Friday, February 23, 2007

Tigers' Magic Formula May Not Return In 2007

The formula worked wonderfully for 112 games last season, but somebody misplaced the recipe, and the Tigers stumbled through the American League in the last 50.

76-36. Better than a 2:1 ratio of wins to losses. And largely due to the team's knack for pulling ballgames out of the fire, ridiculously so, many times vis a vis the "walk off" hit -- and usually the homerun variety.

But the magic wore off, at least temporarily, and the Tigers ended the year with that mind-boggling 19-31 finish.

It's simple, really. The teams that win the dangerous games, the contests that hang in the balance until the final moments, the teams that come out on top in the majority of these tilts, are the ones who end up doing what the Tigers will be on April 4: accepting their AL championship rings.

But who's to say if those games will go the Tigers' way in 2007? You need talent, for sure, to take care of business in the later innings, and the experience of winning. The Tigers have both of those ingredients, but the recipe disappeared so quickly, so abruptly, after August 7 last summer that it was amazing that the team got their act together in time for the playoffs.

The recipe disappeared because their little second baseman, Placido Polanco, got hurt in Boston, and his absence had an unexpected concussion on the rest of the team. It's Polanco, it says here, who makes the offense go, go, go. In the World Series, Polanco was hitless. Shutout. Collared. And the Tigers' offense sloshed around in the mud in St. Louis as a result.

The 1968 Tigers were baseball's version of "The Perils of Pauline." Over 40 times did they win in the seventh inning or later. A good portion of those were in their final at-bat. They had the magic formula. But not as much in 1969, and they finished a distant second.

The 2005 White Sox prided themselves on winning the close, one-run ballgames. All the time, it seemed, did they win such contests. They rode that formula all the way to a world's championship. But last season, their penchant for that waned, and they finished third in the division.

It's easier said than done, to go out and simply win the close ones. But it's what the teams who hoist pennants and wear rings are able to do, time and again.

But the Tigers have Gary Sheffield, so there's another bat for the cause.

Formula returned?


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