Tracy Ringolsby

Tigers celebrate, but with eye on bigger party

Tigers celebrate, but with eye on bigger party

DETROIT -- The flurry of email exchanges came in the moments after Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski swung the deal for left-handed starter David Price slightly more than 40 minutes before the 5 p.m. ET July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

"Topper!!:)," read the missive A's general manager Billy Beane sent Dombrowski. "No way, you are too good."

"Thank you," replied Dombrowski. "Same to you."

"You only gave me 40 minutes to get [a certain pitcher]," responded Beane.

Beane never got that certain pitcher, whose name is withheld in deference to baseball's tampering rules.

  Date   Matchup/Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 2   BAL 12, DET 3 video
Gm 2 Oct. 3   BAL 7, DET 6 video
Gm 3 Oct. 5   BAL 2, DET 1 video

Whether Dombrowski will get what he had his sights set on back on July 31 remains to be seen, but Price certainly helped the Tigers take the first required step toward winning that World Series championship the Tigers haven't won since 1984.

With the Tigers needing a win to clinch the American League Central on Sunday, Price stepped up in a 3-0, Game 162 victory against the Twins at Comerica Park.

Now the Tigers have some time to regroup, not opening the AL Division Series until Thursday at Baltimore.

Price worked 7 1/3 shutout innings, and then turned it over to Joba Chamberlain to get the final two outs in the eighth, and Joe Nathan for a 1-2-3 ninth, touching off the traditional clubhouse celebration.

Cigars were lit. Champagne was poured. Hugs were exchanged.

It was just like every other baseball clubhouse at clinching time, with a bit less revelry.

It's not that the Tigers don't appreciate what they have done.

It's just that these Tigers, even the new faces for this season, know there is a lot more to get done.

This is the Tigers' fourth consecutive AL Central title.

None of the previous three, however, have resulted in a World Series championship.

Eighteen other teams have celebrated World Series championships since the last time the Tigers did, back in 1984, when the celebration turned into a street riot outside of old Tiger Stadium. And of the 11 other clubs who haven't won a World Series in the interim, the Rays and Rockies weren't even in existence the last time the Tigers were World Series champions.

"There's no way to explain how important [a World Series is]," said Tigers catcher Alex Avila. "You do your best [in the playoffs]. That's all you can control. We now have another opportunity to do our best and see what happens."

Miguel Cabrera, Avila, Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, Max Scherzer, Phil Coke and Al Alburquerque all have been a part of the close-but-not-close-enough moments of the last three postseasons with the Tigers.

Price, who was in the postseason four times with the Rays and got to the World Series once, only to lose to the Phillies in 2008, is among 15 current Tigers with postseason experience. Cabrera (with the Marlins in 2003) and Chamberlain (with the Yankees in 2009) are the only ones to be part of a World Series champion.

At the other extreme are Nathan, who has come up short with the Giants in 2003, Minnesota in 2004, 2006 and 2009 and Texas in 2012, and right fielder Torii Hunter, a part of the Tigers' postseason team a year ago as well as the Angels in 2008 and 2009, and the Twins in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006.

"This is something to celebrate," Hunter said of clinching the division titles, "but it's not like [2002 with the Twins]. We went wild. This is more subdued. This team has so many guys who want so much more."

At 38, Hunter knows his additional opportunities are dwindling. He feels these Tigers give him the best chance of any team to get that World Series ring. It is, he said, why the resident of Texas did not hesitate two years ago when his contract expired with the Angels to sign a two-year free-agent deal with the Tigers.

"The reason I came here is I saw nothing but potential," Hunter said. "I'm old enough. I've been around long enough. I'm my own scout, and I figured this team was going to give me a couple opportunities to win the World Series."

The first shot with the Tigers backfired a year ago. After knocking off Oakland in five games in the Division Series the Tigers were eliminated in six games in the ALCS by the eventual-champion Red Sox.

Now the Tigers are back again, the nucleus of the recent postseason disappointments still together, along with the past year's additions orchestrated by Dombrowski, which includes Chamberlain, Nathan, Price and Ian Kinsler, the leadoff-hitting second baseman acquired last offseason from the Rangers for Prince Fielder.

"I don't want to take away from what is going on [in the clubhouse on Sunday]," said Dombrowski. "They deserve to enjoy what they have done. They have come a long way this season."

The journey, however, is far from over.

The goal remains to win the last game played in baseball this October.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for Read his blog, Write 'em Cowboy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.