At 9:37 eastern time on Friday night, the Detroit Tigers will finally kick off their much anticipated playoff run. They’ll start by playing in the rowdy house that Billy Beane built. Beane’s Oakland A’s are favored by many to knock off the Tigers in the ALDS best of 5 series.
I think not.
Yes, the Tigers’ offense has sagged as Miguel Cabrera’s power has dipped due to injury. Yes, Joaquin Benoit has finally blown a few saves. Yes, Justin Verlander hasn’t played the part of World Beater, circa 2011 and ’12.
I say ‘so what’. Times change. Nothing is status quo this time of year. The playoffs are what this team was built for and the moment that Jim Leyland has been meticulously managing for over the past 6 months of relatively scripted baseball.
And to quote Major League, as we all should be doing with regularity during this magical time of year, I give you arguably the greatest pep talk in baseball history:
Jake Taylor: “Well then I guess there’s only one thing left to do.”
Roger Dorn: “What’s that?”
Jake Taylor: “Win the whole (bleeping) thing.”
And so the Tigers will. And here’s why:
- Jim Leyland is the best cryer in baseball. I mean if you don’t get emotional watching this guy wear his heart on his sleeve during playoff time, then you sir, are a robot. Lots of fans have called for his head. These are the same fans that swear they’ll never fly Spirit Airlines again, until that sweet base price shows up in their Kayak search. Yeah, you’re flying Spirit, and you’re also going to weep precious tears of joy when Leyland gives his greatest cry of all, after the Tigers drop the Cardinals in the World Series four weeks from now.
- What, you need more than the best crying manager in baseball? Fine. I give you Torii Hunter. Not only was Hunter the best offseason acquisition of any team this past winter, but he will push the Tigers to the title this October. The 38-year-old Hunter is in better shape than most of the game’s 25-year-olds and has been working at his craft in the big leagues for 16 years now, waiting for this very moment. Watch him work pitchers over each and every at-bat, waiting for his moment to pounce. As much as everyone wants to talk Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Victor Martinez, my gut tells me it’s Hunter that makes this offense go.
- Prime time pitching. Not only are the Tigers’ starters as a whole vastly superior to the A’s, they are in their primes. Moments in time on a given roster don’t come around like this very often. The combination of Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and Doug Fister was assembled for a reason. THIS reason. All four of these horses are chomping at the bit. Opposing this quartet of awesomeness is the 40-year-old Bartolo Colon (who hasn’t pitched in the postseason since 2005, and not exceedingly well since 2001), Sonny Gray (a rookie, albeit a very talented one), Jarrod Parker (a 2nd-year guy who wasn’t on top of his game against Detroit in last year’s playoffs), and Dan Straily (another 2nd-year guy who got the nod over the homer-prone AJ Griffin). Ask yourself which of these two groups of pitchers is most likely to fold under the bright lights. Yeah, same here.
- Fear not the bizarre crowd in Oakland. The Tigers exorcised the A’s and their wild crowd in last year’s postseason, including a series-winning Game 5, and took two out of three from the A’s in their yard again this year. Why? Because Detroit’s team is littered with playoff veterans and guys who have already lived the big moments. A sea of nut jobs in the stands won’t deter them from their title march.
Some fans refuse to believe simply because that’s their nature. Others can’t buy in for fear of a broken heart. Others just hate on the Tigers because it seems like the tough guy thing to do. Others try to convince themselves that too much has gone wrong for this team to get it together now when it matters most.
Here’s the deal, you have two days left to buy in. But don’t wear the silly combo of jeans and a sport coat to this party. Casmal, (casual/formal) as I call it, is lame, I don’t care who you are. Either go full on sweat suit like it’s 1984 or put on your three-piece suit. It’s time to go all in.
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