Tigers' Series loss historically disappointing
In the legendary name of Bill Buckner and his 1986 Boston Red Sox (you probably know where I'm going), where does this flop by the Detroit Tigers rank in World Series history?
It's not quite the 1996 World Series. That's when the Atlanta Braves did the seemingly impossible by capturing the opening two games at the old Yankee Stadium before they did the improbable by losing in six games, with an assist from Jim Leyritz in Game 4.
Then again, it's slightly more shocking than it was in 1925, 1958, 1968, 1979 and 1985, when the Washington Senators, the Milwaukee Braves, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Baltimore Orioles and the Cardinals (again), respectively, blew 3-1 leads in the World Series.
Hold that thought for a moment. Now consider: It's only been a few days since the San Francisco Giants swept their way to the 2012 championship over the Tigers, and the bookmakers at Bovada in Las Vegas already have chosen their favorites to win it all next season.
Did they pick the Giants -- you know, because San Francisco has won the World Series twice in the past three seasons? Nope.
What about the always significant New York Yankees, especially because Derek Jeter is expected to recover nicely from his ankle injury, and Mariano Rivera's damaged knee may heal well enough to make the closer lean toward returning? Uh-uh.
Neither did the Las Vegas folks choose the rising Washington Nationals, nor a Texas Rangers bunch that will remain loaded and potent with or without former AL MVP Josh Hamilton.
It was the Tigers. Yes, the Tigers.
We're talking about the same Tigers who swept the Yankees out of the American League Championship Series with all of that power, led by possible AL MVP winner Miguel Cabrera and accomplished slugger Prince Fielder. The Tigers also had one of the pitchers of our generation named Justin Verlander, future Hall of Fame manager Jim Leyland and other mighty pieces.
But these are the same Tigers who vanished in a flash against a supposedly lesser Giants team.
It doesn't make sense. If these same Tigers are picked by Las Vegas to become the kings of baseball next season, they shouldn't have underachieved so much this season.
Instead, they barely won the AL Central despite entering the season as overwhelming favorites. Even though they found their groove down the stretch before cruising past the Oakland A's and the Yankees in the playoffs, they were no match for the Giants.
The Giants? The Giants.
"Obviously, there was no doubt about it," Leyland told reporters, referring to how the Giants handled his Tigers in all facets of the game along the way to clinching in Detroit on Sunday. "So there were certainly no bad breaks, no fluke. Simple. They did better than we did. It was freaky. I would have never guessed we would have swept the Yankees, and I would have never guessed the Giants would have swept us."
This was the epitome of a World Series flop, all right.
No question, the Giants' pitching was solid from April through September, and after a little tweaking, it became even better with every passing week in October.
But .159? That was the Tigers' batting average during the World Series, and this was even more disturbing around Michigan: Fielder went from hitting .313 with 30 home runs and 108 RBIs during the regular season to spending the World Series going 1-for-14 (.071) with no RBIs.
"This is not about me. It's about the team," Fielder told reporters afterward, with Cabrera adding, "I think we never found our confidence at home plate. It was not the same game we played. We could not find our game in the World Series."
Cabrera, by the way, gave the Tigers their first and only lead of the entire World Series -- in the third inning ... of the final game. That's when he ripped a two-run homer.
As for the Tigers' pitching, it finished third in the AL with a 3.75 ERA during the regular season but it had a 4.11 ERA against the Giants. It didn't help the Tigers' cause that, during Verlander's only start, he allowed six hits and five earned runs in four innings.
The 1969 Baltimore Orioles can relate to it all.
Next to those 1996 Braves, those 1969 Orioles were the biggest floppers ever during the World Series.
I'm sure you've heard the other side of this, which is the story of the Amazin' Mets. Just like that, they sprinted from nowhere to win the World Series with a young Tom Seaver joining others to make a dandy pitching staff. They had help from the miracle catches of outfielders Tommie Agee, Cleon Jones and Ron Swoboda.
They also had help from the Orioles.
No way those Orioles were supposed to lose the World Series with the Hall-of-Fame likes of the two Robinsons (Frank and Brooks), Jim Palmer and Earl Weaver. They had perennial All-Stars elsewhere, from Boog Powell and Davey Johnson to Mark Belanger and Paul Blair.
Not only did those Orioles lose, they did so in five games.
At least the 1986 Red Sox lasted seven games. The Buckner gaffe happened in Game 6, which meant the Red Sox still had a chance to recover.
Just like the Texas Rangers could have rebounded last year against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the World Series after watching their opponent consistently return from the dead in Game 6.
But to get swept out of the World Series? With all that talent? Despite facing the Giants as heavily favorites?
Maybe the 2012 Tigers do rival the 1996 Braves.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.