CHICAGO | Almost everyone believes the Detroit Tigers should be headed for greatness, playing to the end of October and snaring the Motor City’s third World Series title in 45 years.
“You look at them with their offense, pitching and defense,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Offensively, they’re the best team that we face. We see them quite a bit.
“They’re a tough lineup to get through. I think if Miggy’s (Miguel Cabrera’s) healthy, that becomes a big issue for them. If they get (Jhonny) Peralta back it makes them a deeper team. Detroit to me is the class of our division.”
Opening the American League Division Series against opportunistic Oakland, Detroit operates under the pressure and expectations of a “loaded” team. If the Cabrera-led lineup and Max Scherzer-paced stellar rotation don’t finish further than the World Series runners-up of 2012, there will be even more recriminations.
“I think we’ve assembled the type of talent that gives us the optimum talent to be successful on a daily basis,” said Chesterton’s Lloyd McClendon, finishing his seventh season as Tigers hitting coach. “But I don’t think the pressures will make us play any different than what we’re capable of playing with the type of talent we have.”
McClendon, who first gained fame in 1971 as Gary’s Little League World Series hero, has been along for the ride with Leyland through two fall-short World Series — both last year against the San Francisco Giants and as bullpen coach in 2006 against the near-Cinderella St. Louis Cardinals.
First, the Tigers will have to navigate the five-game Division Series against the Athletics. That’s where favored teams are often upset in shocking fashion.
“It’s a real simple formula,” McClendon said. “In Major League Baseball, on any given night, it’s not the most talented team that wins. It’s the team that plays the best on that particular night. When you go into a short series, it’s not uncommon that a team will outplay you on any particular night.”
The denouement of the long, long season dictates there is only one winner, and everyone else is a runner-up.
“We were one of two teams standing at the end of last year — us and San Francisco,” McClendon said. “San Francisco beat us. People were calling for Jim Leyland to be fired.
“This is getting to the point where it’s almost ludicrous. If you don’t win it all, you should be fired. That just makes no sense. There’s only one winner every year. There’s 32 teams in baseball and only one team is left standing at the end of the year.”
The word “disappointment” apparently is being thrown around a bit too loosely, according to McClendon.
"To say it’s a disappointment, I think that’s kind of harsh,” he said. “You have to be realistic when you measure what success is during the course of the year for you. Certainly the Detroit Tigers have been very successful to this point.”