The weekend was not an easy one for any Tiger fan. For the first time in more than 20 years, the Tigers were so close to achieving greatness. And on the biggest stage in the game, the Tigers laid an egg, getting beaten soundly by the Cardinals in five games.
And it wasn't just losing that was painful for Tiger fans; but the errors and missteps that led to the team's fall. Five errors in five games, BY THE PITCHING STAFF ALONE; that's a stat that will undoubtedly haunt the club for the duration of the offseason.
Meanwhile, fans have gone through everything with this team to the point that the World Series collapse shouldn't have been a surprise. Fans got the initial excitement of a hot start, followed by the club proving unable to beat one of the AL powers early on in the season.
They proceeded to carry the best record in baseball for most of the summer, until a late season collapse saw the club fall out of first place on the final day of the season, after getting swept by the Kansas City Royals in the last series of the year. That left the fan base demoralized to the point that a task as daunting as taking on the vaunted Yankee lineup seemed impossible.
And then something magical happened. Justin Verlander battled through five innings, the offense was able to take back the lead, Joel Zumaya hit 103 MPH on the radar gun in the process of striking out Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi, and suddenly the Tigers had confidence – they knew they could compete on the biggest stage in baseball.
And they did – taking out the Yankees, then sweeping the Athletics in four games, making them heavy favorites to take home the World Series.
Comerica Park and downtown Detroit were rocking, and the Tigers became labelled the team of Destiny. But someone forgot to tell the Cardinals that, as they came in as they written-off underdogs, and ran away with the crown that many thought was rightfully the Tigers'.
Fans shouldn't just accept what happened – World Series opportunities don't come along that often, and to blow their chance in the manner that they did can't be handled with an ‘oh well' attitude. The Tigers have been in the World Series exactly two times since World War II, and not taking advantage of every opportunity that presents itself can leave the fans wallowing.
But, at the end of the day, most Tiger fans would have been happy if they were offered a winning season back in spring training. Instead of just a winning season, the Tigers delivered their first playoff appearance since 1987, and their first pennant since 1984. Tiger fans got to witness the team toppling the Evil Empire New York Yankees, and a walk-off home run by Magglio Ordonez in game four to win the American League.
What's more encouraging, is that the future is bright, largely because of a pair of arms that made a splash on the big league scene. Despite their World Series fielding errors (you'll likely see both working with Kenny Rogers next spring early and often, taking extra PFP to make sure there's no repeat of their errant throws), Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya were one of the big stories of '06. Verlander will likely take home the Rookie of the Year award, while it's only a matter of time before Zumaya and his blazing fastball move into the closer's role.
So be frustrated, be upset that the Tigers blew their chance to fulfil the prophecy of the team of Destiny. Just don't forget to remember the '06 Tigers, and enjoy the ride it was.