What the Detroit Tigers need to realize right now is that in baseball, fate is cruel — and sometimes, you’re too good for your own good.
The 2006 and 2012 versions of the Motown baseball club suffered strange fates after waltzing into the World Series both years, and each time, they left a humbled loser when most experts picked them to win easily.
The first time, seven years ago, the Tigers swept the Oakland Athletics in the American League Championship Series while the St. Louis Cardinals — they of the mighty 83-win regular season in 2006 — overcame the New York Mets in a seven-game National League Championship Series. After sitting around for a week, Detroit promptly lost Game One of the World Series at home before losing the series in five games to the Cardinals.
Incidentally, the only Tigers win that year in the World Series was the “Kenny Rogers Mysterious Substance” Game Two.
The second time this happened to Detroit, last year, the Tigers again won the ALCS, sweeping the New York Yankees. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants overcame a 3-1 deficit to the Cardinals in the NLCS. And after a six-day layoff, Detroit got swept in the World Series by the Giants.
For the record, this strange fate also fell upon perhaps the hottest World Series team ever, the 2007 Colorado Rockies. They entered the Series having won 21 of their last 22 games, including a one-game playoff to get into the postseason and sweeps in both the NL Division Series and the NLCS. But when the ALCS between the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians went seven games that year, the Rockies, too, had to sit around for a week. They were promptly swept in the World Series by Boston. Go figure.
As noted, in baseball, fate is cruel.
The Tigers may be better off this year, however, with Sunday’s defeat in Boston: Detroit is now tied 1-1 with the Red Sox in the ALCS this October, after splitting the first two games at Fenway Park. As Miguel Cabrera and his friends head back to Comerica Park for Game Three, they should note those same St. Louis Cardinals are up 2-0 on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS right now.
And even after Sunday’s tough loss in Boston where they lost a 5-0 lead, Detroit surely is in a good position still to sweep the next three scheduled games at home, particularly with their pitching rotation. And if the Tigers do get through another ALCS in quick fashion, they should hope and pray the Cardinals — or the Dodgers — don’t render them idle for a week before the World Series starts.
After all, the dates of the Series games are fixed — but if both teams have been “resting” for six or seven days prior to the matchup beginning, then there’s no obvious edge to the “more-active” team like there was in 2006, 2007 and 2012.
Thus, the Tigers’ split in Boston should be viewed with both relief and concern. And if the Dodgers are able to win a few games in L.A. this week and send the NLCS back to St. Louis for Game Six and beyond? Maybe that would actually help Detroit if they take the next three games at home to reach the Series.
The Tigers have been very unlucky lately, and we’re not talking about the collapse of the auto industry or the municipal bankruptcy. We’re talking baseball unlucky, which is as cruel as it gets for fans.
Since winning their first World Series in 1935, the Tigers have never gone this long without winning another. Championships in 1945, 1968 and 1984 saw to that. But now it’s been 29 seasons since Detroit last tasted a World Series victory, and the disappointing experiences of 2006 and 2012 are still fresh for the fanbase.
That fanbase should realize right now that maybe losing Game Two on Sunday, no matter what the immediate feeling, could be the best thing to happen to the Tigers since 1984.