“Motown Magic” foiled, Tigers fans already looking forward to next year

Despite losing in the ALCS, Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers have plenty to smile about in 2011. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

The offesason has arrived in Detroit, along with cold weather. The likely Cy Young Award winner and AL batting champion couldn’t stave it off.

The Tigers finished the season with a 34-12 run. Justin Verlander won 24 games. Jose Valverde was perfect on the season. Rick Porcello was resilient, Max Scherzer was, too. For a good stretch, there was the “Amazing Al” (Al Alburquerque). Magglio Ordoñez had life. Brandon Inge, dejected and confused at the plate, sent himself to get help in Toledo. Alex Avila reminded fans of what having Ivan Rodriguez was like. Even GM Dave Dombrowski had a good year, making the move for Doug Fister instead of Ubaldo Jimenez — a move that helped lead to the Cleveland Indians’ demise.

One could go on about the ’11 Tigers improvements, but history pays little notice to should-have-beens. Here is a short list of notable performances by this years Detroit Tigers:

Brandon Inge — What a story. Signed in the offseason for two years at close to $11 million, he flat out stunk. Aside from an occasional big-blast, or a diving stop at third, the seasoned Tiger couldn’t hit. The White Sox would have received more from Inge than they got from Adam Dunn, for half the price. Problem is, Inge loves Detroit, and Detroit loves Inge, sort of. Local media turned his midseason slump into a nightmare. So, he chose assignment to triple-A Toledo and straightened things out just in time to contribute in the playoffs. Detroit may not like his batting average, but they love his work ethic.

Jose Valverde — 49 for 49 in saves. Not so good in non-save situations, yet spotless in his role. Epitome of “lights-out.” Enough said. Excuse me while I untuck my shirt.

Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera — Let’s face it, Martinez made sure that Cabrera would see strikes. These two were unstoppable with RISP and arguably should have batted third and fourth instead of  four-five. For long durations of the regular season, they were first and second in batting with RISP.

Justin Verlander — This guy was the face of the Tigers. MVP talk was not absurd. He went on week-long periods of mastery. He showed Nolan Ryan’s focus and poise, start after start.  He propped the Tigers up. He lit Don Kelly‘s shoe on fire.

The bench — The Tigers got a lot out of their Gatorade sippers, including late contributions from Ryan Raburn, Ramon Santiago and Ordoñez. Motown Magic was in effect for a large part of the season — when the big bats were cooled off, the peripheral guys found a way to step up.

Cool air has finally made its way to Detroit, the maples are giving their last sap, the squirrels are packing away for the winter. On Woodward Avenue, Verlander and Cabrera jerseys stand outside bars, smoking, thinking about Monday when Dombrowski and Leyland will meet to discuss the future. With Ordoñez and Guillen likely not returning, a veteran bat will be needed in Detroit, along with potential upgrades at second and third. Penny’s one-year contract ran it’s course, for better or worse. There’s a lot to look back on for Tigers fans, but there’s also a lot to look forward to. A full year of Fister in the starting rotation is promising, as well as a healthy Brennan Boesch batting second.

The Texas Rangers are dousing themselves with champagne for the second time in two years.

Detroiters are saying to themselves: 173 games are better than 162.


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