By: Mike Feld

Yes, the team is about to clinch its third division title in three years. But that was expected, right? This season, it’s World Series or bust, and based on the team’s play in September, this time will struggle to get out of the American League Division Series.

This is not the same team as last season. Things were so much better in 2012. This year’s team lacks that certain magic that last year’s team carried.

Blame Jim Leyland. Blame Tom Brookens. Blame Justin Verlander. Blame anyone you can, because this is a team with serious issues and it certainly can’t match or exceed the 2012 campaign.

Curiously enough, things are not all that different from this time last year.

While things have gone the wrong way in recent weeks (including an 8-0 drubbing from the lowly Seattle Mariners), the 2013 version of the franchise has already out performed last year’s regular season.

As of Thursday, the Tigers already topped last season’s 88-win total. With a week and a half still to play, the team has already scored more than 30 runs than it did last year.

And as for that September run, things weren’t that much different.

Yes, there’s offense issue. Through Sept. 19 of this year, the Tigers have six games in which they plated one run or less. By comparison, that only happened three times last year.

And yes, the 64 total runs scored this September is a bit short of last’s years 76 through Sept. 19.

But here’s something to keep in mind: By the 19th day of September of 2012, the Tigers were 9-8 in the final month of the regular season and were facing an uncertainly about even making the postseason.

After day 19 in September 2013, the Tigers have a 9-8 record in the month.

And yes, it’s easy to say that last year’s outcome was a disappointment. Given the payroll and the offseason additions, the boom-or-bust mentality is impossible to escape.

And, most importantly, this October comes with the completely overused be-the-bride-not-the-bridesmaid metaphor that just won’t go away.

That’s fine. The frustrations over the team’s recent struggles are justified. Considering the expectations, fans have a right to be upset.

But for everyone who is down and out about Jim Leyland, the payroll and the team’s deficiencies, keep something in mind.

The 2012 Tigers had a huge payroll, a number of bullpen issues and a giant leftfield question mark heading into the postseason. Leyland managed to take a time that didn’t look ready for the postseason all the way to an AL pennant.

The 2013 Tigers have a huge payroll, a number of bullpen issues and a giant leftfield question mark. Leyland has a team that looks ready for the postseason but might make it into the dance on crutches.

The moral of the story, as always, is just get there. The postseason is a completely different animal, and funny things start to happen once an entire season is on the line.

Given the fact that the team is likely to clinch by the weekend, I’m more than ready to take my chances come Oct. 1.


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