The quick turnaround of the Tigers in their 2006 season continues to boggle the mind. Last year at this time we were hoping for a respectable winning record and today we are 5-1 to win the 2007 World Series (second only to the NY Yankees.)
It felt like we were playing with house money in last season’s playoffs. When the Tigers went up against the Yankees I fully expected them to lose. I remember watching game one with some Yankee friends and after Nate Robertson was hammered and the Tigers blown out, it looked like it was going to be a short and bitter series.
Thankfully, my Yankee friend talked some sense to me, “If there was one game you were going to lose, that was it.” How true his statement would become. Three games later the Tigers beat the Yankees on a beautiful Fall Saturday night in Michigan, setting off a raucous celebration in Detroit, something not seen for the Tigers in 22 years.
This year the expectations are higher but there is still a whole lot of serendipity. I remember when the Wings were coming out of their losing funk in late 80s/early 90s, how many times they would lose early in the playoffs. The expectations built to such a state that at times I think the Red Wings fans made the team play tight and doubt themselves: that oh-no, here-we-again feeling that would spread like a contagion around Joe Louis when the Wings would fall behind.
The Tigers came up so fast and so complete that they have spontaneously developed a swagger and confidence about their abilities to compete and win. Maybe they get a lot of this from their manager and I think the addition of Gary Sheffield can only help. A few people wrote about this last year, but they may have executed the biggest turnaround in the history of professional sports. They now have a potent mixture of experience and youth, a deep pitching staff and a promising farm system of prospects. It’s like a dream, how they turned it around. I still can’t believe it.
This is the first time since I was a kid I looked forward to a new Tigers season. As Ernie Banks would say, "It's a beautiful day for a ballgame... Let's play two!"