These Tigers don't look like a team of destiny anymore

The Kickoff

October 27, 2006

St. Louis — St. Louis-- --When you're a team of destiny, the ground does not come apart under your feet, as it did under Detroit Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson at a pivotal moment of last night's pivotal Game 4 of the 102nd World Series.

When you're a team of destiny, the guy throwing 100 mph strikes everybody out at the end. The little leadoff hitter on the other team doesn't turn your velocity against you and drive the ball over the center fielder's head to bring home the winning run in the eighth inning.

The Detroit Tigers, despite widespread speculation to the contrary, are not a team of destiny. They are a team on the brink of elimination after the St. Louis Cardinals scored a 5-4, come-from-behind victory that suddenly made them look like the team with the planets perfectly aligned.

How strange is that? The team that won 83 games in the regular season is now the team that probably will win it all, even though it is fair to point out that the last time the Cardinals had a 3-1 lead in the Fall Classic, they took a classic fall to the Kansas City Royals in the I-70 World Series of 1985.

It all started to unravel last night when Granderson slipped on the wet turf in the bottom of the third inning trying to chase down the first long fly ball by David Eckstein. The karmic turnaround became complete when Eckstein turned around a fastball by Joel Zumaya and sent a line drive to center that evaded a heroic attempt by Craig Monroe and drove home the winning run.

Clearly, you cannot be a team of destiny when the smallest guy on the other team gets four hits (three of them doubles) and pushes you to the edge of no tomorrow.

When you're the anointed, your setup reliever (Zumaya) doesn't spend the post-game complaining about the umpires, even though he wasn't close to the strike zone when he opened the eighth with a four-pitch walk. When you're the annointed, one of the best catchers of all time (Ivan Rodriguez) doesn't let a ball go through his legs to move the go-ahead run into scoring position.

The Tigers were a pretty good defensive team, holding first place in the American League Central almost wire to wire, but they have made mistakes that you don't make if you want to wear a big gaudy ring for the rest of your life.

"I don't know how you explain that kind of stuff," said first baseman Sean Casey, who had homered to help the Tigers build an early three-run lead. "That stuff happens in baseball, and it happened to us."

Indeed, it does, but it doesn't happen to teams of destiny. Destiny just doesn't work that way.

Is anybody out there?

If I were a cynic, I might point out that nobody outside of Detroit and St. Louis is paying attention anyway.

Baseball officials announced that Tuesday night's World Series broadcast got the lowest television rating of any Game 3 in history, which shouldn't surprise anyone who knows how important it is for America to have the New York Yankees alive in the postseason.

No doubt, Fox network officials haven't slept a wink since the Yankees and Mets dropped out of the picture and left them with a low-impact matchup between two time-honored franchises, but Cardinals manager Tony La Russa isn't apologizing.

"The way I look at it, if you're anywhere from a casual to a great baseball fan, and you've got the Cardinals and the Tigers with the history both these franchises have, it's a must-see World Series. That's enough for me," he said.

More perspective

There's no question that a Dodgers-Yankees matchup would garner vastly superior ratings to anything involving two middle-market teams from the heartland, but the broadcast environment has evolved so dramatically over the past decade that it's unfair to judge this World Series based entirely on TV ratings.

When you talk about the lowest prime-time Game 3 ratings in history, you have to take into account that there was a time when the World Series was broadcast on one of the three major networks and the two others all but conceded the time slot. Now, the average American household has a cable package with anywhere from 50 to 250 channels. It's just a different landscape.

Open question

With all due respect to the two managers, if this is such a compelling, historic World Series matchup, why is everybody just sitting around waiting for Kenny Rogers to pitch again?

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

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

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