The Year That Was Supposed to Be, Wasn't

Leyland's 2013 Tigers got beat

This was the year. This was finally supposed be the season when it all came together for the Tigers, after 29 long years. Only it wasn't. The team built to win in October ended up with chinks in its armor, and the Boston Red Sox took full advantage and eliminated the Tigers in six games in the ALCS.

We can dissect exactly what went wrong in the series against Boston. How did the Tigers' bullpen manage to allow two grand slams in a span of five games? Could the Tigers have kept Miguel Cabrera healthy had they handled him differently during the season? What can they do to get Prince to hit in October? How did a sure-handed shortstop blow a double play ball at the most inopportune time?

All valid questions. No easy answers.

The reality of the situation is that the Red Sox beat the Tigers, straight up. They were a better team in the regular season, winning 97 games, and they were a better team in this series, too. There are lots of excuses that could be made, or what ifs to be played, but that's the truth, as much as it might pain fans to hear; the better team won.

The critical component comes back to Cabrera. Would the Tigers have been a better team had Cabrera not gotten hurt? The answer of course is yes. Would it have made the difference? Nobody knows. It's hard to see a healthy Cabrera failing in so many key situations that he did, of course. But, that's also the risk you take when your offense is built so heavily around a single player.

You wish there was more to say. Following a team closely for almost an entire year, there's a strong attachment that comes with it, and when reality sets in, it's tough to know how to react. Like a bad breakup, there's anger, there's disappointment, there's sadness. And there's simply no good way to encompass all of those feelings into words.

For tomorrow, it's better luck next year. An offseason awaits that involves decisions on key free agents like closer Joaquin Benoit and second baseman Omar Infante. The Tigers also have to consider their future with right-hander (and likely Cy Young winner) Max Scherzer. Plus, is Nick Castellanos going to be ready for everyday big league at-bats? All important questions to weigh. But again, that's for tomorrow.

For today, well, today, it just sucks. You never know how many opportunities your team will have to make a run at a world championship, and we knew this would be one for the Tigers. Rest assured that everyone involved, from the average fan all the way up to owner Mike Ilitch (and who knows how many chances he has left given his increasing age and deteriorating health), they're feeling the pain.

As the late A. Bartlett Giamatti, former commissioner of baseball, once said, "Baseball breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart."

Right now, Tigers fans know that all too well.

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