And so the prognosticators got it right, but only the end result. The Tigers finished their season at .500 exactly, but I don’t think those people who predicted that would have expected the long and winding road that got them there (so basically, they were right for the wrong reasons). This was one roller coaster of a season. There were magical moments of euphoria, and there were times we were thrown into the ultimate depths of despair. And at the same time, it felt like this season absolutely flew by. All this brings about a real random jumbling of thoughts, but I will attempt to organize them here.
In my season preview, I wrote that the theme of the season could be “Redemption.” In some ways, that was fulfilled, and in other ways it wasn’t. The Tigers as a team certainly didn’t make up for being passed by the Twins at the wire last year. But on a personal level, Miguel Cabrera certainly more than redeemed himself to the fanbase. He did not have a good ending to his 2009 season, to say the least, and I know for a fact that there was a lot of lashing out at him by the fans. But whether it was the bad press or the loss in game 163, Miguel realized he had a problem and he got help for it. And with those demons seemingly behind him, he had himself one hell of a year, one which unfortunately ended six games too soon. With the exception of a few trolls on MLive and Facebook, he’s earned the respect and love of Tiger fans everywhere (and thank goodness Facebook changed their display so that I no longer have to read those moronic comments). Now it’s up to the voters to acknowledge that. Obviously Cabrera’s big hurdle is that the Tigers fell out of the playoff picture by late August (although I’d like to point out that Josh Hamilton had a horrible April and missed almost all of September and the Rangers still made the postseason easily). I really don’t think that the postseason should play a factor in MVP, just as I think offense should not be a factor in Gold Glove selections, but such is the case with subjective voting. The last time a player in a non-playoff team won the AL MVP was in 2003. It’s happened more recently in the NL. Albert Pujols won MVP in 2008, a year the Cardinals finished in third place, so there is historic precedent, just not a lot of it. But MVP or no, it was a lot of fun to watch Cabrera this season. There were a couple games in which he came to bat in the ninth inning when the Tigers were trailing, and I just knew he’d tie the game. The two specific instances I remember were a game against the Angels and another one against the Orioles. Obviously, those instances dwindled once injuries claimed the other big hitters in the lineup, and he had somewhat of a slow September, but it was still a great season for him.
It’s a pity that injuries took out so many of the key Tigers all at once. You can extrapolate and spit out all the numbers you want, but the reality of the situation is that you don’t know what would have happened. Still, the trouble started right out of the All-Star Break, when they were swept in a four-game series in Cleveland, and this was before anyone major got hurt. Whether they would have been able to turn things around with Magglio and Guillen will forever remain unknown (plus, you don’t know if Dave Dombrowski would have been more aggressive in a Trade Deadline deal if those two were healthy). Obviously, July 24th was a real low point in the season (and a really bizarre point for me, because I subliminally predicted that something bad would happen in that game). Getting no-hit a couple days later was even less fun. Throughout that whole bad stretch, I sensed a lot of fight in the team. There were a lot of close games and one-run losses, but they just kept coming up short. Maybe they were overachieving in the first half, but I don’t think they were as bad as they sometimes looked in the second half. Sure enough, things did finally even out and they did play pretty well in September up until the last road trip.
You can’t discuss 2010 without mentioning what at times seemed like a thousand different rookies playing for the Tigers. I’ve spent the past several days sorting through what seems like hundreds of unlabeled videotapes, many of which are games from the 2008 season (It may have sucked as a season, but damn, there were a lot of guys on that team I liked; by the way, I will probably have a post later on some of the more amusing moments I saw on those tapes). Watching those tapes, the thought crossed my mind that it’s amazing how quickly the Tigers have gone from being one of the oldest teams in baseball to being one of the youngest. However, they have a strong Rookie of the Year candidate in Austin Jackson, who unfortunately couldn’t quite finish his season over .300, but was impressive nonetheless. And as good as his offense was, his defense was even better. Brennan Boesch had a good first half and then just fell off the map in the second half. I knew he would have to regress a little bit, but I don’t think he was supposed to drop THAT much. And then there was the parade of rookies including Casper Wells, Robbie Weinhardt, and Will Rhymes, all of whom have become fan favorites (I don’t suppose the fact that they’re all on Twitter hurts the matter).
On a personal level, it was quite a season for me. I got to go to Comerica Park three times, and saw three really good games. I also went to three Mud Hens games (though none of those went as well; the Hens lost all three of those games). Between the Tigers and Mud Hens, I saw four out of the five pitchers in the Tigers’ starting rotation (the only one I did not see was Bonderman, which I’m not too sad about). And thanks to those Mud Hens games, I got to meet several players, including Robbie Weinhardt, Casper Wells, and Rick Porcello. I had a question answered by Armando Galarraga in an online chat. My Venezuelan Mafia picture was seen by Magglio Ordoñez. Perhaps my biggest nerd moment of the season was when Miguel Cabrera came down with a kidney infection. I knew with about 95% certainty what his treatment regimen would be. One thing I do regret (a lot, actually) is that I didn’t go to any Mud Hens games in April or early May (the reason for why I regret that should be obvious).
But of course, the moment that will resonate the longest will be Armando Galarraga’s 28-out perfect game and the blown call heard ‘round the world. So many facets of that make it an incredible story. This is a pitcher that very few fans believed in, so the feat in and of itself is quite an accomplishment. And I hope one day it will be counted officially as a perfect game. But he created such a moment of class and sportsmanship out of it, a moment that took him above perfect games and blown calls and all that sort of thing. There was such a huge outpouring of love for him in the following days. It was incredible to watch. I know things didn’t go the way he wanted to after that. He spent most of the rest of the season frustrated, for a variety of reasons. First he had some problems with thinking too much on the mound, then he rattled off about six really good starts in a row but only won one of them due to lack of run support or bullpen meltdowns, and then he had three terrible starts in a row (one of which I would consider to be my personal low point of the season, just because of the way I reacted to it). I think that final start was very important for him from an individual perspective. He may have taken the loss, but he was tremendous, and his postgame interview would seem to suggest he finally found peace with himself. We’ll probably never see him again in the Olde English D, but he’s given us a story that will not soon be forgotten (unless you’re the MLB ad person in charge of “Year of the Pitcher” commercials).
That just about does it for the season review. Coming soon: The offseason preview, although if you’ve been paying even the slightest bit of attention, you’ll know most of what I’m going to say.