Tonight the Tigers give it another try. Under Jim Leland, they’ve been to the post-season many times and twice been to the World Series–crushed by the Cardinals in ’06 and crushed by the Giants last year. It’s a battle of the big-dough, Little Caesar’s fortune against Billy Bean’s rummage-sale sabremetrics (although he’s never publicly endorsed the scheme).
Poor Mike Ilitch (a phrase not heard often), born just four months before the stock market crash, has had to endure plenty of Great Depressions. He transformed the 1970’s Red Wings from a group outdrawn at Joe Louis Arena by the Ice Capades into the Yankees of hockey, not missing the post-season in over twenty years, to the point, when the team doesn’t win another Stanley Cup, it’s a disappointing season.
As the Tigers were moved from one pizza czar to another in 1992, Ilitch patiently tooled, re-tooled, then re-re-tooled his team (and stadium’s left field), to best accommodate a winner. Tough decisions by his steady president, Dave Dombrowski, like trading the popular Curtis Granderson for unknown Austin Jackson and probable Cy Young winner Max Scherzer (21-3) was greeted with great bewilderment.
And when this season began, when the toughest questions were who’s our #5 starter or who’s our closer, it feels similar to the Wings, just before they hired Scotty Bowman. As all the expensive pieces are in place, Verlander, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and a healthy Victor Martinez, along with newly-acquired Torii Hunter, the town is gripped with dread more than excitement.
Will the Tigers beat the A’s for the third time in the post-season in eight years?
If they are eliminated, would it be better to lose to another Mercedes-budget team like the Yankees, Red Sox or Rangers instead of the Yugo versions of Oakland, Kansas City or Tampa Bay?
And weren’t we just at that Yugo dealership ourselves recently?
We’re like the winner of the lottery who doesn’t feel much like driving through the old neighborhood, but if pressed he’ll do it, but roll up the tinted windows and lock the doors.
As a kid, I thoroughly enjoyed the Yankees coming to town and booing Reggie Jackson, especially after he abandoned his A’s for the big money and spotlight of New York. Where was his loyalty? He was ruining the game!
Why couldn’t he be like Al Kaline who famously stated:
“I don’t deserve such a salary. I didn’t have a good season last year. This ballclub has been so fair and decent to me that I’d prefer to have you give it to me when I rate it.”
Greed wasn’t good for baseball. Anyone who cheated the fans by upping the price of our seats and hot dogs was a dirty player. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire sent us soaring high after the tainted strike years–only to send us crashing down again, nearly as fast as Lance Armstrong racing down a French mountain road.
And yet here we stand, heading into the fourth game of a baseball-junkee’s marathon that begins at 1pm today. And in left field for the Tigers, for only his fourth game in the position, stands Jhonny Peralta, fresh off his 50-game suspension and welcomed back to the fold–justice served after all. Now please bat .300 for us again.
Drew Sharp addressed this double-standard in today’s Free Press: “While we’re at it, why not just make Biogenesis a partnering sponsor for tonight’s series opener between the Tigers and the Athletics?”
I can’t disagree with his acerbic statement. It’s a different team and perhaps the spin of the TBS announcers will naturally be drifting toward the underdog A’s, even though they had more wins.
The sexy World Series match-up of the Dodgers-Red Sox is the network exec’s dream opposite his nightmare of an A’s-Cardinals pairing. And somewhere in the middle stand the Tigers–the team with enough name recognition and star power to deserve to be there, but not the market-share to guarantee a big national audience.
So my baseball-soul wants the Tigers to roll through these teams like our ’84 Bless You Boys did. But with that team, we’d seen them all grow through our farm system and only brought in a spare Chet Lemon or Darrel Evans here and there.
And my contrary side wants to mess up the Madison Avenue suits and have the Tigers play Leyland’s former team, the Pirates, in a series that is separated by four hours of efficient highway driving.
But this team could get bumped in the first round. Oakland came to town a few weeks ago and pushed us around like we were the Marlins–perhaps a bad analogy given the no-hitter they tossed against our b-team Sunday.
And the finger-pointing may begin and folks might want Leyland fired–it has been a few weeks since that’s happened.
Or maybe the Tigers will win it all, and things will be bright and shiny and the parade down Woodward will be wonderful.
And I’ll shut my mouth and have a smoke with the skipper.