Out to the mound one of the most famous of all living Tigers walked before the first home game in the World Series at Comerica. Al Kaline, of course, threw a perfect strike to open the game. Here was the only man who won a batting title in the major leagues at the age of 20. Throughout his 20+ years with the Tigers, he was known at ‘6’ or the number on his back.
The Tigers could use ‘6’ now.
No team in the history of the game have come back being down 3 games to 0 to win the World Series. No team. Nada. Zip. Never.
The real problem for the Tigers is that they have forgotten to hit. It’s not that they cannot hit. They just haven’t been hitting. It could be that the Giants have the best pitching staff in the major leagues. Zito, Cain, Vogelsong, starting then with Lincecum and Romo coming out of the pen make it difficult to get any hits. However, maybe it is the tightness they feel and show when coming to bat or take the field. The Tigers just look tight.
On the other hand, the Giants are loose. They have a pregame routine like no other. The Giants pregame routine is crazy. The ritual of throwing popcorn and other snacks around the clubhouse brings memories of “Animal House” and food fights. This team is NOT traditional in thought or in action. They are loose and they are red-hot.
The Tigers on the other hand are non-emotional. There is no excitement. There is none of Prince Fielder’s famous antics that were part of the Milwaukee Brewers climb out of obscurity back to the top of baseball’s elite. The Tigers appear to be walking on egg shells, not wanting to disturb tradition…not wanting to appear to have a little swagger. Not that ‘6’ had a loose attitude when he played. He appeared to be buttoned up. Maybe that is at the heart of the Tigers. Plus, they haven’t scored a run in 18 innings. Come on.
Their top pitcher, and the top pitcher in all of baseball, Justin Verlander, appeared to be shell-shocked when he gave up some of the strangest hits in the history of baseball in Game #1. A ball hits the 3rd base bag and goes between the third baseman and shortstop for a double? Can’t happen. But there was a clue given by his catcher, Alex Avila, in an interview explaining Verlander’s difficulties in post season before this series. He said that Verlander became too cautious. He was not throwing with abandon like he did during the season. In a nutshell, it happened again this year. He let a bad break, with a ball hitting a bag and taking a crazy bounce, get inside his head. Once Verlander faltered, the entire team collectively appeared to say, “Oh, oh”.
Baseball is a funny game. Ritual is everything. Perhaps it is time to bring back a ritual that never failed the Tigers in their history. After Miggy comes to bat, the announcer can say, “Now batting for the Tigers, number 6, Al Kaline. Kaline.”