The First Last Word on the 2013 Tigers

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

In the days and weeks ahead of us, I’ll spend a lot of column inches breaking down the 2013 Tigers. There’s so much to analyze and dissect. This was one of the best pitching staffs in baseball history and arguably one of the best Tigers teams of all time. Miguel Cabrera had what I suspect will stand as the feather in his Hall of Fame cap. Sanchez, Fister, Scherzer. Everybody. So many great moments and great seasons. That’s what will come next. I’ll also talk a lot about the way forward and how the 2014 Tigers will look different from the 2013 version. There’s lots of ground to cover there, too. History marches on.

First, it’s time for perspective. We’ll talk about the rest later. Everything else can wait. Right now, we have to figured out how we, as fans, move on with our lives. That sounds melodramatic, but I bet most of you are already nodding your heads.

I think it’s important to remember a few things. To start, the Tigers made it deeper into the postseason than all but two teams. The Red Sox and the Cardinals are the only ones still standing and those are two great teams and great organizations. I think the Tigers were the best team in baseball this year, but it was darn close. There’s no shame in a Bronze metal.

I know a lot of you don’t want to hear that. It was World Series or bust. But this is baseball and baseball is ridiculous. This isn’t the NBA. The best teams don’t always win and games are heavily influenced by randomness. You can do everything right, spend every dollar you have, and pray to all of the right Gods and you still might not win it all. That’s the game. You can’t be mad at the Tigers for what is inherent in the sport.

And you can’t ignore Miguel Cabrera’s injury. The Tigers lost three ALCS games by one run. A healthy Cabrera helps them win one of those games. There’s nothing you can do about that. That’s how life works. The Tigers lost their best player at the worst time. Hard to overcome. Bad break.

People are going to talk about the bullpen. It’s not great, but the Tigers lost 1-0 in Game 3 and 4-3 in Game 5. The bullpen didn’t do that. Bullpens are bullpens. Sometimes they blow games. If you’re upset about your bullpen being fickle, start working on cloning Mariano Rivera.

And Prince had a bad series and a down year. He makes a lot of money and that invites criticism, but give the guy a break. He’s not trying to play poorly. He’s not trying to suck. You’ve all had those days and those weeks when you just can’t get anything right. I know you want to be angry and run the guy out of town, I guess you’re entitled to that opinion. But he’s one of us and that’s not how I’m going to treat family. Prince had a bad year off the field. He doesn’t need you on his back, he needs you watching it.

There’s more to say about how Leyland managed the team, too. I’ve been critical and I think my critiques have been fair. But they didn’t lose because of him. They lost because the other team was better. Leyland could have been better this year, but they made it to the ALCS in spite of that and didn’t lose in the ALCS because of it. I think the TIgers would be better off going in another direction next year, but I’m not losing sleep if he comes back. He loves the city and his players love him.

I think it really comes down to your expectations. When a baseball season starts, I expect the team to give me six months of entertainment. I want them to give me something to laugh, cry, cheer, and argue about. I want to win, but winning isn’t the only way I’m happy. They did their best. They showed up. That’s all I really ask. Maybe you demand more, but they gave you a lot. They took the Red Sox to six games. There isn’t really much farther you can take it. Yeah, they came up short, but if you demand a championship every year, your expectations are the problem, not the team.

I had fun this year. I love this team and I really enjoyed writing about them and interacting with all of you. I’m sick to my stomach that it’s over, but that’s not because I’m disappointed. I’m just sad that it’s over. I hate coming home after a long day and not being able to turn on the Tigers. Win or lose, the season ends in 11 days.

It’s going to take a few days to really come to terms with it, but when you’re ready to talk, I’ll be here. This was a great year. A fantastic year. Even if you’re not quite ready to see it yet.

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