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Requiem for a Season

Yesterday, 43,013 people filed into Comerica Park to observe the Tigers end their season in miserable fashion, losing 2-1 to the Baltimore Orioles.  As noted repeatedly by the TBS announcers (who were terrible all series…yes, Dennis Eckersley, we are aware that you used to be a pitcher, you don’t have to keep reminding us), the crowd was eerily quiet.  On a gray, blustery Michigan afternoon, those in attendance were, as Mitch Albom put it, bearing silent witness to the potential end of an era.  After meltdowns by the bullpen in the first two games of the series, Detroit fans showed up to the party, but came empty-handed.  Sometimes, as fans, you bring the energy with you, but sometimes you need to be fed.  And these fans came hungry for any reason to hope, for any sign of life.  And they starved.

As the fans well know, the Tigers are not a team that comes back from the dead.  This is a team reliant on dominant starting pitching, building an early lead and holding on for dear life.  During the Tigers’ current run of four consecutive division championships, they have never come back to win a postseason game they were losing going into the eighth inning.  Not once.  Since 2011, they’ve been trailing after seven innings 14 times and lost all 14 games.  For that matter, the Tigers haven’t even won a single game where they were tied entering the eighth; they’re 0-4 in such games.  At the same time, the bullpen has registered five blown saves in the eighth inning or later.  Opposing bullpens have incurred a blown save against the Tigers in the 8th inning or later only once, in Game 2 of the 2012 ALDS, but even in that game, it was only after the Tigers’ bullpen had already blown a save.  The Tigers have only won a single game that went into extra innings in four opportunities, Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS, but again, that was only after the Tigers bullpen had already blown a save in the 9th.

Overall, the Tigers have played 38 postseason games since 2011, with a record of 17-21.  In those games, they were leading after seven innings 20 times, trailing 14 times and tied 4 times.  If they simply won the games they were winning, lost the games they were losing, and won half of the games that were tied, that would be 22 wins and 16 losses.  The difference between 22-16 and 17-21 is the difference between genuine hope and utter despair.

This isn’t all about the bullpen or performance in the late innings.  This is about knowing that crazy things happen in baseball, and sometimes, when the chips are down, all you can do is hope for a miracle.  And while Detroit fans still clung to that hope, they understandably felt like those miracles only happen in other places for other fans for other teams.  When you hope for the best but expect the worst, you’re never wrong.  And the Tigers never fail to disappoint.

Mob Mentality

 Check out this story:  http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=1822940 … to sum up, basically a grown man knocked over a 4-year old kid trying to catch a foul ball at a baseball game, then refused to give the kid the ball or apologize for it.  what a jerk.  but this guy (who apparently is a former youth minister, what a guy) is just like countless others i’ve seen at sporting events.  I mean, what possesses people to turn into animals to fight over stupid little balls?  That scramble for people to grab the ball…I mean, it’s just disgusting.  People are animals.  When a ballplayer tosses a ball into the stands and people just climb all over each other to get it, it looks exactly like what happens when you throw a piece of bread at a flock of pigeons or a pack of rats.

-Maybe it’s being in such a large, faceless crowd that people think they can act like two-year-olds and get away with it.  I don’t know what the explanation is.  Game 4 of 1998 Stanley Cup Finals, Red Wings win and I’m there.  As the Wings celebrate, Darren McCarty tosses a t-shirt over the glass and into the crowd directly into my friend Mike’s hands.  Then, after he catches it, the short, stubby bearded man next to him grabs the t-shirt and just starts yanking.  Mike is bewildered.  “Hey man, what are you doing?”  But the fat, ugly brute doesn’t say a word and just shakes his head and keeps pulling.  Mike, being a civilized human being, decides it’s not worth it to debase himself to animal status over a t-shirt and just lets go.  Some people…they just make me sick.

So maybe it’s because I’d rather not trade my dignity for a baseball that I’ve never caught one at the countless games I’ve been to, not counting batting practice.  Once, I took my younger friend James to Comerica Park to educate him about the joys of baseball.  Tigers vs. White Sox.  I even brought my glove.  Around the 4th inning, I went to get some food for us.  I was standing in line at the concession stand, watching the game on the tv screen.  I saw Carlos Lee slice a ball foul down the right field line.  I thought, “Hm…that should be close to where we’re sitting.”  I watched the tv in horror as I saw James fall over himself and the ball bounce off my recently vacated seat.  And that’s the closest I’ve ever gotten.  So yeah, I’d love to catch a ball.  Snag a line drive with my hat, make Sportscenter.  But scramble on the ground, over kids, spilling beer all over, making an idiot of myself?  Not for any ball, even if it were a record-breaking home run ball and made of solid gold.