MLB Playoffs 2011: 5 Reasons To Root for the Detroit Tigers

Nathaniel JueSenior Writer IIOctober 5, 2011

MLB Playoffs 2011: 5 Reasons To Root for the Detroit Tigers

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    The MLB Divisional Series are already underway, and for those casual fans who don’t know which teams to root for while waiting for weekend football to hurry up, selecting from the remaining eight seven teams can be difficult. 

    There are the powerhouse juggernauts, the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies. The storied franchises like the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals. There’s the glory-less teams that have relatively little postseason experience over their long history—the Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers. The seemingly recent newbies such as the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays

    So which team should you root for? The old standbys, or the young up-and-comers? 

    Here’s a look at five reasons why you want the Detroit Tigers to take home the World Series title.

They're Not the Yankees

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    Well first and foremost, they’re not the New York Yankees. That right there is reason enough for any and all Yankee haters to cheer on the Detroit Tigers. For baseball fans, your favorite team is your home team (or whichever one you follow/care about) and any team who beats the Evil Empire. So, by default, the Tigers should garner a following for the casual observer. 

    However, the Tigers are not a franchise of underdog young pups. A great team in their own right, Detroit dominated the American League Central, winning the division crown by 15 games. So it’s not as though they’re a bunch of impostors who do not belong in the playoffs or are making a magically surprising postseason run. 

    On offense, Detroit has been a steady if not overpowering force, ranked third in the American League in batting average and fourth in runs scored and OPS. Led by American League batting crown champion Miguel Cabrera and catcher Victor Martinez, who placed fourth in AL in hitting, the Tigers consistently pushed their offense, and were in fact shut out in only five games all season. 

    The pitching was spectacular, too, riding the dominating coattails of ace starter Justin Verlander. The right-hander notched 24 wins, steering a pitching rotation that led the American League in shutouts. Of course, the bullpen rounded out the well-rounded team, producing a league-best 52 saves on the season, led by closer Jose Valverde

    An all-around powerful team of their own, Detroit should be applauded for their great ensemble and will be looked at as legit contenders to win the title. Currently, they are locked at two games apiece in the ALDS against New York. But whatever the numbers, whoever the players are, for many baseball fans, as long as it’s not the Yankees, then go Tigers!

They Are a Storied Franchise

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    Again, the Detroit Tigers themselves are no slouch of a franchise. No, they’re not some spring chicken organization that was born out of expansion within the past couple of decades. Rather, the Detroit Tigers are one of the American League’s eight charter organizations, created all the way back in 1901. Furthermore, of those original eight, only the Detroit Tigers have kept their team name for their entire existence. 

    Throughout the team’s storied history, there have been many Tigers players and teams. From Ty Cobb to Charlie Gehringer to Hank Greenberg to Al Kaline, the Tigers have had several of the greatest players of their respective eras. And, with 10 American League pennants and four World Series titles, they have had their fair share of team success as well. 

    Still, Detroit’s last World Series championship was back in 1984, a year of complete wire-to-wire domination. Their last appearance in the Fall Classic was only five seasons ago, when the favored Tigers lost in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s an understatement to say that Tigers squad was quite a bit stunned by the underdog Cardinals. But the handful of players and coaches still left from that AL-pennant winning team have been in search of redemption for that postseason’s failure ever since. 

    Fans hope they have the pieces this year to win it all.

Jim Leyland

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    One of those hold holdovers from the last World Series run is the manager, Jim Leyland. The 2006 season was his first as manager of the Tigers, and for his team’s season success, Leyland promptly took home the American League Manager of the Year award. This only added to his individual accomplishments, as Leyland is one of three managers to win the award in both leagues, and one of only seven men to win pennants in both leagues. 

    But Leyland is looking for redemption as well, trying to win his second World Series championship, having already done so with the Florida Marlins in 1997. He is a highly respected manager, and one of the few older-school baseball veterans, having been involved in the sport in some capacity for over 45 years. In fact, Leyland’s been around so long, he was the manager of current Arizona Diamondbacks manager, Kirk Gibson. Dang. 

    And yet there is still fire left in the stubborn 66-year-old. While he applies a strong and intense style, he's still a player’s manager to a large degree, pushing the right buttons and making strategic moves often and without second-guessing. 

    He had a formidable roster in 2006, but looks to complete the effort this go-round with a stronger, more balanced ballclub. It’s certainly something to root for as a baseball fan. Hopefully for Leyland, he can join the ranks of the elite managers who have won a World Series title in both leagues.

Sparky Anderson

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    Speaking of which… 

    Should Leyland pull off the feat of winning World Series titles as a manager in both the American and National Leagues, he would be in select company—only Tony LaRussa and Sparky Anderson have done so in MLB history. Of course, Anderson was the first to accomplish the achievement, doing so with the 1984 Detroit Tigers squad. 

    It would be apropos then, if Leyland could add a World Series title as manager of an American League team, similar to how Anderson’s ’84 championship complemented the two he won as manager of the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970s. Especially so, as an homage to the passing of the great Anderson last November. The all-time most winning manager in Tigers history died last fall at the age of 76. 

    Though he hadn’t managed since 1995, Anderson was still a venerable baseball figure, especially in both Cincinnati and Detroit, where his accomplishments as a manager are everlasting. His legacy will be his World Series ball clubs, but he is recognized for his ability to handle superstars and their personalities. From the Big Red Machine—with Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, et al—to a Detroit team that included players such as Kirk Gibson, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, Anderson faced, led and managed them patiently and with conviction. 

    Leyland has followed suit, and is, in many respects, similar to Anderson in style and approach to his players and the game. If the Tigers can pull of a World Series victory, it’d be a great honor for everyone in the organization, but also a wonderful tribute to Sparky Anderson and his influence in Detroit.

Justin Verlander

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    All of the Tigers' 2011 season rested on the right-armed cannon of starter Justin Verlander. And the 2011 postseason will be no different. 

    Verlander is, by all accounts, the best player in the American League right now. His regular season stats are so good, they’re almost archaic: a 24-5 records with a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts in 250.1 innings, a 0.92 WHIP and .192 opponents’ batting average. Oh, and his second career no-hitter back in May. Across the board, Verlander’s been aces. 

    Verlander is one of three players from the 2006 World Series runner-ups—though he was only a wide-eyed rookie back then. He did not have a tremendously great October that year, but he aims to make up for it this year. As the shoo-in Cy Young Award winner, he is in a stronger, more experienced position this postseason to will the Tigers to victory. 

    In Game 3 of this year’s ALDS, Verlander wasn’t superiorly sharp, but he still struck out 11 Yankees in eight innings. He has the arsenal and the ammo to mow down any American League lineup. It’d be fun to watch him do so for as deep as the Tigers are able to advance. 

    It would be sweetly tasteful icing on the 2011 cake that Verlander has been serving all year. His remarkable season would truly one for the ages should he contribute mightily throughout the postseason. Only time will tell, but it’d surely be great to see more flame-throwing magic from Verlander and the Detroit Tigers.

    The Tigers and the New York Yankees are tied at two games apiece in the American League Divisional Series.