Friday, September 29, 2006

Finishing First More Than About Playoff Opponents

Well, the comeback is complete. Sorta.

The Minnesota Twins -- those pesky, annoying, chihuahuas of baseball -- are now 70-31 in their last 101 games and have caught the Tigers for first place in the AL Central. Their record in the last 30 games seems like 28-2.

Oh, but they haven't really tied the Tigers.

The Tigers own the tiebreaker against the Twins, which means if the teams finish with the same number of wins, the Detroiters are awarded first place, and the Twins become the Wild Card. What's at stake is either beginning the playoffs at home against Oakland, or on the road against the Yankees. I'd say that's a significant enough reason to want to finish #1.

But it's not the only reason. Not only is it nice to call yourselves Division Champs as opposed to The Best Second Place Team in the League, there's the matter of being territorial. The Tigers have been in first place all by their lonesomes since May 16. You kind of get used to the idea, and you don't want to share it. But here come the Twins, who've finally picked the locks and gained entry.

The Tigers can still shove the Twinkies out the door, if they can just keep pace this weekend. Assuming neither team will sweep their final series, the Tigers should be able to nail down the crown. All they need to do is go 2-1 against the Royals. The Twins finish at home against the White Sox.

At this juncture, the issue of finishing first should be less about who the Tigers play in the playoffs and where, and more about not wanting to relinquish something which has been theirs for 4 1/2 months.

Tigers have always been territorial animals.


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