Wednesday was a countdown to a coronation at Comerica Park, though not necessarily for the woeful Tigers.
A Twins win would give Minnesota at least a share of the AL Central title. Likewise, it would guarantee the Tigers sole possssion of the worst record in baseball, and thus, the No. 1 pick
Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire has been on the triumphant side six times, all with the Twins — or seven, if you include the only postseason series win of his career.
“The anticipation, once you get close, is kind of hard to take,” Gardenhire said on Wednesday afternoon at Comerica Park.
As he spoke, the Twins’ magic number — the total number of Twins wins and Cleveland Indians losses necessary to outright clinch the AL Central for Minnesota — was two. The Indians face the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday in a game that starts 90 minutes after the Tigers’ and Twins’ tilt will.
The last time the Twins made the postseason, in 2010, Gardenhire was their manager.
Fellow Tiger coaches Rick Anderson, Steve Liddle and Joe Vavra were on the coaching staff, too.
“You don’t want them to clinch it at your house or on your field or anything like that,” Gardenhire said, “But if anybody’s going to do it in front of us, Joe and I can take a little comfort in knowing that we actually worked there for quite a while and have good memories and family and friends from there that are still there, and all those people that work in the org.
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“They’re going to do it, you don’t want them to do it, but if they’re going to do it in front of us, I’d rather it be them than any other team.”
But if the Twins’ magic number hits zero in Detroit, Gardenhire won’t be among those watching them celebrate.
“I, personally, won’t be watching it,” he said. “I’ll be up in the clubhouse. I’ve been on the field a few times and I don’t really enjoy it anymore. I know how fun it is being on the other side.”
But perhaps, in one of the last painful moments for these 2019 Tigers, some of their young players may benefit from watching the Twins celebrate on their home field.
Most of this group of Tigers has never personally witnessed such a celebration. Miguel Cabrera, Buck Farmer and Drew VerHagen are the only members of the 2014 Tigers — the last Detroit squad to make the postseason — and of that group, only Cabrera was in the lineup in the 2014 clincher.
And in what Gardenhire described as a “challenging” season — the Tigers had just 46 wins entering Wednesday night’s game — the unbridled joy of winning a title has mostly been tough to remember.
“You can look at it,” Gardenhire said. “We can sit and say all those things, like use it as a point made — ‘That we’ll be doing this, watching this and how much fun they’re having and that’s what we want to be’ ”
That look to the future is also reflected in the Tigers’ own magic number of one — with the team’s next loss, or a Baltimore Orioles win, they will clinch the worst record in the major leagues this season, giving them the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft, as well as the largest pool of bonus money (allowing for more flexibility in steering talented picks away from going to school).
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Still, they’re not likely to be partying over that, in the dugout or in the clubhouse. That’s solely a victory for the front office, albeit one that won’t be celebrated until June 2020.
That’s when the front office, armed with picks and extra money to divvy up, will attempt to boost the team’s talent level again. If the front office succeeds then, well, the 2019 Tigers’ observations of an on-field celebration could be overwritten with more pleasant memories — their own playoff party in 2021 or beyond.
Contact Anthony Fenech at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.
Published at Wed, 25 Sep 2019 22:28:16 +0000