Detroit Tigers: 2012 American League Central Division Champions

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Detroit Tigers: 2012 American League Central Division Champions
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

In 20 years it won't matter how they did it, and people won't remember how difficult it was to do it.

The Detroit Tigers are the 2012 American League Central Division champions.

The Tigers began the 2012 campaign garnering 50 of 50 votes from ESPN experts to win the AL Central, but mediocre inconsistency plagued Detroit all season and with 15 games left, the Tigers were three games back of the Chicago White Sox, and many people had them dead in the water.

Fans were calling for manager Jim Leyland to be fired, and said the Tigers were one of the most disappointing teams ever.

But after the White Sox September collapse, combined with the Tigers emergence, Detroit is atop the AL Central, and has made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 77 years.

"It wasn't easy, but we got it done," Prince Fielder said to MLive.com. "It's awesome. It's awesome."

The Tigers were a confusing team to watch all season long. They began the year with a four-game winning streak, and after starting 9-3, everything was running according to plan. But Detroit lost seven of its next eight games and panic began to set in.

The Tigers sputtered through most of the first half of the year, hitting rock-bottom on June 8 with a 26-32 record, sitting in third place in the division, trailing by six games.

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Detroit got back to .500 in early July and managed to keep its head above water during the second half of the season, staying in the hunt of the atrocious AL Central.

Though it seemed everyone else had given up at one point or another, the Tigers remained positive all season, insisting there was no internal panic, and eventually took control of the division, and never looked back.

The Tigers tied the White Sox in the standings on Sept. 25, took sole possession of first place the next day, and behind a 7-of-8-win stretch, Detroit has clinched the division and turns its attention to the playoffs.

"This is awesome. This is what we work for. We've been working all year long for it," Austin Jackson said to MLive.com. "It was a battle to get here, but we did a good job of staying even-keeled and getting it done."

Leyland echoed Jackson's sentiment, and spoke to the attrition of his team.

"I'm having a hell of a time," he said. "This is what we do for a living. This is what we play for when we come to spring training. We've got a chance -- we've got a chance, a possibility -- of playing for the big prize. That's what you do this for."

If they were in any other division in the Major Leagues, the Tigers and their 87-73 record would have no shot at a division title or the playoffs, but Detroit benefited from a bad division, and once the MLB field is reduced to 10 teams, the other stuff doesn't matter.

The Tigers enter the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in baseball, and will jump on the backs of defending AL MVP Justin Verlander, and probable 2012 AL MVP Miguel Cabrera, attempting to win a World Series for the first time since 1984.

"(Everybody is) 0-0 in the playoffs," Alex Avila said. "And trust me, I don't think anybody's going to want to face us with our pitching staff."

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