Thursday, October 18, 2012

Celebration Time is Over.

So here we are again. Back to another World Series, six years after we experienced an eerily similar situation. Survived an ALDS, swept the ALCS...and a little under one week before the first World Series game.

I remember having a week of glee, of giddiness. The Tigers are going to the World Series! Just the fact that they were going was enough to make the city of Detroit beside itself with joy. The team had just endured over a decade of bottom-of-the-barrel failures, including the infamous 2003 season that saw them nearly break the record for most losses in a season. So the fact that 2006 brought so much joy in the first two postseason series was enough to lift the spirits of the city (and the fans all over) for another few years.

The Tigers were finally relevant again. Comerica Park wasn't a sellout for just Opening Day anymore. The summer once again revolved around the Tigers. I printed out the Tigers' season schedule so I could keep track of where they were (and what time they were playing). Going downtown for a game was an event.

But do you really remember the 2006 World Series? I sure don't. I remember watching the first game and feeling down, then watching the second game and still feeling down because Kenny Rodgers got caught with pine tar on his hand (even though the Tigers won that game). I don't even think I tuned in for the final three games at all. I simply heard the Cardinals won, sighed, and went on with life.

All this postseason, I have been determined NOT to be content with just going to the World Series. Whenever I think about it, I just utter one phrase:

I want to win the World Series!

What the Tigers did in the past week has been nothing short of amazing. No one really gave the Tigers too much of a chance against the Yankees, fresh off the best regular season record in the American League, an Eastern Division championship, and a solid drubbing of the Baltimore Orioles in game 5 of the ALDS. Plus, they opened the ALCS in New York, while Detroit had to take two flights in two days: one from Oakland to Detroit, and another from Detroit to New York.

But that was just the ALCS. What we need to figure out is that there is more. The team celebrated with the fans, and gave all the credit to all the right people, and said all the right things. But there's still more to come! The Tigers have only become the champion of one league.

I think the team has realized that there is more to strive for. Jim Leyland said as much in his postgame interview with Matt Weiner of TBS. He mentioned that they wouldn't be sitting on their butts like they had to last time they had a week-long break between series. Justin Verlander was talking about Game 1 of the World Series...after Game 3 of the ALCS. Veterans of the 2006 squad - which I just realized are few - will tell teammates that the ALCS is great and all, but it can be better.

Compare this ALCS to a Red-Wings/Avalanche series in that rivalry's heyday (between 1995 and 2005). The two teams couldn't meet in the Stanley Cup Final - the highest playoff series where they could compete against each other was the Western Conference Finals. But the Red Wings knew full well that the momentum had to keep going after the exhausting, yet exhilarating defeat of Colorado. There was more to play for.

The Tigers need to remind the fans of that.

I want to win the World Series!

Getting to a World Series is a huge accomplishment. There are so many teams in Major League Baseball that haven't sniffed a World Series in 20, 30, 40, maybe even 50 years (or more!) - which are long periods of time in fan years. The Tigers have done it for the second time in six years. Wouldn't it just be fair to celebrate the accomplishment, even if they lose?

NO! NONONO!! Getting there isn't acceptable anymore. This team has had a solid core for quite a few years. Who's the ace? Justin Verlander. Who's the slugger? Miguel Cabrera. Who have climbed the ranks to be valuable assets? Alex Avila and Austin Jackson. More than that, much of the front office and managerial staff has stuck around, aside from some minor shakeups. In a few more years, some of those players and coaches might be gone. The Tigers may have to start from scratch - have a few subpar years - the fans might waver and even leave. The time to strike is now. Solid pitching has held up the Tigers - solid pitching that not many teams have. Take advantage of the amazing talent on this team and WIN.

I want to win the World Series!

The St. Louis Cardinals are up 3-1 in their series, with Game 5 in St. Louis. Our opponent in 2006 was St. Louis. (We lost.) Our opponent in the 1968 World Series was St. Louis. (We won.) Our opponent in 1935 was St. Louis! (We lost.) If there was ever a National League team who had a lot of history against an American League team (and didn't share a city), it might be St. Louis and Detroit. It is a classic series, and it might happen again.

St. Louis played Detroit in interleague play in June (I should know - I was there.) Detroit fans know what St. Louis has done to us in the past, and they don't like it.

Detroit has less experience with San Francisco, but the mere fact that we'd have to do one or two more West Coast trips is fear enough. But their lineup and pitching is also something to fear.

Whoever is on the mound in Game 1, Detroit has time to prepare. The Tigers can watch film, stay conditioned, maybe throw some virtual games to keep the arm in shape in order to be ready.

We as fans need to get ready too. Don't spend too much time celebrating this pennant win. Feel free to celebrate the season in two weeks. But right now the "three million Detroit fans" have to get mentally prepared for a World Series that has the potential of having a lot of low-scoring games with role players getting a chance to shine. We can't be hungover come October 27. They need us to come out with intensity - towels waving, cheering reaching unsafe decibels, and encouraging our boys to the win. If we choose to sit in our chairs with our hands under our butts, the team will reflect the discouragement or frustration. We don't want to act like New Yorkers now, do we?

We have gotten commendations today for being great fans. The Tigers organization has been commended today for its family atmosphere and positive attitudes - something the media must have noticed due to the contrasting atmosphere of the opposing team's locker room. Keep it going.

I want to win the World Series!

The season is far from over. The Tigers are getting ready for their toughest series yet. Don't buy the American League Championship shirts and hats. Delete the Game 4 clincher from your DVRs. It's time to focus. Watch the final game(s) of the NLCS, do your research, and get ready to cheer hard for your Detroit Tigers. The will to win is vital.

I want to win the World Series!

Just keep saying that to yourself. Beating the Yankees in the ALCS is great, but for a fan born after 1984, I need to see for myself that a World Series celebration is the biggest and best celebration of all.

Now let's say it together:

I want to win the World Series!!