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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Squad could provide more postseason memories

–– DETROIT Postseason. The Tigers. This is what we see. n A faraway shot of the field at Tiger Stadium. The Cardinals Lou Brock, one of the greatest base runners ever, rounding third..Willie Horton picking up the ball in left field. Brock bolting home. Bill Freehan applying the tag. The photos showing Brock’s foot stopping inches short of the plate. n Freehan catching a popup. Mickey Lolich jumping into his arms with every bit of his ample

girth. Freehan carrying him around as if he could lift the world. He probably could have at that moment. The Tigers rallying from a three games to one deficit to beat the Cardinals in the 1968 World Series. n Sparky Anderson miked in the dugout, yelling toward Kirk Gibson in the batter’s box at Tiger Stadium. “He don’t want to walk you.” Gibby looking back at Sparky. The blazing fastball from San Diego’s Goose Gossage. The drive deep into the right field upper deck. Gibson

Pat Caputo COLUMNIST jumping for unmitigated joy. The 1984 world champs. n The Tigers, with the whole world thinking it would be different, beating the Yankees in the American League Division Series.

Players running out of the dugout with bottles of Champagne and showering fans in the seats down the left field line with it. n Oakland’s Huston Street pitching, Magglio Ordonez swinging. The ball hanging in the air for what seemed like ages against the backdrop of a Downtown Detroit skyline as it crossed the left field wall at Comerica Park. The celebration of an American League pennant in 2006. Postseason baseball is magical. If there is any town that understands

that, it’s this one. The ‘68 title brought this area together after the destruction of the riots the summer before. The ‘84 championship came in the years after a recession drove many people from Michigan to the Sun Belt because of a meltdown in the auto industry. We were in a one-state recession in 2006, soon to be joined by the rest of the country. Yet, postseason baseball helped See CAPUTO, Page 3

Back to the postseason It’s Tigers’ first playoff appearance since 2006 By Matthew B. Mowery

Ito think we’re also a team that nobody really wants face. We’ve got kind of that good group of talent.

Journal Register Newspapers

DETROIT — No one thought it would take this long to get back to the postseason. When the Detroit Tigers made it to the World Series as a Wild Card underdog in 2006, it almost seemed too easy. Despite backing into the playoffs with a second-half swoon that would soon turn into standard operating procedure for the franchise, the magical march through the postseason — punctuated by that unforgettable, series-clinching homer by Magglio Ordonez — pumped up expectations. Never mind that it was out of nowhere, and — if you’re being fair — too early in the resurrection of a franchise that had been morbid through the 1990s. This was supposed to become a yearly occurrence. “When you go to the World Series you always think you’re coming back the next year, and the next year, and the next year,” admitted Magglio Ordonez in spring training this year. That certainly didn’t happen. Five years went by with nothing but disappointment, no matter how much owner Mike Ilitch spent. In 2007, they merely couldn’t keep up with the red-hot Indians down the stretch. In 2008, a star-studded lineup that was supposed to

This one is different. “A little bit different. We’re definitely not the sleeper. I think everybody knew we had a good team. In ’06, we just came out of nowhere. The Indians earlier this year remindme a lot of that, catching everybody off — Justin Verlander ed guard. But this year, you look at the talent on Tigers starting pitcher this team and people expected us to be, if not where we are now, right there,” ace Justin Verlander said. “I think we’re also a team that nobody really wants to face. We’ve got This year, regardless of how many times kind of that good group of talent. We hit the manager Jim Leyland hammered it home ball well, we play good enough defense and that this was a good team, no matter how many times guys like Brandon Inge call this we pitch well. ... It’s a team, like I said, I don’t the best team they’ve played on — on paper think anybody wants to play us.” They had been telling us all along that they — fans were understandably reticent. were good, but how many believed them? Too many old wounds. To be clear, though, this is not the Tigers of Shoot, there were those who advocated a housecleaning if this team came up short. 2006. Or even of 2009. “I think the only difference is (in) 2006 I The 2011 Tigwasn’t getting fired every day — a little bit ers had no such different this year,” joked Leyland, who did collapse, no come into the season as a lame duck, before swoon, no lethe and GM Dave Dombrowski earned middown, maybe season contract extensions. finally erasing “But no, I think we took care of, we were all the bad able to take care of negative conversations memories of about us. We were able to do that because the past by of what we did. ... making the “I think 2006 was a little different, playoffs for you’re right, it had been down for quite a just the secwhile and I think for the most part, the ond time in last few years, and I don’t mean this to 24 years, winsound wrong but I think it’s been pretty exning their citing and I think people have been expecting first division a little bit more because they thought we title since were pretty good.” 1987. After years of being accused of crying wolf, this would be a perfect time for Leyland to

reinvent run-scoring, instead finished last. In 2009, when it looked like all the stars might be aligning again, with the Tigers spending nearly six months in first place, they managed a collapse for the ages, blowing a seven-game lead in September. That may be when the hope stopped, when the faithful began to doubt. It was going to take something special to bring them back with all their hearts. Even last year, before a string of injuries quickly ruined what looked like it could be a bounce-back season, fans were hesitant to buy in. With good reason.

See PLAYOFFS, Page 3

Tigers under Jim Leyland The Tigers’ A.L. Central finishes since Jim Leyland took over as manager in 2006: 2011: First 2010: Third 2009: Second 2008: Fifth 2007: Second 2006: Second (A.L. wild card)


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