I was fine until Todd Jones started to cry.
Playoffs. Playoffs. We haven’t even clinched the division; we may not do that. We haven’t ‘won’, really, anything. Who cares? I ask you: WHO CARES? We are IN. THE PLAYOFFS. Playoffs. I was 2 years old the last time the Tigers were in the playoffs. This is the first time, then, that I’ve seen it. I can’t even. Oh man. Playoffs.
In 2003 we were the worst team in baseball, very nearly the worst team in the HISTORY of baseball. It’s 2006, and we are IN. THE. PLAYOFFS.
I figure it’s best to let those who would know best say it, at least for right now.
Mario Impemba: “For the first time since 1987, the Tigers are back on the baseball map, they are in the playoffs. It has been 19 years since the Tigers made the postseason, and the day has finally come for Detroit.”
The first Tiger they talked to, on the field, was Brandon Inge. He’s been here the longest and suffered through it all (and what does it say about the Tigers organization, that Brandon Inge is the longest continuously tenured Tiger?). His interview was fairly boring. He didn’t think he’d be excited, but he was, yadda yadda. I was all set to be disappointed but, at the very end, as he was leaving, he turned to face the camera full-on and gave THE cheesiest grin and double thumbs-up I’ve ever seen. My faith in the dorktasticness of Brandon Inge was duly restored.
Al Kaline didn’t think we’d do it this year.
Rod Allen was trying to interview Magglio (whose hair, soaked, hung down lankly to his shoulders) when Placido dumped a huge bucket of ice and water over Maggs’ head. Rod gave up, laughing.
Pudge: “You know, we been beaten up and down for 2 years and finally this year we came through you know with Jim Leyland and the pitching staff, we all came together as a team… now all my guys, I’m ready, everyone’s ready.”
Nate, soaked, with his glasses off, was about to get interviewed when Miner and Verlander came hurtling over, dumping beer all over him. Then someone offscreen chucked a towel at his face.
Nate: “We always believed we had the talent, it was just the direction, Leyland coming in here… we have some unfinished business, but we’ll enjoy today… when you pitch with confidence you kinda develop that, when you feed off of each other… we had Kenny come in here, and that was the veteran presence we didn’t have before…”
Then he turned to Mario, said, “Thanks a lot buddy, you’re a little too dry here…” and dumped most of an entire bottle of champagne over Mario’s head.
Maroth: “This is great, I’ve never had champagne in the locker room, so this is great feeling… I think once we got out to a good start we knew what we had… last year was, uh, disappointing, we came into spring training focused, from that time on it’s just been focus, determination, you gotta have heart.”
Zumaya: “Oh man, you can’t ask for anything more,” at which point Miner and Verlander, apparently the soaking committee, came over, hooting at a high volume, and soaked him in alcohol. He recovered enough to say, “I came in here [Kansas City], opening day, I got my first big league debut here, I can’t explain it, I’m having so much fun, I wanna break down in tears but I gotta hold it in.” At which point Rod said, “It’s OK to cry, big fella.” So much love for them both.
Someone started to interview Polanco, and I noticed Maroth and Nate in the background hugging so long and so hard that I was waiting for someone to scream at them to get a room. Polanco started talking about what a great feeling it was to be here. Ledezma came up behind him, dumped a bottle of beer over his head. Polanco kept talking. Fernando Rodney came up behind him, dumped another bottle of beer on his head, then massaged his giant cranium. Throughout all of it, Polanco remained completely unfazed, still talking happily into the mic like he had no idea anything was going on.
In the background, Inge defied the laws of physics to pick Vance Wilson up off his feet.
Kenny: “Well it has been a special season up to this point, I don’t now if anyone expected us to do this… can’t say enough about how great a group of guys this is, and how fortunate I am to still be here playing with a group like this… every guy has a personal reason to get here, you wanna accomplish certain goals… we’ve got things we wanna do still… but I think having this type of team, I think we’re all gonna have a lot of memories after this, but I think this is gonna be one of the special ones of our career.”
Grilli: “This is unbelievable, I think it’s a testament to what this team is all about… it’s taken every single person up and down… champagne in your eyes, it stings a little bit but it’s all good… once the playoffs start, anything can happen, it’s anyone’s game.”
Dombrowski, his dress shirt off, tshirt soaked: “Well it feels fantastic, you keep everything inside you for so long and all of a sudden you’re at that point, where that last out is made, and it all comes spewing [out]… it’s as good a professional feeling as you can have.”
Keating was about about to interview Shelton, when Kenny and Miner blast him with beer. Keating starts giggling and says, “Chris Shelton doesn’t even drink, but by osmosis I think some will find its way into his system.” I assume the ‘not drinking’ thing is because he’s Mormon, right?
Granderson was bouncing ridiculously behind him. Then Tata, and for the record this nearly killed me, completely deadpan, started staring over Shelton’s shoulder at the camera. Over his head, over his other shoulder, just completely deadpan the entire time. I don’t know how the cameraman stayed sane, it was painfully hilarious.
Then they interviewed Todd Jones.
Jones: “I’m so honored to be a part of this and I’m so excited for the city of Detroit…” He looked like he was going to cry, but mastered himself after a moment. “I mean it doesnt happen a whole lot, you’re just proud to be a small part of it, we’re so… *long, tearful pause*… we’re so lucky to be in this situation… it’s just an honor to have brought this team all the way from spring training all the way to now, and we’re not finished.
Those guys [in the bullpen] have got such great talent, Joel’s got such a great arm and such a bright future… Fernando’s been there all year, he’s been the rock in the 6th, the 7th… just for the young guys to just realize chances like this don’t come around a whole lot… to understand why you play baseball, why you put your family through all this stuff [at this point he was, actually, crying, and barely able to talk], we’re excited ’cause we tried so hard, and we did it, you know, good for us.” He tailed off, overcome with emotion. This is where I lost any pretense of composure.
They barely spoke to Granderson, but they were with him long enough for all female Tigers fans to enjoy his very, very tight shirt. He pointed out that, “it’s been fallin’ in place for me, in my Tigers career, I’ve been to two playoffs,” referring, I assume, to Toledo.
Then they tracked down Mike Ilitch. Who was, no word of a lie, trashed out of his gourd.
Ilitch: “Yeah well I can’t say too much now, I’m kinda high. It’s a labor of love, you know, just, blow your brains out, that’s how we feel. [wtf?] We’re happy and we know the city’s gonna be happy and we know the state’s gonna be happy, and I dunno, I’ve seen guys in interviews where they get a little speechless and start to babble babble babble…”
At this point Rod redirects him by asking about Pudge.
“Well um, you know, um, Pudge has a history of rising to the occasion, I know he’s a mighty ballplayer, we just hit it off, and uh, uh, he’s been special, and uh, I dunno, he’s just uh, somebody that I’m so glad we have around, and uh, I dunno, I dunno what to tell you…” Rod mercifully terminated the interview here. It was ace. He was SO gone.
Bondo, when he was interviewed, held up a small bottle of water. “All the beer’s gone,” he said, in his usual possibly-hilarious-but-always-cardboard manner, “all the champagne’s gone.” Maroth came up and slung an arm over his shoulder, dabbing at the side of Bondo’s face with a towel.
Bondo: “We gotta great group of guys here, we hang out all the time together, go out to dinner together, play cards together, the starting group is as tight a group of guys that I’ve been with. In ’03, we were bad.” The last statement caused Maroth to laugh.
Willie Horton: “Well it’s just the first step, just the beginning, I’m so proud, so proud of what they accomplished this year, seen them grow from the bad times to the good times. It’s a good feeling you know, we haven’t won it back home since ’87 [won it back home?], this is for the whole state of Michigan, not just Detroit, the whole state…
…It’s a great feeling, you know, our city’s goin’ through a lotta hard times, not as much as ’68, ’67, still some hard times, hope we can have everyone pull together, make the city better… maybe people start workin together [like what happened after the Tigers won the World Series in 1968].”
Keating was trying to interview Carlos Guillen when he got SMASHED in the face by a stream of alcohol. He screamed, “I’ll get Nate Robertson back for that!” and Nate, offscreen, shouted something back that sounded a bit like, “Yeah right, Keating!”
Leyland, in reference to a question about the last time he was in the playoffs (I think): “I haven’t been waiting 6 years, I’ve been waiting 43 years, this is really a thrill for me, this is a special day for me. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to manage the Tigers… I’m a real proud guy today.”
When asked about how he felt, when he first got the call asking him to manage the Tigers: “That was really a catch 22, to be honest with you, the fact that I have so much respect for Alan Trammell, this is really his celebration today… I had mixed emotions ’cause I was taking a friend’s job… part of this is for them, let’s not forget that.”
Playoffs. Of course we’ll be disappointed if nothing more comes of this, if this is the only champagne celebration we get to see this year. But. This is more, way more, than the Tigers have had in years and years and years. Savor it, kids. You can be sure the team will.