Justin Verlander thinks the A's traded for pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel specifically to get past the Tigers in the playoffs. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
Miguel Cabrera is pictured grinning; Mike Trout jumping; Andrew McCutcheon smiling. Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game overkill with Derek Jeter is etched into the history books. It’s over.
Now MLB’s television commercial hard sell is October. The playoffs.
No fooling! Might have been forgotten if commissioner Bud Selig wasn’t still hanging around to remind us.
The Tigers have a cakewalk into the playoffs through the rest of July, August and September. Alas, so do the strengthened Athletics and the refortified Angels.
And Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander’s premise is directly in the strike zone. Right down the pipe.
“When I saw that trade, I thought that they made that trade for us,” Verlander told Jason Beck of mlb.com after the A’s two-pitcher grab in a Fourth of July deal. “No doubt about it in my mind.”
The A’s have targeted the Tigers with the addition of starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. After three playoff eliminations by the Tigers since 2006, the A’s have targeted the World Series.
Their era of “Moneyball” — with Michael Lewis’ best-selling book and Hollywood’s fawning cinema rendition — is finished. Not a total flop. Just not quite good enough.
The A’s haven’t been to a World Series since 1990. With Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco — the “Bash Brothers” — they won three pennants in three years. Now those A’s are scandalized with allegations they were superheated with you-know-what.
On came Billy Beane, the protagonist of the Moneyball fixation. He was — and remains — the hottest, most inventive general manager in baseball. The A’s cheapskate way just missed — because of Verlander, Max Scherzer, Cabrera and the Tigers.
So Beane displayed what must be a successful general manager’s most successful methodology. He became flexible.
Resourceful. Favored now to be headed toward a pennant. Beane beat all the other GMs with his trade with the Cubs two weeks ago Verlander so sharply analyzed.
And Friday night, the Angels, rivals to the A’s, responded with their addition of Huston Street in a trade with the Padres. A closer was the Angels’ most pressing need, and Street is one of the finest in that critical role. Angels GM Jerry Dipoto outslicked the Padres in this deal.
The Angels have an urgency about winning this year with Trout and a gradually declining Albert Pujols. Their target is the wild card in the American League West.
So often, the truth hurts — especially among the super critical, often paranoid Detroit baseball fans. The Tigers play in peril.
The truth is that the Tigers are No. 3 among the American League’s finest.
And the wait is on for Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski to work his sleight of hand and do something, anything, to restock the Tigers’ vulnerable bullpen. He is a perennially resourceful trade master, and the deadline for no-waiver transactions is less than two weeks away.
Dombrowski, unlike his rival GM in Oakland, has never been forced to work under the Moneyball strictures that strapped Beane to low-grade limits. Twice the Dombrowski-built Tigers have reached the World Series by stomping Beane’s A’s.
Another issue for the Tigers is winning a World Series. They’re 1-8 in their two World Series of this century, in 2006 and ’12.
This is always is the best time of any sports season — late July, the dog days of August and the September stretch. Daily and/or nightly suspense.
First the trade-rumor quacks are out in force on websites, talk radio, TV and even in the newspapers. They flourish now for the next 11 days or so with guesswork and whispers and what once upon a time was never considered true journalism.
The Tigers are bound to make a deal, maybe more than one, to confirm the philosophy of Justin Verlander. They’ll make that trade just for the Athletics and Angels — and for October.
Powering up for pennant
We know the Athletics from the team the Tigers defeated the past two Octobers.
But be warned — the Angels have emerged as a dominant ballclub. Trout — let me say it now in July after the past two elections — is bound to win the most valuable player award this time over Cabrera. Simply, with the climb of the Angels toward October, Trout now could be called the MVP — as well as the most talented athlete in all of Major League Baseball.
Still the Angels have Mike Scioscia wigwagging too often as he steps out of the dugout and waves to the bullpen. He has received raves for a dozen years now since he was the winning manager in Selig’s masterpiece — the all-wild-card World Series of 2002. Angels over the Giants.
But Scioscia has been hit with plenty of criticism in Los Angeles and Anaheim and other Southern California outposts.
Watching Scioscia’s series of late-inning pitching changes is lots of fun for us cynics. He is apt to manage himself out any ballgame in any critical situation. With the addition of Street, Scioscia could become more dangerous.
Certainly he is more bound to self-destruct than Brad Ausmus, in his first trip toward October, managing the Tigers, and Bob Melvin, who seems to manage the maximum out of the A’s.
All very interesting for us who love baseball and still endeavor to find some purity in the sport.
Indeed, for me, personally, as a now-resident of California, nothing can improve upon the August and September infighting in the National League between the Dodgers and Giants. Los Angeles versus San Francisco; Brooklyn versus. New York in my youth.
Seems that I’ve been tethered to that pennant scrum all my life.
Jerry Green is a retired Detroit News sportswriter. Read his web-exclusive column Saturdays at detroitnews.com.