October 17, 2006


Biggest turnaround ever: Tigers' pennant may have been unlikeliest of all time (Tom Verducci, October 17, 2006, Sports Illustrated)

The annual bleating from World Series teams that "nobody expected us to be here" has become such a cliche that a beer company used it in a television advertisement that is a send-up of the postgame clubhouse celebration. Thank goodness for the Detroit Tigers. Their success is such a joyful surprise that even the Tigers themselves admit they did not expect to be in the 102nd World Series. Just ask them.

"We just wanted to get better," said third baseman Brandon Inge, one of the remaining survivors of the 119-loss embarrassment that was the 2003 season.

"I wasn't even a Tiger and I felt bad for those guys [in 2003]," closer Todd Jones said. "I guess to be here after being the butt of every Jay Leno and David Letterman joke, it's got to feel pretty good."

The Tigers played so well to begin the season and so tautly during their 6-1 postseason run thus far that it's worth remembering whence they came. Indeed, as I stood in the middle of the Comerica Park diamond Saturday, the Tigers still celebrating and their fans still not wanting to leave, I took a moment to simply study the scene and afix it in my memory.

Firstly, I was struck simply by how powerful was the illumination of the stadium lights. You could identify a friend in the upper deck if you wished. It was a bit of rush standing there in the middle of the infield and looking at this well-lit wall of 43,000 happy people. But what hit me even more was that this beautiful, underrated ballpark was filled with people who waited so very long for anything even close to this kind of happiness. There is no joy as moving as the joy that comes unexpectedly. And right then I began to wonder: are the 2006 Tigers the most shocking World Series team of all time?

I looked at the 202 other teams that reached the World Series before the '06 Tigers. (No, not in the infield; I waited until I got home.) But how do you decide which team was the biggest shock to get to the World Series? Start with an easy one.

Those of you who've had to leap on the Tiger bandwagon late may want to get a head start on next year. The Pirates could easily go from a .414% to the World Series.

They could use a Kenny Rogers-type elder anchor for the rotation: followed by Zach Duke, Ian Snell, Paul Maholm and Tom Gorzelanny. The bullpen is very deep: Mike Gonzalez, Salomon Torres, Matt Capps, John Grabow, Josh Sharpless. If Ryan Doumit and Jose Bautista develop the infield is a strength. Jason Bay is an unacknowledged star. Then they've got some decent fourth and fifth outfielders but could use a big bat in RF or a real good CF leadoff guy. When your main hole is outfielders you're in awfully good shape.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 17, 2006 12:00 AM

It appears that Mr. Verducci has regained his composure following the crushing defeat of his beloved Yankees.

Posted by: JimBobElrod at October 17, 2006 6:40 PM