In my first published post back in 2011 I talked about expectations and perception…it seems only fitting that I do the same in my return to writing about the Tigers…
I’m scared. Well, perhaps nervous or apprehensive is a better way to describe it. The Tigers are really good, REALLY good, REALLY REALLY good…on paper. We have seen this before though, in 2011 and most certainly last year. In 2011, the AL Central was projected to be very weak, with the above average Tigers being the supposed cream that would rise to the top. As we all know, that occurred…but only after quite a bit of hand-wringing, a key trade for Doug Fister, and the Cleveland Indians remembering they were the Cleveland Indians. Last year, the Tigers were going to be even better than in 2011. While they lost Victor Martinez to injury, they replaced him with the powerful bat of Prince Fielder and – on paper – returned to their mean. They were supposed to blow away the competition in the Central. It wasn’t even going to be a contest. Why even play the games? Once again, a major trade rescued the Tigers by solidifying their supposedly strong rotation and stopping the nightmare merry-go-round that was Second Base. At the beginning of each season in 2011 and 2012, few could have seen the need to make such drastic moves (ok, pretty much everyone saw a need a 2B…so lets exclude that). We all expected the Central to be theirs for the taking; especially in 2012 when they didn’t even need to play the games because we thought they would SOOO good.
Now, in 2013, the expectations are even higher for the Tigers. With the rotation being among the best in baseball, Victor Martinez back, Omar Infante for a full season, and the addition of Torii Hunter the Tigers are expected to be World Series contenders. This is the source of my worry. What happens if they stumble out of the gate again? Or if the players expected to bounce back (Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta) show 2012 to be more their norm than 2011? Perhaps most importantly, what happens if the Tigers need to make yet another big trade to stabilize their team and this time they don’t have the pieces to do so?
With the expectations being what they are, I fear that many fans will be unable to enjoy the season as they should. The season is 162 games long…who knows what can happen. Baseball is unique to all other team sports in that it is a marathon, not a sprint. For six months (not counting Spring Training and hopefully the Playoffs) the players we root for take the field day in and day out. As Tigers fans, we have the opportunity to watch greatness every single night. My fear is not that the expectations will weigh down the Tigers themselves (although a case could be made for just such a thing occurring given the recent past). I am more worried that we, as fans, will place such lofty goals on our team that we create impediments in enjoying the games for what they are…individual occurrences in a set of 162.
Perhaps the Tigers are destined for October once again, perhaps the final game they play in October will be a victory. Those hopes should not distract us fans from watching each start Justin Verlander makes or each at-bat the Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder have. I those instances and in so many others, we have the chance of witnessing something amazing. While the season could turn out to be great, it will take many special games and performances in order for that to happen. If the Tigers fail to reach Baseball’s pinnacle, I hope that we do not see the season as a failure. I hope we that we do not overlook the outstanding plays and accomplishments that our team, the our Tigers, will most certainly be making in 2013 because of the expectations that we have, and the media have created in January and February.
All that being said, while 2013 makes me very nervous, I am also incredibly excited. LET’S PLAY BALL!