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The Most Talented Baseball Team Fails | Ethan Swidler

The date is October 19th, 2013, at Fenway Park and it is game six of the American League Championship Series, Detroit Tigers versus the great Boston Red Sox. The players did not know this, but this would be the last time many greats such as Max Scherzer, Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander, Austin Jackson, etc. would step foot on the same field together wearing the same uniform. With 39,000 fans in attendance, this would be the most important game of the season for the Detroit Tigers. But let’s go back a little.

The 2008 season for the Detroit Tigers was the worst season the Tigers would have had in years, with a record of 74-88 and finishing last in the AL Central standings. This team consisted of the great Gary Sheffield and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, however, both of those guys were in their last two years of their careers. This team needed a complete restructure if they wanted to make it anywhere in the future. In the next two years they were in a complete rebuild period, restructuring the team around Justin Verlander, Victor Martinez, and future Hall of Famer and Triple Crown Award winner Miguel Cabrera. By the 2010 season they had one of the most talented teams in baseball history whilst adding Max Scherzer, Johnny Damon, Austin Jackson, Alex Avila, and Rick Porcello to the roster, this team seemed virtually unstoppable. In 2011, they added the closer, Juaquin Benoit, and had a great season, making it all the way to the championship series, but they could not win it all. In that off season they signed one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Prince Fielder, son of the great Cecil Fielder. The 2012 roster just became even scarier. Now that they had their team completely rebuilt, along with the manager Jim Leyland, they were set to win the world series and be the World Champions.

The 2012 Detroit Tigers team finished first in the AL Central, won the division series, and lost in the championship series. So, going into the 2013 season this team was dying to be World Champions. They had made it to the championship series the past two years in a row, and had finished first in their division in those years, as well. The 2013 roster consisted of future Hall of Famers Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Miguel Cabrera; along with All-Stars Alex Avila, Omar Infante, Torii Hunter, Juaquin Benoit, Jhonny Peralta, Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez, Austin Jackson, Al Alburquerque, Drew Smyly, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, and Rick Porcello. This team was the most talented baseball team to ever wear the same uniform for an entire season. Everyone knew that the Detroit Tigers were going to be a top contending team going into the season, they seemed virtually unstoppable.

This Tigers team had nearly 100 wins and one of the best Tigers seasons in their history. Going into the postseason this team was projected to blow every other team out of the water, they had pitching, they had offense, they had leadership; everything they could possibly need to win a world series. Then in late September, the Tigers star player, in his prime, Miguel Cabrera suffered a tear in his groin, which would require surgery. All of the sudden this team with the most dangerous lineup in baseball history, just lost their best hitter and the leader of the team. Having Miguel Cabrera as a teammate gave you a great opportunity to do great things. Cabrera got the rallies flowing, he had big hits in big moments. Prince Fielder followed Cabrera in the lineup the majority of the season, and from the moment Cabrera was out with the injury to the end of the season and postseason Fielder hit .225 with no home runs. Fielder was known for hitting the long ball, he could hit home runs with ease, during the regular season he hit 25 home runs along with 106 RBIs (Runs Batted in). Despite Cabrera being hurt and Fielder struggling to help the team, Victor Martinez, the team's designated hitter, stepped up into his role and became the best offensive generator on the team. After the all-star break Martinez hit .361 with a .913 OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging).

Going into the playoffs, this team was still projected to do well, with the majority of their team healthy and ready to take on anyone in their path. In the first round of playoffs the Tigers matched up against the Oakland Athletics, the Tigers looked very different from the team that they were during the regular season. They didn’t have the confidence or the swagger that they had in the season with Cabrera leading their team, it was like Cabrera was bigger, better, and stronger than everyone else, and with him leading the Tigers they were unbeatable, but in reality, it wasn’t just Cabrera that won the games for them, it was collective. Cabrera didn’t have 137 RBIs with 137 solo home runs, he had 137 RBIs because his teammates got on base for him to drive them in, but it just seemed like this team lost that realization, that no matter who was batting 3rd that night they still had Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter at the top of the lineup, getting on base for the 3, 4, and 5 hitters. In that series against Oakland they barely won it, taking them all the way to game 5, winner takes all game. So, going into the ALCS they were tired and had used a lot more pitching than they would have wanted to in that series. Bullpen was tired, they were missing their best player, and they had to face up against the next best team, The Boston Red Sox.

Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, it is young Anibal Sanchez on the bump for the Tigers, versus Jon Lester in his prime. This game was an absolute pitchers duel, with the Tigers pulling it out with a score of 1-0. The second game of this series has one of the most memorable home runs in Red Sox history, the David Ortiz grand slam. This grand slam practically ended the season for the Tigers, even though they had 4 more games after it. It is the bottom of the 8th inning the Tigers are up by 4, with their closer in the game, Juaquin Benoit. Benoit had a great season and they were counting on him to close the door against the Red Sox. David Ortiz is at the plate with the bases loaded, and Benoit hangs a changeup. Ortiz hits a missile out to right-center field for a grand slam. The energy of this game, this series, this season completely shifted. The Red Sox went on to win this game and the series. This one pitch changed the dynamic of the whole year.

Despite making it all the way to the Championship Series, this 2013 Detroit Tigers team, should have won it all. This team with the most talented players in the world, all in the same uniform, practically an all-star team, couldn’t win. This is a great example of the saying “any given day,” in baseball this saying is used a lot because one team could have the best team to ever step foot on the field together, but an average team that works together best always has a chance to win. The Red Sox in this instance had a leader, had someone to take control of the team, but the Tigers lost their commander, they lost their captain, and nobody was willing to step up in time. The 2013 Detroit Tigers were the biggest bust of a team in the history of the game of baseball.


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