Price doesn't guarantee World Series title for Tigers
Detroit is in better position to win with lefty, but there are no sure things
DETROIT -- The Tigers know where they are -- leading the American League Central, which they have done for all but three games this season.
They know where they want to be -- winning the final game of the World Series, enjoying a champagne celebration and carrying the title of champions.
And they know today they have a better chance of doing that than they did two days ago -- adding left-hander David Price to what already was a formidable rotation.
They, however, don't know if they are good enough.
Price comes with no guarantees, much less extended warranties.
"It's all `ifs,"' said Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski. "If we get into the postseason. … If we get into the World Series. … And if we win I will be very satisfied."
It's a word to live by in baseball.
There are no sure things.
Adding Price, however, is a good thing.
Even Price thinks so.
"Cool," he said about his presence at Comerica Park on Saturday. "Traded to a first-place team. I walk into the clubhouse and look around and it's like an All-Star team."
Right now the star shines brightest on Price. He was the prize at Thursday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. He's the guy that the media has assumed will make the difference for the Tigers in their bid for the franchise's fifth World Series title.
The pressure is on. Or is it?
"Pressure is perceived," Price said.
"The World Series is always the objective," he said. "The first goal is to get to the postseason and then to keep advancing. To get back to the World Series would be special. To go back and win one would be crazy."
But as Dombrowski indicated, there are lots of "ifs" standing between the Tigers and their ambition.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus knows -- too well.
"There is nothing handed to anybody in this game," said Ausmus. "You can feel a lot of things, but you have to do the job, you have to win."
Back in the summer of 1998, Ausmus was a catcher with the Houston Astros. Sitting atop the National League Central on July 31, the Astros sent pitching prospects Freddy Garcia and John Halama and infielder Carlos Guillen to Seattle for left-hander Randy Johnson.
That, they felt, was the final payment on a World Series.
They won 37 of their 53 games after Johnson joined the team, and Johnson was 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA in his 11 starts.
The World Series? The Astros didn't even get out of the first round of the postseason. San Diego beat them 3-1 in the NL Division Series. Johnson? He started and lost Game 1. He started and lost Game 4. Not that he pitched poorly. He allowed only four runs, three earned, in 14 innings.
"A little too much Kevin Brown," said Ausmus in reference to the Padres starting pitcher in the first game Johnson pitched. "He two-hit us [for eight innings] in Game 1. Know who got the hits?"
Ausmus' wink said it all. He got both of them. He singled in the third and sixth innings.
"There's no sure things," said Tigers hitting coach Wally Joyner. "You try to improve the opportunity to get [to the World Series], but you also know you still have to play the games and win. Nobody is going to concede you anything."
Tigers fans know that too well.
They haven't forgotten the 1987 season.
Battling Toronto for the AL East title, the Tigers took advantage of Atlanta being able to get 36-year-old Doyle Alexander through waivers, and on Aug. 12 acquired the veteran right-hander in exchange for a Double-A pitcher who wasn't even considered one of the organization's best prospects.
Alexander not only went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA in 11 starts for the Tigers, but Detroit won all 11 of his starts, including beating the Blue Jays twice in the final week of the regular season.
The postseason didn't work out as well. Minnesota beat the Tigers 4-1 in the AL Championship Series. Alexander started and lost Games 1 and 5. The Twins went on to beat St. Louis in the World Series.
They faded into oblivion, and instead of Alexander becoming a part of Tigers lore with his brilliant effort down the stretch, he has become the punch line to a bad joke -- he's the pitcher the Tigers got from the Atlanta Braves for John Smoltz.
"You can plan all you want," said Joyner, "but it comes down to taking care of the day-to-day duties. It's not easy."
With the addition of a pitcher the caliber of Price, however, it shouldn't be as difficult.