So…about that one time I told you not to watch the baseball regular season.
I said it was already over, that the 31-22 Tigers would run away with the division. I said it wasn’t that the Tigers weren’t that good, just that the rest of their division was that bad.
The Tigers have 16 games left. They sit a half game behind the Royals in the AL Central and a half game ahead of the Mariners for the final wildcard spot. I got it wrong. But I’m not alone.
When the Tigers traded for David Price and the Athletics traded for half the starting pitchers in the league, a lot of reporters joked about just canceling the end of the season and letting the Athletics and the Tigers square off for the de facto World Series. Now it looks like their series will be a one-game playoff between two wildcard teams.
How were we supposed to know the Tigers would be almost .500 (49-44) from there on out?
How were supposed to know the last-place Royals would play their next 88 games nearly 20 games over .500 (53-35)?
How were we supposed to know that the manager most Royals fans hate, the one with the crooked bottom lip was all of the sudden going to find the right formula?
How were we supposed to know that an “offensively-impaired” Royals team (as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick put it) would be the first legitimate contender in recent history to have a chance to break the Royals’ 28-year postseason drought?
How were we supposed to know that a rookie starting pitcher, Yordano Ventura, would post a 3.27 ERA?
How were we supposed to know that Jason Vargas — career ERA 4.14 — would post a 3.25 ERA?
How were we supposed to know that Miguel Cabrera would hit one home run in all of August?
How were we supposed to know that Justin Verlander would never figure it out this season, that he would have a 4.82 ERA in the final month?
How were we supposed to know that the Tigers would give up their starting center fielder for David Price and that after seven starts for the Tigers Price’s ERA would be a full run higher than the 3.11 he posted in Tampa Bay this season?
How were we supposed to know that the only given the Tigers would have in their bullpen would be Blaine Hardy? (Well, to be fair, I did see Hardy’s manifest destiny of the American League coming.)
But after all that we didn’t see, we still might not be wrong. Very few things are givens in baseball, but one of them is that the Royals are still the Royals until they prove otherwise. Kansas City has half a month to screw this thing up, and even if they don’t the division will probably come down to a three-game series between the Tigers and Royals that starts on September 19th anyway. If the Tigers win that, then what I said in June will technically be right. The Tigers were in first place in June and they’ll be in first place by the end of September. You haven’t missed anything.
Still, it’s time to pay attention if you haven’t already. Especially on September 19.