Only one team out of 30 can win the World Series. No matter how you slice it and dice it, that's the ultimate end result. Twenty-nine teams every year are tied for last place.
Only one team wins every year, but it is also apparent that some franchises are better at winning it than others. It's not like the trophy gets passed around to teams in alphabetical order.
If the goal is to win the whole enchilada, then the Tigers are going in the wrong direction.
They made the World Series in 2012. They were eliminated in the ALCS in 2013. And they were blasted out of the ALDS in three games in 2014.
You don't need a compass to figure out what's going on here.
It's not unfair to say that it's time to take a look at GM Dave Dombrowski and explore why the Tigers are going in reverse—especially when the San Francisco Giants are appearing in their third World Series in five seasons (they're 2-0 so far).
The Tigers seem to be a team built for April through September: a star-filled roster that is great for the local fans to see, to the tune of 35,000-plus fannies in the seats every night.
Owner Mike Ilitch has done a terrific thing here. He's enabled his paying customers to see multiple MVPs and Cy Young winners at Comerica Park nightly. Who wouldn't want to come down to the ballpark to see the Cabreras and Verlanders and Scherzers and Martinezes?
It's a blueprint that has resulted in four straight divisional titles.
The Tigers are the Beasts of the Central, but that's as far as it's gone.
The World Series victory drought is 30 years and counting. Only the 34 years between the Tigers' entry into the American League in 1901 and their first world title in 1935 eclipses the current dry spell in franchise history.
So let's take a look at Dombrowski, with the caveat that Ilitch is culpable for blame as well.
The top-heavy rosters of stars and big names are great for the regular season. It moves the turnstiles and it breaks up the monotony of a 162-game schedule quite nicely.
You need stars, don't get me wrong. I haven't figured out a way for a team to win the World Series without making the playoffs.
Perhaps an iconic moment of the Tigers' mini playoff run this year was the team's final at-bat in the ALDS against Baltimore.
The Tigers, with J.D. Martinez at second base, Alex Avila at first and trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth with one out, were forced to put their season into the hands of Hernan Perez.
In fact, the bench was filled with Toledo Mud Hens.
Perez, of course, grounded into a series-ending double play. The kid had no chance against Orioles closer Zach Britton.
Prior to the playoffs starting, the chatter on this website and elsewhere was about who would be on the Tigers' ALDS roster.
Fair enough, except the players being bandied about were Tyler Collins and Steven Moya.
Think about that for a moment.
Fans were asking whether a pair of raw rookies would be included on the postseason roster—and they considered it a logical question!
That is an indictment of Dombrowski, right there.
The Tigers' thin bench and woefully inadequate bullpen were two of the biggest reasons why the Orioles swept past them into the ALCS.
Dombrowski, as we all know, loves power pitchers. His starting rotation reflects that, with all their hardware to back it up.
The general manager has stubbornly stood behind his belief that the path to a world title is traveled with a cache of top drawer starting pitching and home run hitters.
Fie on defense, base running acumen and reliable relievers!
In the ALDS, Baltimore was able to bring postseason hero Delmon Young off the bench. Young, as we know, killed the Tigers in Game 2. The Tigers countered with Hernan Perez.
Young, once upon a time, was a hero for the Tigers in the playoffs.
Dombrowski and the Tigers are about to wander into maybe the most crucial offseason in team history. That's a big statement but these are big times.
Since the signing of Pudge Rodriguez prior to the 2004 season, which can fairly be identified as the turning point that converted the Tigers from pretenders to contenders, Dombrowski has spent lots of Mike Ilitch's pizza dough on players.
The spending spree has pushed ticket sales through the roof, and divisions are won annually, yet the ultimate prize remains elusive.
Players aren't getting younger. Some are free agents and could be gone before next season. The so-called "window" is starting to close, perhaps.
The Tigers are at a sort of crossroads as the hot stove is being stoked. They don't want to become the Yankees.
You remember the Yankees, right?
Remember when they were the Bronx Bombers?
But the Yankees got old and everyone retired and while they continue to spend, there hasn't been a lot going on in player development over there.
In 2014, the Yankees stumbled across the finish line, barely over .500 and with not the brightest of futures.
The Yankees are what the Tigers do not want to become.
The Giants, however, should be the model.
This every other year thing that the Giants have going on would play well in Detroit.
Wouldn't you accept a playoff-less season if it meant winning a World Series in even-numbered years?
Of course, that's not by design, but the Giants' ability to get back into the Fall Classic for the third time since 2010 isn't to be dismissed as dumb luck.
The Giants have survived injuries and suspensions over the years. This season it was Angel Pagan and Matt Cain that went down. The Giants didn't win the division in 2014 but they again had what it took to be successful in the playoffs.
Is it strictly manager Bruce Bochy? Or is it more than that?
As I write this, the Giants trail the Kansas City Royals, 2-1 in the World Series. But even if the Giants lose the series, their place as a premier organization is secured. If they come back and win it, then this will be as close as you can get to a dynasty in today's MLB.
The Giants remind me of the San Antonio Spurs in basketball—a team that always seems to be able to get it done in the playoffs.
The Giants do it with defense, pitching (starters and relievers) and contributions from pretty much every man on the roster, 1 through 25. Their so-called role players have come up huge for them in October.
They also, of course, have Bochy at the helm.
It's time to look at Dombrowski and his blueprints.
I mentioned that Ilitch is culpable as well. He gets starry-eyed and while the Tigers' payroll is among the tops in baseball, it's also very top heavy. Only a handful of players get all the money.
This approach leaves you with the likes of Hernan Perez to save your season.
Some fans won't like this idea, but maybe the Tigers should consider letting the likes of Victor Martinez walk away in free agency. Certainly, they should let Max Scherzer walk. That's a bad contract waiting to happen to some team, and it may as well happen to a team other than the Tigers.
But why not let Martinez, at age 35, walk, and spend that money on multiple, cheaper players?
With Jose Iglesias and Andy Dirks expected to return in 2015 from injuries, along with reliever Bruce Rondon, and if Nick Castellanos can improve, the Tigers should be able to withstand the loss of V-Mart if they spend wisely and make a wily trade or two. The emergence of J.D. Martinez doesn't hurt.
The X-factor is catcher Alex Avila's future, and that's a conundrum, no question.
Dombrowski's volume of work in Detroit is impressive but it clearly hasn't been enough to get his owner the ring that he covets.
No other team in the big leagues has won anything close to four divisions in a row. It's a feat that is not to be dismissed, no matter what you think of the Tigers competition in the Central, which, by the way, crowned the American League champion this year.
But something is amiss. It's always something in the playoffs—bullpen, hitting funks, defense, base running. All of the above happened to the Tigers in 27 innings in this year's ALDS.
Ilitch's other team, the Red Wings, has managed to remain relevant while (to use a hockey term) changing on the fly from a team with veteran moxie and big contracts to a faster, younger, cheaper version that appears to be a strong playoff contender.
Can the same transformation happen at Comerica Park?
Let's see if Dave Dombrowski can channel his inner Kenny Holland, if it exists.