Brandon Inge: Always finding new ways to be a dork. Photo by Ben Margot for AP.
I may not have put it down in words as often this year, but I’ve been watching the Tigers with as much intensity as ever throughout the season. The incredible run so far in September – they’ve only lost two games (make it three, I wrote this during Saturday’s game) – has been impossible for even the most casual fan to ignore.
2009, as much as I’d like to forget the end of it, left its mark on my psyche. The second half rolls around and dumbasses talk about THE COLLAPSENING, and as stupid as I think it is, I knew in the back of my head that it’d be par for the course if they started sucking. Going into the clinching game last night I was as nervous as I was for game 163, even though I knew their entry into the playoffs was inevitable. I said in my last post that I was through being paranoid, and I am, but it was really hard not to expect Valverde to blow his first save of the year last night.
But he didn’t. As the final out was made, I let out a whoop so loud it even surprised me, and ran to the kitchen to get the bottle of champagne I had bought the night before. I quickly posted an open thread for people to chat during the locker room celebration, and sent out/replied to a ton of text messages. Prior to the game I had set up my old laptop on the coffee table and updated Skype so that my friend Wendy, a fellow Texan Tiger fan without FSD, could watch the celebration via video chat. I called her and we popped our bottles together, mine spilling all over me and the floor. We did a quick toast and then I got out of the way so she could watch the party. Watching Jim Leyland’s eyes well up as he talked to Mario Impemba was almost too much; I think my glass had as many tears in it as it did champagne. No matter how he goes about managing the team, the old man cares more than anyone could ever understand, and that’s partly why the team has gotten to where they are.
When the editors of Bless You Boys did projections for the year, almost all of us had the Tigers going to the playoffs. Things were looking good for the team, and new Catcher/DH Victor Martinez was sure to be “the straw that stirs the drink”, as Rod Allen would say. Even if he wasn’t enough, I felt strongly that Dave Dombrowski would do everything he could to make the necessary moves at the trade deadline to put the team over the top. And so, for the hell of it, I put them down to win the World Series. Nobody else had them getting past the ALCS. I figured, “Why not? Someone’s got to at least pretend to believe.” Little did I know that in mid-September, I’d find myself believing it for real.
I saw both wins and losses when I attended four games in Detroit this July. At that point they were battling for first place and went back and forth between being up a game and tied while I was in town. Even when they didn’t win, being there in person helped me understand what others were saying: this team is special. Justin Verlander is having a Cy Young worthy season, he could even be MVP. The whole team is contributing every game behind the big boys that just seem to keep getting it done. Everything is just right and fans are lucky to have them. There’s a lot more work to be done, but personally I’m just trying to enjoy it, and I hope everyone that reads this does the same.