September 29, 2011

I have to talk about baseball

I can't imagine what it must be like to be a Red Sox fan right now. Last night was probably one of the most incredible nights in baseball history, but the nature of professional sports is such that for every incredible play, game, win, whatever, there's a loser on the other side. All they have today is heartbreak. They collapsed historically, wiping out a huge cushion with a horrible September, and then needing just one out - maybe one pitch - to make it to the postseason.

Look for the headlines from their papers at the start of the season, and you'll see they had lofty expectations. "best team EVER" one of them says. Not just the best BoSox team ever, but the best team. Ever. Then they started 2-10. And they finished 7-19. They bookended their season playing .237 ball. In between they played 81-43. If they had played that way all season, they'd have won 105 games and would have the best record in baseball.

But today their season is done.

Luckily, I am not a Red Sox fan. I can almost empathize. But not quite.

Like most Tigers fans, I've been waiting almost five years for tomorrow when we play a postseason game for the first time since 2006. Our hope is different - get us to the postseason and we'll see from there. When we miss the postseason - and we've done that a lot - we get to thinking about next year. It's always cautious optimism. We're not arrogant enough to publish a headline like "best team EVER." We've been humbled by some awful, awful decades.

We collapsed, hard, in 2009. Like the Red Sox, we blew a big lead in the division and let someone catch us. Unlike the Red Sox, we actually made it to the tie-breaker. That game, number 163, forever ruined the number 163 for me, probably. But it's one of the best games I've ever watched. Extra innings, a bunch of lead changes, it was incredible. We just wound up with fewer runs in the end. Season done. No playoffs, no world series, nothing.

Enter 2011. I'm living here in Puerto Rico. With my tax return, I spoil myself with MLB.TV. Suddenly, I can watch every. single. Tigers game. Ask the people here, they'll tell you I was often found in my man-cave, watching the Tigers projected up on my wall. They might remember the day I emerged and told everyone that Justin Verlander had just thrown a no-hitter. I know I do.

From the beginning, I had a good feeling about this season. And, thus far, some amazing stuff has happened. Justin Verlander threw a no-hitter and is a cinch for the Cy Young, even played well enough to force people to explain why a pitcher shouldn't be an MVP. Could still get it, for all I know. He'll definitely get votes. Miguel Cabrera won the batting title. Actually, that was kind of a big surprise. Our closer was perfect - everytime he came into the game with a close lead, we won.

But on top of all of that, we get to play tomorrow, in primetime, against the Yankees. There is nothing like seeing your team in the playoffs. (Hasn't happened with the Lions in a while but... who knows?)

And I like our chances. And I suppose I ought to make a prediction.

I favor: Us.

How could I not? I didn't watch all summer just to abandon hope in the postseason.

I honestly think our lineup can handle any pitcher out there. I think we'll get by the Yankees, then the Rangers. In the NL, I'm going to pick the Cards over the Phillies (This is just a gut feeling. Philly has incredible pitching, but they won't get enough offense) and the DBacks over the Cards.

I'm picking the Tigers over the Diamondbacks. Sorry, Tram and Gibby.


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