On September 18th, the Detroit Tigers lagged three games behind the White Sox with 15 games remaining. The stage was practically set for finishing a decisive sweep of the New York Yankees for the American League pennant in the ALCS 30 days later. Right?
Not only did they show resilience down the stretch, but versatility: By defeating both the A’s and Yankees, they beat teams both adored and reviled.
But I also understand it’s not a sexy team to root for. It’s a very traditional baseball team: power arms, power bats, blue-collar city, simple jersey, tons of history and a generic mascot. As a casual observer it’s difficult to get excited for every team you’ve ever seen. Well, nerts to that. It’s time to grab an Old English D hat and here’s why:
It’s been some time.
1984 was their last World Series championship. It’s their second trip to the championship since that game when they didn’t want to walk Kirk Gibson. Seventeen other teams have won championships more recently than Detroit, including the Royals, Mets, Twins and Blue Jays. Two teams have won championships that didn’t exist in 1984. By comparison, the Cardinals won last year and the Giants the year before that.
They’re just like us.
Well, not exactly. But one of the appeals in baseball is that these players look similar to us in stature. They’re not beefed up like football players or ridiculously tall like basketball players. But the Tigers specifically resemble us in that we could all use a little weight and won’t really beat anybody in a footrace.
They beat the Yankees.
This needs to be mentioned again. It’s becoming a theme: they always beat the Yankees in the playoffs. They’re 10-3 in playoff games against the Yankees since 2006.
They have underdogs too.
The team is synonymous with Prince, Miggy and JV, sure. But how about rooting for Quintin Berry, a career minor-leaguer who played in five different organizations before Detroit, never in the bigs, and this time last year didn’t have a team. Once he was called up in May to keep center field warm for then-injured Austin Jackson, never returned to Triple-A.
Or Don Kelly, a lanky utility player whose meager hitting forced Detroit to designate him for assignment in August. He accepted a minor league trip, got the September call-up and hit the game-winning sacrifice fly in Game 2 of the ALDS.
Or Darin Downs, a relief pitcher not on the playoff roster but contributed in their bullpen down the stretch. In a 2009 minor-league game Downs was struck by a line drive, fracturing his skull and nearly losing his life.
Or Phil Coke. Heavens, Phil Coke. The Tigers lefty struggled much of the year, especially in the last three months with a 5.82 ERA, and suddenly became the kinda-but-not-officially closer. Phil Coke is proof not everybody who listens to Nickelback is a terrible person.
You can like the team and not like Delmon Young.
Even as Tigers fans, we’re not fans of Young’s style of play, which includes swinging at everything (20 walks all year, 18 home runs), playing the field poorly, and running like, in the words of Tigers TV announcer Mario Impemba, “Fred Flintstone trying to start his car.” We palmed our faces at his arrest in New York and, despite the hot hot hitting in the ALCS, wish him the best of luck in signing a comfy contract with another sports athletic club in 2013. I get it. You don’t want an unsavory person to win a nice thing. Every team contains all levels of miscreants and ne’er-do-wells, and if you don’t want the team to win because of him, then hope they win for the sake of…
…Max Scherzer’s family.
One of the most fascinating pitchers in all of baseball is the heterochromatic hurler whose stuff has perpetually captivated baseball scouts and analysts. His 10 strikeouts in the ALCS clincher validated the scouting report. But this has been a difficult year for Scherzer: in June his 24-year-old brother committed suicide. The hardship his family has endured was rightly mentioned by GM Dave Dombrowski during their televised celebration, and I’ll admit I had forgotten about his death until that moment.
And if NONE of those reasons convince you, then do it for this guy: