person. The Tigers sucked.

To be honest, I think the answer is that these guys are hitting a wall mentally and possibly physically. The 162 game MLB season is the grind of grinds. Remember, 90% of the roster had never played a truly meaningful MLB game in their lives. The pitchers are likely exhausted. The majority of the team is playing in unchartered territory. I honestly think that we’re looking at a case of a team arriving to the stage one year too early. The experience that this team gathers from the playoffs will be invaluable for the future. There is no downside of this team making the playoffs. In no way can this season be looked at as anything other than a success considering there was somewhere around a 1% chance that the Tigers would make the playoffs to begin with. It is disappointing that our expectations were raised so high when the Tigers were forty games over .500. The late-season collapse is a gut-shot for Tiger fans no doubt. We did not deserve such a disastrous end to what was almost certainly going to be an unbelievable finish to the regular season. The Tigers didn’t even win the division. They were in first place in the Central for five straight months. Only on the last day of the regular season were they not in first place.

The consequence of such a collapse results in a mid-week trip to the Bronx for a five-game series against the best offensive lineup of my lifetime and mostly likely the best lineup in MLB history. Baseball fans will be treated to an offensive explosion by the Yankees over the next month. I predict a historic post-season for the Yankees in terms of production. Records will fall. Unfortunately, the Tigers will walk right into that offensive explosion with a pitching staff as inconsistent as my wasteline. Anything can happen in baseball. It would not surprise me if the Tigers took a game in this series. However, I am officially predicting a three-game sweep for the bad guys. If my prediction holds true, the series will culminate in Detroit on Friday night where I will get to live my dream of seeing another Tigers post-season game in person. In the grand scheme of things, that will be enough for me. However, this season will forever be tainted by what the Tigers did (or did not do) to close out the season. At least in my mind it will. They were dominated by the worst team in baseball when it mattered most. Spin the end of the season any way you want but please don’t say it didn’t matter. For the first time ever, I was disappointed that professional athletes got to walk away with my hard earned dollar. It was not a good feeling leaving the ballpark today. The only thing that could’ve derailed my Tigers fever was an uninspired division losing collapse against a bunch of minor leaguers.

Six hours after the game, I still have a headache which tells me that I have a different kind of Tigers fever. I’m fed up and ready for the off-season. Regardless of how quickly the Tigers exit the postseason this was by far the most enjoyable Tigers season that my memory holds. Nothing that transpires over the next week will change that. For those of you still holding faith, I salute you for ignoring the obvious. I cannot join you in your endeavors but I wish you luck. I prefer to remain realistic which is an effective and underrated defense mechanism for sports fans. I’d like to issue a quick warning to the rest of MLB; you better enjoy beating the Tigers this year because this team won’t be this beatable for a long, long time. One year from today, I doubt I’ll be so disappointed.


Anonymous said...

I agree this is a horrible way for Detroit to enter its first postseason since 1987. Talk about having zero momentum going to the Bronx on Tuesday. This is a recipe for the Bombers to feast on us.

On the other hand, WTF is the Twins' problem. It seems like they are always ruining our postseasons or postseason bids. Playing in the Metrodome is worse than playing in a toilet bowl. Man I hate those guys.

dieterface said...

The only miracle cure from yesterday's disaster is some how, some way the Tigers win game 1. Robertson will have to pitch a game of a lifetime. Replace Rodney from the playoff roster with anybody!

You are right, they are probably 1 year too early. Next year, they should post today's headlines and pictures over their lockers so they will never forget what happened yesterday.

Anonymous said...

Next season worries me a little more than apparently most. Our pitching staff has been tremendous... and poised for the future... but suddenly, not so promising. Bondo looks like he will never materialize into a solid #2, let alone the ace that was expected. Kenny Rogers' days are numbered. Verlander looks amazing, but so did Justin Thompson, Jeff Weaver and Jeremy Bonderman. Young players numbers unfortunately can't simply be extrapolated to foresee future results. Nate Robertson and Mike Maroth are certainly two pitchers not to be excited about. So where does that leave us in starting pitching? With the future again. Andrew Miller, Humberto Sanchez and Jordan Tata. Throw in that Finnish guy Juri Jurijuri, or whatever,along with Verlander, and, hopefully, Bonderman, and suddenly we have an incredible pitching staff. But tell me, what great starting pitcher has ever developed in Tiger Stadium in 20 years? Suddenly I'm to believe that we have five or six. Hopefully, but even if they do develop, will they develop in time for next year. Minnesota, Chicago, Indians and the Royals are still in our division. I imagine each one of them feels they will have a better season next year than this year. If they do, can we? Then, on top of it, do I even have to mention our lineup. Who on that team am I supposed to be excited about next year? I think we have two bonified MLB players that are in their prime or younger, and that's Guillen and Polanco. Anybody else, I would gladly randomly exchange with the rest of the league with the hope of getting better. The only player in our minor leagues that is a potential future star is Cameron Maybin. That means our success the next couple of years depends on an extremely young pitching staff and huge free agent signings, certainly no guarantees.

Jake said...

Well, tonight I suggest we all throw away the concept of wins and losses and enjoy the presence of the Tigers in post-season baseball. At least we'll have that.

Anonymous #2, I understand where you're coming from and agree with a lot of your points. I'll be addressing some of the comments you brought up in a post sometime in the future. I think it would be easy to come up with 10 good reasons why the Tigers will struggle to keep winning. However, I think there are at least 20 good reasons why they will keep winning next year and beyond.

Go Tigers!


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