Lack of execution proved fatal
Despite poor showing, Tigers had a memorable season
ST. LOUIS -- In a quiet visitors' clubhouse at Busch Stadium on Friday night, Tigers first baseman Sean Casey and pitcher Kenny Rogers shook hands and then hugged.
There were similar scenes all around the room after this surprising team's incredible run had finally ended with a 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the World Series.
"There's no bitter end to this story," closer Todd Jones was saying. "It hurts, but if you let four or five games take away from what you accomplished ..."
Years from now, many will remember Detroit's unfortunate showing in this forgettable Fall Classic as much as who won:
Tigers pitchers committed five errors and forever made themselves the textbook case for pitching coaches' Spring Training speeches regarding the importance of PFP (pitchers' fielding practice).
The Tigers gave up eight unearned runs in the Series and the offense hit .199, the lowest average for a team in a five-game World Series since the Philadelphia Phillies hit .195 in 1983 against Baltimore.
The top three spots in Detroit's batting order combined for a .103 (6-for-58) average in this Series, the second-lowest in a World Series to Los Angeles' .091 mark in 1966.
The Tigers' bullpen allowed seven runs and eight walks in 7 2/3 innings of the last three games of the Series after allowing one unearned run and no walks in five innings in Games 1 and 2.
American League Championship Series MVP Placido Polanco went 0-for-17 in the series, a futility string surpassed only five times in World Series history.
Slumps were just one of Detroit's many pitfalls. It was an all-around ugly performance, replete with throwing errors, baserunning blunders and more mistakes than a Spring Training "B" game.
Detroit's vaunted starting pitchers treated bunts as if they had never seen one before, and in some cases they hadn't.
"I hadn't done that play all year," Tigers starter Justin Verlander said of his throwing error following a Jeff Weaver bunt in the fourth inning that led to a Cardinals unearned run. "I picked it up and said, 'Don't throw it away' instead of just throwing it. I got tentative."
Impatience killed the Tigers at bat and hesitation all too often undermined their fielding efforts. They threw down the baselines instead of to the base. They gave the St. Louis offense too many opportunities while the Cardinals used the Tigers' aggressiveness against them and shut them down as no team had since the playoffs began.
The Tigers, the team that stunned the baseball world by going from 71 wins one season to the American League pennant the next, shocked us again with one of the most disappointing World Series performances in recent memory. It was such a striking turnaround by a team that had steamrolled the Yankees and A's to reach the World Series.
"We were just forced to make plays we usually make in our sleep, and we didn't make them," Jones said. "This will be a great learning experience for a lot of us. If this doesn't show you little things win world championships, I don't know what will.
"I think the worst thing is people might remember this Series for the one-liners [about Detroit's performance]. They need to remember what we did to get here."
As ugly as it was, Jones was right. One bad series shouldn't eclipse a memorable and otherwise highly successful season by the Tigers.
"We made too many mistakes against a team you can't make many mistakes against and expect to win," Rogers said. "It doesn't change what we did to get this far, we had a very good year, a year we can all be proud of."
Through the walls of the clubhouse, the sounds of St. Louis celebrating the sweetest of all victories could be heard. The World Series title the Tigers had been favored to win a week ago now belongs to the Cardinals.
To their credit, the Tigers didn't blame the week layoff between the ALCS and the start of the World Series. They didn't blame the weather, or bad luck. They didn't make excuses.
"They just beat us, they made the plays and they forced us to make the plays and we didn't," said Casey, who tied the record for a five-game Series with nine hits. "They just flat out beat us. But you know what? To go from 20 games under .500 and end up in the World Series, that to me is quite an accomplishment. I wasn't here the whole year, but these guys have nothing to hang their heads about. It's been a great year."
Rogers dismissed the notion that this Tigers team, so new to winning and with so many youngsters, wasn't ready for the World Series.
"If anybody says we weren't ready, they forget we were ready for the Yankees, we were ready for the A's," Rogers said. "It wasn't about being ready, it was about execution."
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.