Oy. So here we are, post-World Series. The Mets’ injuries caught up to them and, despite pushing the Cardinals to a seventh game, their season ended five wins short of where it should have. The way the Tigers played in the World Series, that parade on Sunday would have been in New York.
My postseason predictions were blown up in the first round, so I didn’t bother updating them, in part because it’s not really fair to adjust on the fly, but also because work got so hectic — and tiring — that I was exhausted by the end of the NLCS. (The morning after which, I immediately got on a plane for Chicago, drove to South Bend, saw an amazing Notre Dame comeback victory over UCLA, flew back on Sunday and zipped to work for Game 2 of the World Series.) When we were throwing out our off-hand predictions at work, I did peg the Tigers to beat the A’s, though in seven, not four. For the Series, however, considering the Tigers’ tear through the Yankees and A’s, their seemingly superior pitching and the rest it had, I questioned whether the Cardinals would even manage a lead for more than an inning or two in alluding to a four-game Tigers sweep. One guy at work went so far as to say, “Tigers in three.”
But the Cardinals — the worst World Series winner in history, if you go by win total (they had 83) — proved, once again, that you don’t have to be the best team to win, just the hottest team. That’s no knock against them, either. Whatever it takes to get it done is fine by me. Had Game 7 in 1973 gone the other way, those ’73 Mets would’ve owned the distinction — even after this year — of having the worst regular-season record of any Series champion.
The Cards got the Tigers to swing at everything and eeked out a few wins here and there, even getting Anthony Reyes — who, in Game 4 against the Mets, looked like he belonged in the instructional league in Florida, not on a postseason roster — to look like a Rookie of the Year candidate in Game 1. He faced, of course, the soon-to-be American League Rookie of the Year in Justin Verlander (my full predictions to come soon). Detroit managed one victory, but even that was stained — literally — by Kenny Rogers, a pitcher so reviled by fans of both New York teams that Tigers manager Jim Leyland was sure to set up his pitching rotation to make sure Rogers wouldn’t pitch in Yankee Stadium in the ALDS or Shea Stadium in a potential Detroit-New York World Series. Even after Game 5 of the Series was pushed back a day because of rain, Leyland refused to pitch Rogers to try to get the Series back to Detroit for Game 6. Trying to explain it away by saying, “if it was one game left, I would pitch Kenny. But we’ve got to win three,” Leyland also admitted that he didn’t want to pitch Rogers in the environment of Busch Stadium, saying he felt Rogers responded better to the Comerica Park environment. Clearly, Rogers is such a narcisist that he prefers the adulations to the rush of quieting the jeers. Curt Schilling made no attempt to hide the joy he gets from shutting up 55,000 fans, as he did in New York in 2004.
So there goes 2006. It certainly turned out to have several surprises — the Mets with the best record in baseball, the Tigers in the World Series, no 20-game winners, a catcher winning the American League batting title, the Marlins, Alfonso Soriano, Jonathan Papelbon and others. There’ll be a lot coming up this offseason, but I’ll get into that later.