One Last Shot

Shef.jpgAt the beginning of this 2008, the Detroit Tigers were many people’s consensus pick to win the AL Central division going away.  With a lineup that featured Ivan Rodriguez, Placido Polanco, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, Edgar Rentaria, Curtis Granderson, Magglio Ordonez, and Gary Sheffield (pictured above), people wondered how opposing pitchers would get through an inning against those guys, much less an entire season.  Plus, young pitchers like Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, and Nate Robertson would likely take the next step in their development, while old hand Kenny Rogers and newcomer Dontrelle Willis would anchor the top of the rotation.  Add in fireballing relievers Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, and the Tigers would surely win at least 100 games, right?!  Well, then the season started…

The Tigers got off to a 2-10 start in the regular season, and never really recovered from that shock.  In late July, Detroit was 5.0 games behind the AL Central division leader, but never got any closer than that the rest of the way.  The bats (as most power-laden lineups are) went through tremendous hot and cold spells, while the starting pitching was atrocious from the get-go and didn’t improve much from there.  Then, because of starters not going deep into games, the relievers were overworked, overstressed, and ultimately burnt out.  Yesterday, the end of the MLB season for most clubs, the Tigers finished 74-87, locking in perhaps the most disappointing season in baseball history.

Yet, the Tigers aren’t quite done yet…due to a rainout in Chicago earlier this month, a final game between the two clubs (being delayed by rain, fittingly, as I write this blog post) will (hopefully!) take place today, with the outcome determining the fate of the AL Central.  A Tiger win will put the (my) Twins in the postseason, while a Tiger loss will set up a one-game playoff between the Twins and White Sox.

Now, one would think that the Tigers, beat up and dejected from a terrible season, would just as well want to roll over and play dead today (especially in the rainy weather).  However, two factors contribute to the contest that (hopefully, being a Twins fan!) will cause the Tigers to play with a bit of passion: First, old Sock Freddy Garcia will be pitching against his former club, which always gets the juices flowing.  Second, a win will move the Tigers out of last place in the division (hopping Kansas City) and, while not a huge victory, will at least not allow the pundits to call the club a last-place team.

So, I say to all you Tigers now: Get those bats going, find some pitching for just one day, and knock off a team at the top of the division that is fighting to get where you wanted to go.  Go Tigers!!

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