By the time I joined the ALDS Game Two broadcast, Detroit Tigers radio broadcasters Dan Dickerson and Jim Price were explaining the many reasons why the playoff contest could not be rained out. Or trying to convince themselves it wouldn't. The players (and broadcasters) were packed -- ready to return to Detroit. They had no hotel reservations. They had no extra clothes for another night's stay in New York. They were scheduled to get on a plane that night. In short, they couldn't call the game because no one was prepared to spend another night in NYC. Of course, the game got called without a single pitch getting thrown.
I didn't hear much of the conspiracy theories on how the Yankees forced MLB to cancel the game this morning, either. As the story goes, NY didn't want to waste Mike Mussina by starting him in the game, only to have him sit through various rain delays. That would cut short is outing and force the Yankees perceived "only" weakness to get exposed -- their bullpen (sans Mariano Rivera). As the paranoid speculation suggests, the Yankees told MLB cancel the game and we'll force these young, inexperienced Tigers to spend an extra night awaiting their fate in the Big Apple while the Yanks get a full game out of their number two starter.
Interesting concept. Perhaps, even plausible, as screwed up as the world is. However, the thought I had was the opposite. Let the Tigers worry about where they are going to stay, what they are going to wear, what they are going to eat, when the plane is going to leave on Friday. I figured let them think about anything, but the big, bad Yankees.
I expect the media to fawn all over the Yankees. What I didn't expect was the absolute deference this team was given by everyone. When Jim Leyland tells the media prior to Game One that he's going to have to do some aggressive managing just to keep the Tigers in the game, I was a bit taken aback. When Leyland called for the hit and run with Pudge "I Swing And Miss A Lot" Rodriguez at the plate and Magglio "I Had To Go To Austria To Get Some Kind Of Experimental Surgery On My Knee" Ordonez heading for thirdbase, I was completely frustrated.
Look, Leyland knows more about baseball than I know about darn near anything, but since when can a 95 win team not compete with the Bronx Bombers? I'm sorry, but did Joe Torre's squad win all 162? Did the Tigers lose all 162? Did they even lose 100? I realize they have a dynamic lineup, but Babe Ruth and Lou Gerhig are long since gone. These Yankees are good, but they ain't all that good.
I felt by his "aggressive" maneuvering, Leyland capitulated. He fed the notion the Yankees could not be beat by normal means -- like pitching and hitting better than they do. Nope, these meek Tigers were going to have to "steal" games, no chance they can just compete.
That's why I embraced the rain out and all the problems that ensued. I figured it might get the Tigers mind off the six hundred pound gorilla in the room. Give these playoff newbies a night to get over the Game One jitters and think about something other than the incredible, unbeatable opposition.
I'm not saying that my notion was proven correct nor am I saying that it even played a tiny part in today's 4-3 victory, but I do find it interesting (and a bit humorous) that the Tigers just played a bit better than the Yankees today. Somehow, in spite of the conspiracy, all the problems the rain out caused and the guys in the pinstripes, the Tigers did exactly what they had done all year long this afternoon. They got a balanced offensive attack, solid pitching and lo and behold, they got themselves a win. And, yes, the Yankees did show up. They just lost. Like the 65 times they did during the regular season.
I think the Tigers proved something to themselves today. They proved they can, indeed, hang with the big boys. Hopefully, this means the Tigers have gotten past their nervous, past their fears and realize they can beat the team in the other dugout. The Tigers might not have the Yankees mystique, tradition, experience or lineup, but they do have one thing the New Yorkers have -- one win.