An abrupt ending to say the least. In fact, I was so tired on Sunday night that I actually fell asleep during the 9thinning. I was trying to keep myself awake by convincing myself of a walk-off win coming and a dominant Verlander in game five. But, alas, my eyes fell heavily, and, despite the excitement, I couldn’t open them. That is until an hour later, when I popped awake in a confused state. I was staring at the TV, which had a close up on Hunter Pence with a World Series Champion t-shirt on. And that is how I found out the Tigers were done. One second I was finding reasons to hope, and after what felt like a second later, I was turning off the TV.
It really was a microcosm of the season. As a fan, our feeling about the team changed day by day, second by second. So how did it all go wrong so quickly? Can we just blame it on Leyland and be done with it? Is it all because we swept the Yankees so quickly and had a long wait? I think not. Here are the top five reasons the Tigers were swept away in the World Series:
All Star Trio Missing In Action
Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Justin Verlander carried this team to the Central Division title and an American League Championship. But when it mattered most, they laid an egg. Credit the Giants for handling these star players as they did, but even they would tell you something wasn’t right. Prince seemed late on everything, never driving the ball deep into right field. Cabrera, save a few hard hit balls, seemed to lack discipline and chase balls out of the zone. And Verlander, although his stuff looked good, missed on some locations and seemed to get frustrated. If any of these three had stepped up, we may still be playing baseball.
Over-reliance on Quintin Berry
I had to laugh at the complaining many Tiger fans did when Berry lost playing time upon Andy Dirks’ return to the lineup. To me it was becoming more and more clear that he was simply overmatched by major league pitching. Don’t get me wrong, Berry was great for most of the year, and he is a valuable piece to have on the bench. But batting second in the World Series against some of the best pitching out there proved he was out of his league. He seemed to come up in many big spots but never produced a hit. I don’t blame Leyland for playing him, he didn’t have many options (are you listening Brennan Boesch?). Perhaps Berry should have batted 9th while Infante stayed in the two-hole.
The Gene Lamont/Prince Fielder/Jhonny Peralta Play At The Plate
Yeah, you did read Jhonny Peralta’s name there. I’ll get to that. So clearly it was a mistake to send Fielder home in Game 2. Yes, the Tigers were struggling to get runs so it is good to stay aggressive. But Lamont should not have chosen Fielder to be aggressive with. Put up two hands and we’ve got 2nd and 3rd with nobody out. We may be looking at a two run inning, and game two is a totally different game. But, he sent him, and then there were more issues. Fielder’s slide lacked creativity. It was straightforward and his leg never got on the ground. Peralta forgot his job to indicate to the runner where to slide. If Peralta is motioning Fielder to the outside, perhaps Prince flops on his belly on the backside of home plate and stays out of Buster Posey’s reach for the game’s first run.
The Infante Decision
Jim Leyland elected to play the infield back at double play depth late in a scoreless game two. The reasoning behind his decision was that he wanted to avoid a big inning that would take the Tigers out of the game. It was a tough call, and certainly could be second-guessed. Instead, I take issue with Omar Infante. Infante got the ball quickly, and as replays showed, he had plenty of time to get Pence at home (maybe Laird could have turned two as well). Instead he got the double play up the middle and Pence scored the winning run. Even though Infante was playing at double play depth, he should have realized that he got the ball quick enough to go home anyway. Players need to take responsibility so that the manager isn’t always the scapegoat.
Max Scherzer’s Shoulder Fatigue
I knew it would end up haunting us. At first glance, you could say the Max had a great postseason. His two starts in the AL playoffs were stellar, and his World Series start was definitely winnable. However, the consequences of his shoulder fatigue were definitely felt. First, during game four, it was obvious he wasn’t feeling 100%. He was talking a lot with Jeff Jones and the trainers during the game, and his fastball was sitting at 90-92 mph. Does Posey square up a change-up for a home run if he is cheating on a 97 mph heater? Perhaps not. Furthermore, if Max was at 100%, he probably would have been chosen to pitch game two or three instead. No disrespect to Doug Fister or Anibal Sanchez, but when Max Scherzer is on his game he is the best outside of Verlander. Would a healthy and dominant Scherzer have led the Tigers to a win in game two or three? We’ll never know.
Obviously these are reasons why the Tigers lost, not why the Giants won. The Giants played fantastic baseball and should be commended, but it is amazing how, even in such a one-sided series, we can point at one or two small things that could have turned it all around. I guess that’s why baseball is the best game ever.