A World Series Championship is the 2011 Detroit Tigers' destiny.
In 2006, the Tigers were a relatively young, PFP-deficient team that more than satisfied their fan base by simply making it to the World Series. Magglio Ordonez's walk off home run in Game 4 of the ALCS to send the Tigers to their first World Series since 1984 was certainly celebrated like it was enough. Obviously, any self respecting Tigers fan would've loved to see them win the World Series that year -- and I still believe they should've won it all -- but the 2006 World Series participants exceeded expectations that season by far and large, and it was extremely special nonetheless for fans who had gone through lifelong Tigers futility.
Five years later, the Tigers are back in the postseason, but on a little bit different terms. This time they clinched by winning their first Central Division title, which they had blown in the final days of the 2006 season. The Central Division conquering in 2011 was the result of boasting a much better lineup and pitching staff. Verlander, who was a rookie in 2006, is now considered by most to be the veteran who has discovered how to pitch like the ace that his stuff always indicated he'd be. Of course, I don't think what Kenny Rogers did in '06 will be duplicated, but if there's one guy who could do it, it is Verlander.
Additionally, everything has gone right for the Tigers leading up to the playoffs. They made a couple under the radar, landscaping moves around the trade deadline that have turned out to be absolute game-changers.
The first deal was for Wilson Betemit, who replaced Brandon Inge's unacceptable bat in the lineup. Betemit is hitting a cool .292/.346/.871 since being acquired.
The trade for Doug Fister from the Mariners, in the all-time greatest trade of names, may turn out to be the greatest trade in Tigers' history, though. Originally meant to only shore up the rotation, he is 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 70 1/3 innings with Detroit and earned himself the privilege of following Verlander in the rotation for a Game 2 start in New York. Verlander said it best: "Fister is overpowering people with overpowering stuff."
After Fister, the Tigers made a shocking intra-division, intra-series trade with the Twins for Delmon Young, who had been struggling this season after a breakout 2010 campaign. Since the trade and plugging Dmitri's brother immediately into the three hole in front of Miguel Cabrera, he has eight homers in 40 games after only having four all year with the Twins.
The trades also provided, as Dombrowski put it, a punch in the arm to the rest of the team, too. Magglio Ordonez, who was hitting .223/.280/.576 at the time of the Delmon trade, is hitting .385/.397/.874 since, facing mostly just lefties, as he will against the Yanks. Even the lost-hitter Brandon Inge is hitting .278/.355/.799 since being recalled from Triple-A Toledo in mid-August. And how is the already perennial MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera doing since Delmon Young was plugged in front of him in the lineup (with Victor Martinez still behind him)? Oh, only a .421/.520/1.196 hitting line with seven home runs and 30 RBI.
In all, the Tigers' roster touts not just one, but a group of some of the best players at their respective positions in baseball: Justin Verlander (Cy Young winner-to-be and potential MVP), Miguel Cabrera (Batting Champ, potential MVP), Victor Martinez (one of the best hitters in baseball with RISP and, well, period), Alex Avila (best hitting catchers in baseball), Jhonny Peralta (career year and one of the best offensive shortstops in the AL), Austin Jackson (potential Gold Glove, actual game-saving center fielder), Fister (as a Tiger, one of the best pitchers) and Jose Valverde (49-for-49 in saves, enough said). Other teams can't list as extensive of a list.
Unlike 2006, fans kind of expect the Tigers to beat the Yankees, who have home field advantage again, and then march to a World Series Championship. Frankly, anything less would be an absolute disappointment to me. It wouldn't take away from how fun the regular season was, but it would certainly leave a lot to be desired. It'd be like driving the family to Disney World and leaving once you entered the parking lot. The ride has its ups (we're really doing it!) and downs (are we there yet? I have to pee), and the overall anticipation of getting there is thrilling, but getting turned away at that point would be devastating. (And, if you're wondering, I'd liken 2006 more to how I'd imagine a surprise rave would be if the mind altering you know ran out.)
And, it's like, uh, destiny, man.
The Tigers won nine games in a row this regular season; the last time they did that was 1984 when they won the World Series. The Tigers then won their 10th game in a row this season the next night; the last time they did that was in 1968 ... a year they won the World Series. Then, their 11th straight. And then 12th. The last time they did that was in 1934, a year they LOST in the World Series.
The next time the Tigers have an 11 or 12-game winning streak, they'll be able to say the last time that happened was 2011, when the Tigers WON the World Series, just like the teams that previously achieved 9 and 10 straight wins before this year's team.
It all starts tonight with Game 1.