Get ready to pop the cork on your Dom Perignon. Better make it a Miller Lite. This is baseball, after all. And besides, who can afford a $500 bottle of champagne? The Tigers are about to celebrate their first division title since 1987. Yes, they made it the World Series in 2006, but had to do that by winning the Wild Card to get into the playoffs. And the Tigers have won 9 games in a row, something they haven’t done since their Word Series year of 1984.
It’s been a remarkable transformation for the Tigers, who struggled to play .500 baseball for the first half of the year. And even after the All-Star break, it was a three team race for the American League Central, with the Tigers battling it out with Chicago and Cleveland. But over the last few weeks, they kicked it into another gear and left the Sox and Indians in the dust.
What happened? The continued dominance of Cy Young-In-Waiting candidate Justin Verlander, of course. And timely two-out hits almost every game, especially from Victor Martinez. And we can’t forget Miguel Cabrera, Alex Avilla, and Jhonny Peralta. Austin Jackson has gotten hot again. And Ramon Santiago has suddenly developed some surprising power. And even Bradon Inge has gotten in on the act, with a walk off homer over the weekend.
2011 might normally have been the year of Jose Valverde, who has now set the Tigers’ save record with 43. But he’s not going to win the Cy Young or MVP thanks to a pitcher named Verlander.
You might nominate Tigers President Dave Dombrowski as Major League Baseball exec of the year. Or charge him with highway robbery! He picked up some key pieces in the Tigers success by getting Doug Fister, Delmon Young, and Wilson Betemit without giving up any players that figured to have any future with the Tigers. And after all the grief Manager Jim Leyland took from fans this season about resting players, including Justin Verlander, maybe he knew what he was doing after all.