A trip to the World Series is usually considered good enough for most teams. For the 2012 Detroit Tigers, however, it was not enough.
After getting swept easily by the San Francisco Giants in the 2012 World Series, it is unlikely that there will be any hangover effects for the Tigers and their players heading into the 2013 season.
Even with Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown effort and another outstanding season from pitching ace Justin Verlander, 2012 was not a milestone season but a season that finished with disappointment.
For a team that was expected to win 100 games in the regular season, the Tigers had the worst regular-season record of any American League team that made the playoffs, winning just 88.
They barely made it out of the League Divisional Series by outlasting the Oakland Athletics in five games. It may have looked easy when they swept the New York Yankees to win the pennant, but whatever momentum they might have carried into their tilt with the Giants disappeared into the San Francisco night on the power of Pablo Sandoval’s bat.
No, manager Jim Leyland does not have to worry about any hangover from the 2012 season. Fans and players alike, from the start of spring training forward, expected nothing but a naturally golden season from the Tigers and, by their own expectations, fell short.
With the Washington Nationals now considered the sexy pick going into the 2013 season, Detroit starts this campaign not as favorites, but as underdogs even in the AL.
The national focus has been on Los Angeles. Between the Dodgers signing Zack Greinke and the Angels signing Josh Hamilton, both the Giants and the Tigers have fallen off most people’s radar coming into the season.
Both these teams should be ignored at their own peril. In particular, the Tigers bring back the same four starting pitchers into the rotation that got them into the World Series to begin with.
The addition of Torii Hunter into the outfield and the return of Victor Martinez to the lineup will only help the Tigers offensive prowess. They do not come into this season happy with the accomplishments of last year, but with the expectation to top them.
Getting swept in the World Series really hurt some pride.
They had survived the implosion of José Valverde in the closer role by getting clutch performances out of Phil Coke in the ALCS. They rode Verlander to two amazing starts in the LDS. They ended up being at the wrong side of facing a red-hot team with San Francisco.
If there are any doubts that the Tigers are ready to rest on their laurels and give Leyland a reason to worry, do not count on it. This team is still just as good as we thought they were last year in spring training.
With the additions of Hunter, Anibal Sanchez for the full year and the return of Martinez, they may actually be better on paper than they were a year ago.
After a long offseason spent thinking of what might have been, the Tigers will not be suffering from a World Series hangover, but from the hunger of not reaching their goal.
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