Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Tigers have become the Yankees and yet they're not

After the first three games of the 2012 World Series, the Detroit Tigers have become a parallel universe from what happened to the Yankees in the 2012 ALCS against this same Tigers' team. After tonight's 2-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants, the Tigers now have scored just three runs in three games. How closely do they parallel what the Yankees did in the ALCS? The Tigers' OPS in the World Series now stands at .486. The Yankees' OPS in the ALCS was .488. How does this happen?

The best way to answer the question is to define what it is not. The first thing the narratives will say is that both teams lived by the long ball and died by the long ball. The so-called one-dimensionable aspect of the Yankees and the Tigers will be ballyhooed as the trumpet call for what went wrong in the post season. Of course, that is so bogus that we shouldn't even have to talk about it. What we are looking at is a short series and a random series of events that happen when such a short stretch of time is measured.

The teams didn't have speed, the pundits will say. But when both teams tried to add speed, it fell completely flat. Brett Gardner did nothing for the Yankees in those last two games of the ALCS and Quintin Berry has done nothing for the Tigers.

The next big narrative is that the bats just went cold. If you have a four game stretch in the middle of the season where the team does not hit, nobody notices because it is just four games in the middle of 162 and things tend to even out according to the ability of the players. But these four games (three for the Tigers) are in the most public spotlight of the entire baseball world. And so the explanation is the blanket cold bats idea.

Another narrative is that the Giants were just awesome on the mound and executed their pitches perfectly. Well, yeah, they did most of the time, just like the Tigers did against the Yankees. But the Yankees had some chances and the Tigers have had some chances and it just did not work out. Credit has to go to the Giants' pitching staff for executing a plan that is working. Just like you have to credit the Tigers' staff against the Yankees. But again, it's just a random series of events that turned into brilliant pitching for a four game series. If these pitchers were this good, they would have better records during the season, right?

But there is one major difference between what is happening to the Tigers and what happened to the Yankees. When it happened to the Yankees, the roar became deafening concerning Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher. It was so much so that the Yankees caved in or bought in to the outrage and started messing with their core team the last two games. The results were exactly the same.

The Tigers will stay with the guys who got them to this dance. Prince Fielder is one for ten with no extra base hits. He struck out twice tonight and hit into a big double play. Nobody is going to scream for him to get benched and Jim Leyland will never even think about such a scenario. Jhonny Peralta is one for eleven. Better get him out of there. No chance!

There are two things to remember about what happened to the Yankees and what is happening to the Tigers. The first is that this fluke of circumstances does not negate what the two teams did during the season or mean that their teams were too flawed to win their series. The second is that it does not mean that the two teams' players were choke artists or forgot how to hit during a short series. All it means is that when all the stars aligned just so, the Giants were able to eke out a few runs while keeping the Tigers from scoring hardly any.

And barring the biggest miracle in the history of the World Series, the Tigers and its players will be remembered fondly by its fans for the 2012 season and the Yankees will have fans and radio talk shows (and some media members) calling for the team to get blown up because they suck.

On this big a stage and in such a setting with only four games needed to win or lose a season, stuff happens. It's not fun when it happens to your team or your players. But that's what it is...stuff that happened.

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