At the beginning of the season, it was the easy choice to pick the Tigers to win the American League Central because of their pitching depth and because of the additions the team made in the offseason. The run to the top of the Central didn't go as smoothly as fans of the Tigers would have liked during the course of the season. Detroit didn't runaway with the division as experts predicted because the White Sox turned out to be a better team than most thought they would be and there were some other struggles for the Tigers. By the end of the year, Detroit ended up on top of the Central but they had the least amount of wins for any team reaching the postseason.
Fast-forward through the first couple rounds of October and the Tigers are making their way back to the World Series for the first time since 2006. The ALCS looked like a joke as the Tigers pitching dominated the lackluster hitting of the Yankees, the supposed "Bronx Bombers." After a season of underachieving by the Tigers, they made it where many thought they could be at the beginning of the year. One of the amazing things about the playoffs in MLB is the fact that anyone has a chance to win when they reach October. It looks like this year two 88-win teams, the Cardinals and the Tigers, are going to square-off for the title. Just last season, the Cardinals shocked the world by sneaking into the postseason and winning the crown in dramatic fashion. It doesn't matter how you do it because the fans in St. Louis know that flag will fly forever.
As a fan of the Twins, another AL Central club, I have mixed feelings about the Tigers winning the American League in 2012. Here are some of the thoughts that went through my mind as it became apparent that the Tigers would be representing the AL in the World Series.
At least it's not the Yankees
Either the Tigers or the Yankees were going to come out of the American League so someone had to win. The Tigers look like the lesser of two evils compared to the Evil Empire from New York. When the postseason started, I would have liked to see some of the other Cinderella stories from the AL make it through the gauntlet of October baseball but it wasn't in the cards. The Tigers showcased their strengths in the last couple of rounds and they deserve to get this far. Anytime the Yankees can't add another title to their storied history, it's a good thing.
The AL Central might not be as bad of division as some think
The World Series is baseball's biggest stage and the Tigers will be right in the thick of it when the media coverage goes full-throttle. As the representative out of the AL Central in the playoffs, the Tigers have a chance to win a title out a division usually considered weak. Granted the playoffs can be a bit of a crap-shoot but the Tigers had to fight their way to the top of the Central during the season. They would be the second AL Central team to win the title in the last seven years and only two other divisions have been able to do that during that time span.
Why did Delmon have to win ALCS MVP?
Delmon Young turned himself into Detroit's version of Mr. October by hitting two home runs in the four game series. He also added six RBI for the Tigers and he had at least one RBI in all four of their victories in the ALCS. He hardly did anything for the Twins in his two postseason opportunities against the Yankees and that's what makes this tougher to swallow. It really comes down to the player that wins the MVP of the World Series since most fans don't remember who was MVP of the League Championship rounds. It still would have been nice for it not to be a former Twins player walking away with the hardware.
Leyland could go out on top
Jim Leyland, the manager of the Tigers, has been around the baseball world for a long time and there has been plenty of speculation about him stepping away from the game of baseball. He is 67-years old and a World Series title could be his ticket to retirement. With all of the chaos surrounding a postseason run, there hasn't been much talk about him retiring at the end of the year. He might want to continue coaching for a few more seasons or until the Tigers decided to move in another direction. Walking away into the sunset of a World Series crown might be too much for him to ignore. In fact, Tony La Russa did this after last year's title with the Cardinals.
In the end, I probably won't be rooting for the Tigers in the World Series because of their affiliation in the American League Central. The fan in me can't root for another team the Twins play 18 times a year. There might be some nice story lines if the Tigers were able to keep their run going to the title but I will be putting my chips behind the winner of the National League. I didn't like it when the White Sox won the title in 2005 and the same would hold true for the Tigers in 2012. The Twins aren't close to a title so I am stubborn and I don't want another AL Central team to get one either.