We've come a long way, baby.
Five years ago about this same time of the month, I was tasked with figuring out what to say about the Detroit Tigers' rags-to-riches story as they clinched a playoff spot for the first time in 19 years. That was a very big deal. After nearly two decades of bad baseball, beginning every year with no real hope of a playoff appearance, the Tigers were back. The roar restored. And though a quick playoff exit would have been a bit sad after a magical season, it wouldn't have taken away from the size of the mountain the team scaled.
Five days ago, I tried to think of a way to frame the Tigers' first division title in 24 years. Twenty-four years is a pretty big deal, after all. The last time the Tigers won a division title, today's school kids were not born. Today's college seniors -- the ones on a traditional track, not the seven year version -- were a glint in their parent's eyes. Watching the celebration after Friday's game, racking my mind for wise words, I kept trying to talk myself into the fact taking the division is huge. I thought if I could only frame my thoughts around that picture, something would begin to flow onto the white screen in front of me.
Three days later, I figured it out. I couldn't write that article, because the frame didn't fit.
Take nothing away from this team, what it's accomplished so far, and the entertainment it has provided. Only four teams per league get to keep playing in October, and we're rooting for one of them. But winning the division title isn't enough this time. It just isn't. This isn't 2006. Spraying champagne and celebrating a division title is a means to an end, not the end itself. Demanding a World Series title every year would not be a realistic goal, but having the season peak on Sept. 16 would be an unsatisfying one.
Expect more. Demand more. You know Tigers owner Mike Ilitch does. CEO and general manager Dave Dombrowski does. Manager Jim Leyland does. Ace starter Justin Verlander does. Hopefully 24 of his teammates do as well.
I watched the celebration with interest. I enjoyed it. Any time your team earns a flag to raise is a good time. But let's not worry about 1987, 2006 or even 2009 any more.
There's still plenty left of 2011 to be played.