Tigers Growl, Yankees Crumble
Tigers were picked by many (including me) to cruise to the AL Central
Championship, but the upstart Chicago White Sox occupied first place for most of the season; the Tigers were in first place only 15 days, only clinching during the final series and winning by three games. The Tigers' offense was anchored by MVP candidate and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and big-ticket free agent signing Prince Fielder, and 2011 Cy Young Award and MVP Justin Verlander was outstanding on the mound, but in-season acquisitions of pitcher Anibal Sanchez and infielder Omar Infante from the Miami Marlins firmed up the starting rotation and solidified the infield defense. General Manager Dave Dombrowski, Manager Jim Leyland and owner Mike Illitch all deserve kudos.
The Tigers dispatched the Yankees in a rare four-game sweep of the Bronx
Bombers, who seem to be finally paying the piper for too-frequent sips at the
Fountain of Youth. Yes that's a mixed metaphor but this is about baseball, not
literature or philosophy. Game One had the most drama, as the Tigers crafted a
4-0 lead at Yankee Stadium only to have the Yankees storm back to tie it in the
bottom of the ninth thanks to two-run homers by in-season pickup Ichiro Suzuki,
who truly seemed rejuvenated, and superannuated slugger Raul Ibanez, who had
single-handedly beaten the Baltimore Orioles in the AL Division Series. Alas,
that was to be flood tide for the Yankees, who suffered the indignity of seeing
their great Captain, Derek Jeter, break his ankle in the 12th inning before the
Tigers pushed across the winning runs. Jeter had enjoyed a stellar season,
leading all of MLB in hits with 216 and astounding the world at age 38 (though
really should anyone be surprised at this point?). With Jeter out the main story became how Yankee skipper Joe Girardi, battling his emotions due to his father Gerald's death that week, benched faded superstar Alex Rodriguez and stalwarts Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher. The signing of A-Rod after 2007 seemed ill-advised to many at the time; now they are weighed down with five years and $114 million of non-performing asset. It promises to be an off-season of turmoil in the Bronx as the Yankees attempt to reset and get under the luxury tax cap for 2013. Those may not be compatible objectives.
Now the Tigers, a great pick-me-up for the beleaguered Motor City, await the
outcome of the NLCS. The St. Louis Cardinals, with their dreadnought lineup and
stout bullpen, must travel back to San Francisco as the Giants' forgotten man,
Barry Zito, pitched brilliantly to win Game 5. It says here the Cardinals emerge victorious and we have a rematch of the 2006 World Series, perhaps with a different outcome this time.
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