|With Justin Verlander leading a strong staff, the Tigers are built for the postseason. (AP)|
You bet I saw it coming this spring.
I looked into the future, and I saw the Athletics. But because this particular future was 2021, I threw it back.
Then I looked into the future and saw the Orioles. But because the bird was maniacally grinning back at me as if it had just escaped the clutches of Boog Powell's barbecue, I quickly shuddered and pulled the blind.
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So then I looked into the future and saw the Tigers and the Giants in the World Series, with the Tigers winning. You can look it up. Coming out of spring training, that was exactly my call.
So I see no reason to change now.
Go ahead, start in on the Tigers, who for roughly 80 percent of this season couldn't get out of the way of their own stripes. Yeah, yeah. They haven't exactly been reminiscent of Alan Trammell and Sweet Lou Whitaker's 35-5 run to start the 1984 season. But they're not the Los Angeles Angels of We Paid $250 Million for Albert Pujols and All We Got Was No Playoffs and This Lousy T-Shirt, either.
While Pujols and the Angels are home tuning up their remotes for the playoffs, Prince Fielder and his Tigers are in. And getting there, that's half the battle.
"It's been a rough year," manager Jim Leyland freely admits. "We've taken some hits.
"But the thing I'm most proud of, I've said on a consistent basis, every day, let's wait until 162 games are played."
When they looked up at that point, Miguel Cabrera had become the first man in 45 years to win a Triple Crown.
So yes, you bet I can see what's coming next, too. And it ain't going to be pretty.
Cabrera will continue to mash. He's going to hit .800 this postseason, swat 10 or 11 homers, collect total bases like Halloween candy while the Tigers dance from here to November. He will be so awesomely awesome that when the Angels' Mike Trout wins the AL MVP award next month, folks will be so incredulous that the simmering outrage already surrounding the "debate" over this award finally will bubble over, pitting man against computer, brother against brother.
Oh, will it ever get nasty. I fully expect a mud-wrestling tussle between myself and Joe Sheehan of SI.com. Colleague Danny Knobler will engage in fisticuffs with Jeff Passan of Yahoo! In Anaheim, Mickey Mouse will bludgeon Tigger to death with his iPhone in Disneyland's worst riot ever.
But that's November. October?
Here's the thing about the Tigers that goes beyond Cabrera and Prince: If nobody slams a car door on Max Scherzer's fingers (and the way it's been going for him, don't underestimate the odds of that), Detroit has an assembly-line rotation that can kill in a short series. Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Scherzer ... Anibal Sanchez, for crying out loud, is No. 4! And that doesn't even count whatever contributions Rick Porcello will make before Joaquin Benoit and the Big Potato himself, Jose Valverde, shut down the eighth and ninth innings.
Count me in for a seat on this shiny new Chrysler, or Ford, or whatever ride will serve as the Tigers' bandwagon. I'm a Motown guy. This ol' heart of mine breaks for two Coney dogs, please, and a Faygo orange pop to wash it down with.
Maybe the Tigers didn't live up to expectations this summer. But they will this fall.
Wild card round
Braves over Cardinals: There are zero overwhelming favorites this October. Clubs are so evenly matched that any one of the 10 teams can win. Well, any one of nine teams. Not the Cardinals. I mean, really, after what they did last September and October, even Hollywood's swiftest sequel writers couldn't write one this quickly. Kyle Lohse has had a great season. But the Braves are a ridiculous 23-0 dating back to last year in games Kris Medlen starts. Make it 24-0 Friday.
Orioles over Rangers: If Baltimore has provided one incredibly valuable service during its best baseball summer since 1997, it's that we all now know exactly what the term "ornothogically correct" means. As in, "Thank God these guys ditched the ornothogically correct Oriole on their caps and gave us back that Woody Woodpecker-looking bastard that makes us all smile so much." Or, maybe the one valuable service was recalling Manny Machado ... or drafting Matt Wieters ... or trading for Adam Jones. Anything can happen in one game, but it will be totally shocking if the Rangers' Josh Hamilton can see straight anymore after the debacle in Oakland.
Athletics vs. Tigers You already know how this will turn out if you read my ode to the Mayo Smith Society's favorite club above. Where Oakland is concerned, suffice it to say that storming back from five games behind the Rangers with nine to play is the most impressive feat for the Swingin' A's since Rollie Fingers' handlebar mustache. This spring, I swear terrific manager Bob Melvin was giving Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin and the gang breaks for graham crackers and milk. Are you kidding, 14 rookies on the club? And rookie pitchers starting 103 of 162 games this season? This will not be easy for Detroit. Tigers in 4
Orioles vs. Yankees: You think the Orioles' rotation is bubble gum and thread, have you seen what the Yankees are throwing out there after CC Sabathia? Key game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher drifts back on a long J.J. Hardy drive but fails to catch it when a fan reaches out and snatches the ball. When the umpires don't see it, they rule it a home run. The series turns on the call. And the fan promptly disappears. Some swear it is retired umpire Richie Garcia. O's in 5
Reds vs. Giants: Talk about getting all sentimental out of the gate. Dusty Baker brings his Reds back to San Francisco, where he cut his managerial teeth. When Bruce Bochy's club won it all in 2010, it was the Giants' first trip to the World Series since Dusty was manager in 2002 against the Angels. This will be all about pitching, with Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos among those set to take starring roles. But in Cincinnati in Games 3, 4 and 5, the Giants' offense will come alive. Giants in 5
Braves vs. Nationals: Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman and there's more where that came from, man. Even without Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals' pitching is very good. They didn't produce the majors' best record by accident. The coolest scene in the entire playoffs will happen in that first game in D.C., when postseason baseball returns to D.C. for the first time since 1933. Suddenly, Jayson Werth looks brilliant: His old club, the Phillies, is yesterday's news, and his current club is on the launching pad for what could be a sustained run. Nationals in 4
League Championship Series
Tigers vs. Orioles: Now would be a good time for Austin Jackson, Jhonny Peralta, Alex Avila and anybody else in the clubhouse to step up and let people know that the Sons of Al Kaline are more than a two-man offense. I mean, somebody's got to carry the bags for Miggy and Prince once in awhile, don't they? Leyland will have his hands full, facing Melvin in the first round and Buck Showalter in the second. "For me personally, this is probably the toughest year I've ever had to cast my manager of the year vote," Leyland says. He added that he won't tell us which way he cast his vote. No need. Tigers in 6
Giants vs. Nationals Big concern for the Nationals is that they peaked emotionally when Teddy won the President's Race. Another big concern for them will be Cain, Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and maybe even Tim Lincecum. Plus Bochy's pitch-perfect knack for handling his bullpen-by-committee. Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez ... come the ninth inning, you never know which arm is going to whack you. This also is about the point in the playoffs where Nationals fans will start screaming, where's Stephen Strasburg?! Giants in 5
Giants vs. Tigers: How cool would it be if Kaline and Willie Mays delivered the lineup cards to home plate before Game 1? As we've already established, Cabrera's big stick will power the Tigers to their first World Series title since 1984. What will seem eerie is his presence in AT&T Park. Not even Barry Bonds, the slugger of recent vintage whom Cabrera is most reminiscent (even if he's a righty and Bonds batted left), won a Triple Crown. Tigers in 7