BOSTON (Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press) And then you stop playing. The heat escapes. The schedule empties. There is nothing left to battle but your thoughts.
saw it in the players' postures after the final game Saturday night.
The Tigers slumped on stools inside the Fenway Park clubhouse or hunched
on couches or stood facing the wall. Shirts were buttoned. Belts
tightened. Wet showered hair was pushed back behind the ears, slowly, as
if even that used up energy.
They had each taken their hotel
keys, a symbol of belief that there would be a Game 7. The keys were
useless now. Soon a plane would fly them home.
For a while, nobody
spoke. Reporters circled awkwardly in the middle of the room. Finally,
Prince Fielder, who had the most miserable series of them all, stood up,
still in uniform, a signal he was ready. TV lights flicked on. He
answered questions softly, without rancor.
Was he disappointed?
Yes, but that was baseball. Did the end come too fast? Yes, but that's
part of the game. How did he deal with it? Get ready for next year. On
and on this way.
Once the crowd thinned, I asked him what happened on his botched baserunning in the top of the sixth inning.
"I kinda got stuck watching (Dustin Pedroia) tag Victor (Martinez)."
But the book says you should run for home.
we spoke, you could almost hear the angry keys banging on the Internet -
people calling Fielder overpaid, overweight, the reason Detroit lost. I
asked his view.
"They can do that. That's what they do. They pay their money to watch the game. It's my job to play hard, give it all I got."
Are you unhappy with your performance?
Everybody would like to hit .500 in the postseason. Hit 10 home runs
and everything. But it didn't happen. I definitely gave it the effort."
Either you believe that and accept this, or you don't and you have a sour taste in your mouth until April.
A city of destiny
Cool it down. Whatever Fielder did or didn't do, he didn't do it to you or me. And I'm pretty sure he wasn't trying
to not drive in a run, or to get tagged in a rundown, any more than
Austin Jackson was trying to strike out 18 times in the first eight
games, or Joaquin Benoit and Jose Veras had a secret Spanish phrase that
meant, "Let's throw them the grand slam ball now!"
For all the
talk of a power outage, do you realize Detroit had the best batting
average, the most hits and the fewest strikeouts of all four league
The Tigers were simply beaten by a faster,
more defensive, more opportunistic team with a finer bullpen and - and
this is important - better karma. You didn't realize until you got to
Fenway and saw the B Strong carved into the outfield grass and hanging
on the Green Monster wall, how much the Boston Marathon bombings six
months ago gave unity and purpose to this team and city, kind of like
the New Orleans Saints and Hurricane Katrina or the New York Yankees and
Ask anyone in Boston: Even they can't believe how unified this roster full of newcomers has become.
anything, that's what the Tigers were lacking. That intangible. Their
three biggest stars are their three highest-paid players - Fielder,
Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander - but none of them is what you'd
call the heart of the team, the way a Chauncey Billups or Steve Yzerman
were once the heart of the Pistons or Red Wings. They don't fire up the
clubhouse. They do their own things. Maybe that hurts. Maybe it doesn't
Remember, this is the same group that rallied from 2-1
against Oakland and won the division series on the road. Back then - all
of, what, 11 days ago? - the Tigers were a franchise that believed and
never quit. Did things change that fast?
Battle of bullpens
Or did they just run into a team with a far better bullpen - at a
time of year when late innings determine victories? Remember, not one of
the Tigers' starters can be accused of blowing a game. It was two
Detroit relievers who gave up killer grand slams in Games 2 and 6. And a
bunch of Boston relievers who stymied Detroit bats in Games 3 and 5 -
both won by a single run.
"The way I would sum it up," manager Jim Leyland said, "I thought their starters were good. I thought their bullpen was great."
it's that simple. Maybe the Tigers need a few tangibles - speed, a real
closer - and intangibles - plate patience, leadership. It's not a major
overhaul. This is their third straight ALCS. They can't be doing everythingwrong.
it down. Nobody likes to lose. But slumps come, mistakes happen and
injuries (like Cabrera's) are unpredictable. Everybody wants a
scapegoat, because it make us feel like we're solved the problem. We
haven't. We don't get a pennant by pointing fingers.
It annoys me, too, when Fielder conveniently falls back on "that's baseball" as an explanation.
What annoys me most is that he may be right.