Monday, October 16, 2006

Deserving a WOW: the 2006 Tigers

I've not checked how much money I lost by failing to play my March hunch that the Tigers would win the ALCS.

OK, no such hunch. But give major credit to Jim Leyland and this group. Leyland suffered team meltdowns (1990 NLCS), disappointments (1991 NLCS) and heartbreak (1992 NLCS). He guided a group of overpaid and thencetofore underperforming free agents to one of the uglier World Series wins in history in 1997, and took a narcissistic victory lap around (then) Joe Robbie Stadium to celebrate. He went into mental hibernation as the Marlins sold off all their talent for notsomagic beans, went through the motions in Colorado before realizing he had to get his stuff together, and has now authored one of the best managerial stories in baseball history.

Since the three-tier playoffs started in 1995, only four other teams have won at least seven consecutive postseason games in the same season: '95 Braves, '98 Yankees, '04 RedSawx (won eight), '05 WhiteSax (won eight). Only one team had done so before the three-tier system: the 1976 Reds. In other words, winning seven-straight postseason games against the best competition in baseball is a rare and noteworthy achievement.

More importantly, look how the Tigers dominated the A's -- a 22-9 scoreline for the series. That's a beating -- in '76 and '90 the Reds whupped the Yanks and A's respectively by 22-8; in '99 the Yanks bonked the Braves by 21-9; in '89 the A's drilled the Giants by 32-14. It's not quite in the all-time beatdowns of A's 20-4 over the '90 RedSax or the Orioles' 1966 humiliation of the Dodgers with three shutouts in an upset sweep. But it is highly impressive. Did The Monk mention that of the previous seven ALDS teams that enjoyed a first-round sweep, six had won the ALCS? Make that 6-2.

So kudos to the Tigers, ALCS champs and now awaiting the survivor of a surprisingly close NLCS. Remember: the kitties were 16-2 against the NL this year. And remember, since the three-tiered system started in 1995, the only team that won its LCS later than its World Series foe and also won the World Series was the 2000 Yanks. So the smart money is now on the Tigers. In March, that would have been the prescient money.

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