What went wrong for Detroit in the World Series

Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers have much to ponder after a poor showing in the World Series. (Rick Osentoski, USA TODAY Sports)

Three days after the World Series, there’s a certain calmness in the air around the state of Michigan. The familiarities and realness of football and basketball are more prominent now that the MLB season is officially over. Tigers players who live out of state have already left, and in the confines of Comerica Park, ghostly whistles from Great Lakes winds haunt the big emptiness that sits between Woodward Avenue and Brush Street. No one speaks of what happened, though. It’s a tough reality for Michiganders, but the World Series ended as fast as it started.

For the next three months, until pitchers and catchers report for spring training, many will dissect the Tigers’ 2012 campaign. They will ponder the ups and downs of the regular season. They will wonder why Justin Verlander failed to shine in the single most important game of his career. They will ask questions about the team’s hapless offense leaving too many baserunners stranded in the World Series.

Maybe the signs were there from the beginning.

It was easy to notice that the Giants wanted it more. Their pregame antics and contagious celebrations overshadowed Detroit’s easy-going, down-and-out persona. Hunter Pence carried his team to victory. He was a leader in every sense of the word. Where was Detroit’s leader when they needed him? Who is their leader, their captain? Where was the passion and drive that got them there to begin with? Because from here, it looked like they ran out of gas.

Did the Tigers even deserve to be in the World Series? Yes. Did they think so? It’s hard to say.

Maybe sweeping the New York Yankees in the ALCS was their World Series. On any given day, defeating the Yankees feels good for anyone, but we saw a team that played completely opposite from their previous postseason match-ups. It’s almost as if Detroit absorbed New York’s vibe and were cursed. Curse or not, they gave up.

This series was easily comparable to their 2006 run when the St. Louis Cardinals took them in five games. The two series can be easily compared. The Tigers had an extended layoff, waiting for their opponents in each. In ’06 they waited six days and in ’12 they waited five days. This was definitely a factor in the outcome against the Giants. Baseball is a momentum sport. When play is good, teams tend to roll on; when not, teams hit slumps. You can’t expect players, who play 162 games a season, which is almost every day, not to play a bit off when they’ve had an unusual amount of time off. This kills the momentum. Not to say the Tigers would’ve won the series, but they definitely would not have been swept.

The last World Series sweep occurred in 2007, when the Boston Red Sox dominated the Colorado Rockies. The only thing comparable to the two World Series victors is that both did everything right to win their respected titles. The Giants pitching was spot on, and like the ’07 Red Sox, their supporting cast of pitchers could do no wrong. Both lineups hit exceptionally well, and let’s not forget, both were coached well by future hall of famers Terry Francona and Bruce Bochy.

We can easily speculate what might have happened if the league had found out about Melky Cabrera’s HGH use earlier. Maybe the Giants wouldn’t have won the NL West with 94 wins, or even have made it to the playoffs. Remember, Melky was the All-Star MVP in the NL’s blowout win of the AL, which eventually resulted in the Giants having home field advantage in the World Series. Okay, so maybe the outcome would’ve been different in the NL, but in reality it’s all nonsense. Melky ousted himself from postseason play, which resulted in Greggor Blanco stepping in to fill the void. He showed far better range in left field than Cabrera ever did, and was a patient hitter who took advantage of his pitches, making San Francisco fans forget about the once-considered MVP. It’s undeniable. No one can take away what this team accomplished.

So as Michigan settles in for what looks to be a long, cold winter, they are left with memories of how their team took the AL Central in less than two weeks. They will remember the exciting game-five victory against the A’s and the monumental sweep of the Yankees. All of these are honorable rewards for any team’s season.

It became official on Tuesday that Jim Leyland will be back to manage the club in 2013. This will be his eighth year with Detroit. If anything, this postseason has showed us how good this club can be when they have all cylinders firing. Expect them to keep the same core of players and return with chips on their shoulders.

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