By Jeff Riger
Sports are amazing!
The moment you think that something will be universally loved is the exact moment when people start complaining.
When the Tigers clinched the AL Central for a third straight time on Wednesday night, I figured everybody would enjoy the celebration, go to sleep and wake up debating if they would rather see Detroit play Oakland or Boston in the first round of the playoffs.
But I was wrong.
Instead of happiness I saw and heard from a bunch of spoiled fans — on Twitter, Facebook and on the stations’ Ticket Text at 97136 — who were upset that the Tigers celebrated so much, claiming that winning the division is not the main goal and the spraying of the non-alcoholic champagne should be reserved for when the team wins the World Series.
Of course, those people are wrong.
Celebrations like you saw on Wednesday night are tradition in baseball. After such a long season, teams should cut loose, get down and go nuts because there’s no guarantee if it will ever happen again.
For all the teams like the Tigers that took care of business and locked up their spots in the postseason like they were supposed to, there are organizations like the Blue Jays, Angels and Nationals that all had the same expectations but will be missing out on October ball.
No fan is happy with just another AL Central title, and neither are the players, coaches and manager. Just because we saw Jim Leyland get emotional, carried away by Torii Hunter and then do the moonwalk out of the clubhouse on Wednesday night, doesn’t mean that the team is satisfied with just the division — but some fans seem to believe that.
Wednesday night was a time to forget about Miguel Cabrera’s injury and the pressing bullpen questions and just enjoy the night, the achievement and the moment.
I’m not one of these guys that throws out the 119 loss season of 2003 to illustrate how far the team has come. You can’t that! Detroit has gone out and spent the money to be considered one of the favorites in baseball and they should be treated like that. It’s not enough to just win the Central or to get to the ALCS, this team needs to get back to the World Series or fans will be steamed and they have every right to be.
But on Wednesday night, just for one night, was a time to remember that winning the division does mean something and that this organization has done a magnificent job of turning itself around.
Every Tiger fans remembers what it was like before 2006: The Tigers couldn’t get free agents, they weren’t willing to spend for them either and they tried to attract fans to the park by selling other things than the product on the field. In 1999 the Tigers invited you to see Tiger Stadium for one last time. In 2000, they wanted you to come check out Comerica Park for the first time and see Juan Gonzalez play while you were there. In 2002 you were instructed to go to downtown Detroit and listen to Ernie Harwell for a final time as he was getting set to retire and then in 2003 the team wanted fans to go see a bunch of ’84 Tigers manage an inferior squad.
Detroit was bad and it was brutal.
I remember going to games just to see the visiting teams and guys like Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Ken Griffey Jr. because there was nobody worth seeing that played in a Detroit uniform.
I remember hoping that one of the Tigers’ “can’t miss” prospects would turn into a superstar, because that was the only way that the team would get one. Nobody wanted to come here, much less stars.
I remember wondering what it would be like to play meaningful games in the month of September? I remember the 100 loss seasons, the different waves of players that disappointed and that awful GM Randy Smith.
The Tigers sucked, but I loved baseball, so I was trapped.
Now look at things!
The park sells out every game, there are plenty of superstars to go around and the club spends a ton of money despite not being a major market team.
It’s good to be a Tigers fan these days; and nights like Wednesday was a great time to remember that.
If you hated the AL Central celebration or believe that Detroit had nothing to celebrate you are wrong.
But now that it’s over, let’s get back to those crazy expectations of “World Series or disappointment.”
The entire organization understands they haven’t done anything yet, and the celebration on Wednesday night sure doesn’t change that.
Here’s hoping that we get to see three more of them.