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 SEASON END THOUGHTS ON THE 2009 SEASON

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PostSubject: SEASON END THOUGHTS ON THE 2009 SEASON   Thu Oct 08, 2009 12:23 am

For Leyland, no regrets at season's end
Tigers manager proud that team left it all on the field

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

10/07/09 4:46 PM ET

Maybe it really was the division that couldn't be won.

For the Tigers, it certainly seemed that way.

No matter how flustered manager Jim Leyland might've been with his offense, no matter how much shuffling he had to do with his injury-plagued rotation, he tried to maintain a matter-of-fact approach to the Tigers' playoff chase as the Twins closed in over September. If his team was good enough, Leyland said, it was good enough.

At the end of the season, it wasn't. The same issues that bothered them all season -- a sometimes maddening offense, a rotation that lacked some depth due to injuries -- troubled them at the end in a final weekend where one more win would have gotten them to the postseason without a trip back to Metrodome. They were good enough to make one incredible final stand Tuesday night, which will be the face of it.

If the Tigers were set up to collapse, they made it a memorable one.

"I'm disappointed that we didn't win it sooner," Leyland said after Tuesday's 6-5, 12-inning loss in the American League Central tiebreaker, "but I can't be disappointed about [Tuesday's] game. I'm disappointed in the result, obviously, and I'm disappointed we didn't get there, because it felt like we should've. But at the same time, this is not one that you sit and thought about or anything.

"They left their hearts out on the field, and that's all you can ask. It is what it is. It's a tough pill to swallow, obviously, but like I told my guys, there's not a manager alive that can complain about what they did today. They played their hearts out."

It was a difficult enough finish to the year that the Tigers pushed back any end-of-season sessions with reporters until later in the week. Thus, there was no news from team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski about where they go from here, just shock.

"I don't know what to say right now," slugger Miguel Cabrera said Tuesday night. "I feel bad."

If the Tigers could've known they'd get to the end of the season with a one-game shot to win the division, they would've taken it. And as Leyland pointed out, few critics or pundits forecast them to get to that point, which made it an accomplishment. But Leyland couldn't look past the final four weeks that got them there.

By now, the numbers are indelible in Detroit sports history. The Tigers spent an off-day on Labor Day in Kansas City with a seven-game lead in the AL Central, larger than the leads the Angels, Phillies and Dodgers had in their respective divisions. They had led their division since May 10, and hadn't been tied atop the division since May 15.

They still had their issues, especially on offense, but they seemed to be coming out of them. They had enough clutch hits to outslug Tampa Bay in a three-game sweep at Tropicana Field going into the Labor Day weekend.

They came out of the off-day, went to Kauffman Stadium and were swept in three games by the last-place Royals. Numerically, it only cost them a game and a half from their lead, but any sense of destiny wore off the team.

From that Kansas City series on, the Tigers added to their division lead just four days out of the final four weeks. Two of those days, they beat the Twins. The other two days, they gained a half-game by winning when the Twins were idle.

"You can't dwell on the past," Ryan Raburn said. "We played our tails off. You have to credit to the Twins. They played and they won games when they needed to."

At no point when the Tigers were left scoreboard-watching did they gain ground. They went 11-15 from Labor Day until season's end; the Twins went 19-8.

"Everybody's going to focus on us not playing good and giving it up," Leyland said. "I think there's some of that to it, but you also have to tip your cap to the phenomenal run they had. We weren't playing that bad. We were around .500, a little under. They lost four games in their last 19 or something like that, and we were the team that beat them in three of them."

Only four teams in history have had a seven-game lead in September and lost their division or league. The Tigers became the first since the 2007 Mets. Detroit's situation was a unique one, however.

Fundamentally, they went through most of the season scoring barely more runs than they had allowed on the year. The more they struggled, the closer that run differential came to negative until they finally went into the red in late September.

No AL team has won its division with a negative run differential since the 1987 Twins, who were dominant at home, but notoriously terrible on the road.

Some of those struggles came against great pitchers, such as Jake Peavy's two dominant performances against them over the final two weeks. Yet for every battle that left Tigers hitters tipping their caps to Peavy or Zack Greinke, there were the struggles that left them scratching their heads against such pitchers as Kansas City's Lenny DiNardo and Robinson Tejeda, or all those losses to Carl Pavano.

Those oddities produced an offense that included Curtis Granderson, a leadoff hitter with 30 home runs but a .249 batting average. Cabrera batted .324 with 33 home runs, yet hit just .233 with two outs and a runner in scoring position. Magglio Ordonez was the Majors' hottest hitter from Sept. 1 on, finishing with a .310 average, yet his solo homer Tuesday was just his ninth home run and 50th RBI in over 500 plate appearances.

"It's a funny statistical team, really," Leyland said. "We really haven't had a consistent offense all year long."

Leyland didn't want to play the what-if game as he looked back on their position Sunday.

"What happens is you only think of some game you lost [that] you should've won," Leyland said. "You don't think of some games you won that you should've lost. The game with Toronto [Sept. 14], we should've lost. [Aubrey] Huff hit the three-run, pinch-hit home run, and we ended up winning it on a fluky play in the infield."

In the end, though, they don't have to look that far back. Once they missed their chance to finish off the Twins with a loss on Thursday at Comerica Park, Peavy shut them out the next night. A day later, after the Twins found a way to beat Greinke and the Royals, the Tigers struggled against former teammate Freddy Garcia and the White Sox to lose sole possession of the division lead.

In the end, as well as the Twins played down the stretch, the Tigers' end of it will go into history as a cautionary tale.

"Hopefully we learn from this," second baseman Placido Polanco said after Tuesday's loss. "Every game is important. Learn from our mistakes."

Even as Leyland credited the Twins for winning it, he couldn't ignore that end.

"I like to look at that side of it and give them the credit," Leyland said, "rather than say we didn't quite get it done. Should we have? I think we should've. Yes, I do."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: SEASON END THOUGHTS ON THE 2009 SEASON   Thu Oct 08, 2009 12:25 am

I still partially blame the batting coach for the bad offense this year. Leyland gives the excuse of, "it is up to the players to listen". Well, new Idea Leyland. We heard the same thing last year concerning the pitchers. Tigers get a good pitching coach who says "DO WHAT I SAY!" And bingo, the pitching staff responds. If the Tigers keep Lloyd, and he really knows what he is talking about, then he needs to get tough with the players. Instruct them on what they are doing wrong, and let them know that if they refuse to listen, then the Tigers refuse to let them play!

If Lloyd does not know what he is talking about, then get a coach who does and insists the players listen! No more coddling these high priced children!

I don't think dumping Inge is the answer. When he was healthy, earlier this year, he was a very good batter after he listened to Lloyd and changed his batting style. The second half slump is 90% injury related. Without a sound foundation, of strong pain free legs, it is hard to swing correctly. I say wait and see what a healthy Inge does, after getting his knees repaired, before dumping him. There is hardly any better fielding 3rd baseman out there than Brandon.

Everett also was good the 1st half of the season. Somebody needs to see what he was doing different in the 2nd half that lowered his success at the plate. Yet Everett is a very good Short Stop and loves playing in Detroit. If we do not have a farm system player ready, then I could see signing him again next year.

Laird is a good batter, when he is not over worked. When they brought up Avila, AND played him at least 40% of the time, Laird started batting better. But in the last several weeks, Leyland went back to overworking Laird, and down went his average. I am very happy with Laird as a catcher. He is the key ingredient in the success of our pitchers and nobody is better than him in shutting down the other team from stealing a base! No wonder they started calling him G-money!

I am not sure what was going on with Granderson. His batting and fielding went down hill this year. Hopefully he was just experiencing an off year. Again, I think a more forceful batting coach would help.

I think Maggs will be better next year. Once we found out what he was going through in his personal life, with his wife being sick with cancer, and him having to take care of the kids, all the while worrying about his wife... At the end of the year, without this troubling him, he was batting at an over .400 average! He ended the year with a .310 ave! And had had home runs in each his last 2 games.

I wish that Polly would come back next year at a reasonable salary. He still has at least 1 more very good year in him!

There are a whole boatload of folks who want us to dump Cabrera. I think this is crazy. I do not accept what he did, and I think the Tigers have handled the situation badly. He should have been sat for the Saturday game.

I think the Tigers need to send this man "child" a strong message by sending him to a rehab center to work on his drinking, anger, and marital problems. He also needs to be suspended next season, and fined by the team for his actions. If he refuses to work with the Tigers on correcting his problems, then take legal action concerning his contract, otherwise give them all a chance to work through his problems. He is not the first big time Tiger player to have these problems! It is just more reported on now in days.

This is just some of my thoughts...


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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