Tigers are lock: Young arms, trades key to their success

The Kickoff

October 20, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

The National League Championship Series was not without its charm, but I'm pretty sure that no one outside of St. Louis and New York cared a whit whether the Cardinals or the Mets advanced to the World Series.

The Detroit Tigers are going to be the world champions. That should be obvious to anyone who has been paying even cursory attention to the baseball postseason. They are, for lack of a less fatigued sports cliche, the team of destiny, and they would be America's team if the New Orleans Saints weren't 5-1 right now, but some things can't be helped.

Really, all you have to do is look at manager Jim Leyland and know that the big trophy is headed for Detroit. When in doubt, always go with the manager who's the most grizzled. It's just a good rule of thumb.

Want more proof? Left-hander Kenny Rogers was one of the worst postseason pitchers of his era when he arrived in the Motor City. Now, he's a bigger local hero than Lee Iacocca after blanking the New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics for 15 straight scoreless innings to score a pivotal victory in each of the first two playoff rounds.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals somehow got to the NLCS with one healthy starting pitcher and the Mets made it with unheralded former Orioles prospect John Maine filling in for Pedro Martinez. I suppose you could read a little destiny into either of those situations, but I'll stick with the team that lost 119 games three years ago.

The Tigers have risen from the ashes of the 2003 season with a combination of smart acquisitions and great player development. Their starting rotation features one wily old left-hander and some of the best young arms in either league. The starting lineup features a similar mix of veteran stars and emerging talent. I'll be surprised if it goes six games.

Offseason priorities

I've gotten a lot of e-mail lately chiding me for encouraging the Orioles to pursue a premier hitter during the coming offseason. The general feeling from my tormentors is that the Orioles would be better off concentrating heavily on pitching, with the success of the Tigers usually presented as Exhibit A.

I agree with the need to bolster the rotation, but the Orioles will never get to the postseason without a more productive lineup. This isn't the American League Central, where the Tigers went down to the wire with the small-market Minnesota Twins. The Orioles, with the Tigers' pitching staff, still might have finished third in the AL East.

They need to put 40 home runs and 130 RBIs behind Miguel Tejada in the lineup, which can be accomplished through either a trade (Alex Rodriguez?) or free agency (Alfonso Soriano or Carlos Lee). They also need to add a front-line starter and rebuild the bullpen, which also will be no easy task.

Rodriguez to Cubs?

New Cubs manager Lou Piniella dismissed rumors that he would lure Rodriguez to Chicago, but trade speculation involving A-Rod and the Cubs figures to be the talk of the offseason.

It's a natural fit, because A-Rod would help the Cubs get to the postseason, then help keep them out of the World Series.

Rugged individualism

The true measure of any great coach is the degree to which he or she inspires others to reach their full potential, something that dawned on me right after Brian Billick fired Jim Fassel and named himself the Ravens' new offensive coordinator.

The operative cliche here is, if you want something done right, do it yourself, so give Billick credit for diagnosing a problem and moving dynamically to find a solution - regardless how it all turns out. I also want to thank him for inspiring me to take more control of my life by getting rid of all the extraneous people who do things that I can do myself.

From now on, I'm doing my own plumbing, electrical work, painting, landscaping, tree-cutting, game-planning, tuneups, oil changes, psychological analysis, winemaking, financial planning, stock-picking, nose-wiping, dry cleaning, bail bonding and veterinary medicine.

This probably isn't going to leave me much time to write hilarious sports commentary, so I may outsource my column to some freelancer in India, but I'm pretty sure no one will be able to tell the difference.

Long live the king

Since Arnold Palmer only kept score for a few holes before announcing his retirement from competitive golf last weekend at the Administaff Small Business Classic in Spring, Texas, his last full round was played in the Constellation Energy Classic at Hayfields Country Club last month.

That's two major career moments for The King in the Baltimore area, 50 years apart. When he won the Eastern Open at Mount Pleasant Golf Course in 1956, it was only the third of his 62 PGA Tour titles.

Headline hilarity

This week's funny headline from SportsPickle.com, the sports humor and satire site on the Web: Miami punishes players by making them go to class.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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