Can you believe it? The Kansas City Royals, a team that is known within the American League Central for not being one of the…better teams, is now going to the World Series after making the playoffs for the first time since 1985.
I’m by no means a Royals fan, in fact, I am a Tigers fan. With both these teams being in the AL Central, they all out battled for the whole second half of the season for the division title. The Tigers ended up finishing the season with a one game lead and their fourth straight division title, and Kansas City scraped by with a wild card spot.
Good, great, there was a load off my chest. After a rough and rocky season Detroit finally ended up where they were expected to be at the beginning of the season, leaders of their division and headed toward the postseason. They still had their extremely visible weaknesses (cough–bullpen–cough), but I figured with a team full of veterans and a pitching staff with the last three AL Cy Young winners that they still had what it takes to make it to where the Royals are today.
Turns out, Baltimore had other plans for Detroit. “Hey, Tigers, you don’t mind if we beat you 12-3 the first game of the ALDS, do you?” the Orioles said. “We kind of feel like we should set the tone the first game and destroy Tigers’ fans hope of any chance of a championship.”
A 3-0 sweep. Coming from someone who watched every game, there never really was a time where you felt Detroit was in charge. Not in the 12-3 loss in game one, they held a lead in game two (which the bullpen gave away, shocker!) and game three was the closest at 2-1, and despite a strong outing by David Price, the offense just couldn’t get it going.
So here we are today, the Detroit Tigers, who were hailed by every baseball analyst to be the World Series favorite, knocked out of the playoffs in a humiliating fashion.
I have been a Tigers fan since I was a little kid. With being a Michigan native, I can tell you that us Michiganders feel strong connections to our Detroit teams. They do more than just give us entertainment, they give us pride.
Since 2006, the Tigers have gone from one of the worst teams in baseball, to one of the more dominant. So us fans expect a yearly postseason appearance and please, please, a World Series ring. I don’t think I can speak for all Detroit fans, but seeing this team get so close so many times but come up short, it’s exhausting.
The moves that were made in the last offseason, trading Prince Fielder for quality second baseman Ian Kinsler and solid veteran closer Joe Nathan, seemed to only solidify the chances of the first World Series victory since 1984. Then the emergence of J.D. Martinez created a horrifying three-four-five hitter sequence in the lineup that would give any pitcher nightmares. And do I even need to mention the pitching staff? Verlander, Scherzer, Sanchez, Porcello and tradeline acquisition David Price. What an all-star team.
Once the 2014 season got well underway, it was obvious that the bullpen was still an issue. Joe Nathan, the aforementioned veteran closing pitcher put up a horrible ERA and was blowing saves, and then no other bullpen arm was able to step up. For a good portion of the season, Detroit wasn’t even leading the division. That went to the the now American League champions, the Kansas City Royals.
Even our starting pitching was inconsistent. Justin Verlander, a household name, had his worst career year. Max Scherzer, though he finished with a solid season, occasionally had a rough outing.
The Tigers’ time to win is now. With aging talent (i.e. Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander), they can’t keep affording to come up short. Also with looming free agencies with Victor Martinez (though from what I’ve read, he is trying to stay a Tiger) and Max Scherzer (sigh, well thanks for the ride Max), everyone thinks that Detroit is on the downturn.
I certainly hope this does not end up being the case, I remember the horrid years of Tiger baseball and I can speak for all of Detroit when I say that no one wants to return to that.
After a disappointing season, there are some plus sides. GM Dave Dombrowski has the ability to put together a good team and with the 4th highest payroll in baseball, this can result in acquiring good talent. Also with Max Scherzer most likely departing, the money that would be going to him could now go to some quality bullpen pitchers and maybe a solid bench player.
Rookie manager Brad Ausmus did receive some criticism throughout this year, but with a year under his belt he can use his new experience to improve on any weaknesses he displayed.
Now it’s time to watch closely, see what moves are made in this offseason and what improvements are made. I will say that it is going to be weird next season because the Tigers will no longer be the sole favorite in the AL Central. The Royals are on the uprise and the Cleveland Indians constantly prove to be fighters.
Until then, I can dream of what it’s like to have your team win a championship, and go Royals!
Everyone likes an underdog story.