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HomeSportsPro
Published: 10/8/2009

Tigers can only lament squandered opportunity

ASSOCIATED PRESS

DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers earned an unwanted place in baseball history, becoming the first team to miss out on the playoffs after having a three-game lead with four games left.

“We have nobody to blame but ourselves for not wrapping it up last week at home,” Jim Leyland said in a telephone interview. “Shame on us.”

That doesn't change how Detroit's manager felt about a key moment in the 163rd game of the season.

Replays appeared to show that Brandon Inge's jersey was grazed by a pitch with the bases loaded in the 12th inning at Minnesota, but the umpire didn't put him on first to force home a go-ahead run. The Twins went on to score in the home half of the inning to win 6-5 Tuesday, breaking a tie in the division to advance to the postseason and start the Tigers' offseason.

“I'm really upset that it ended the way it did, having Brandon get hit by a pitch because that totally changes that game,” Leyland said. “I can understand how the ump didn't see the pitch hit him, but to say video was inconclusive upsets me because everybody in America saw that it did.

“I think the head of the umpires or the league office should come out and say the umpire missed that call,” Leyland said.

It doesn't sound like that's going to happen.

Home plate umpire Randy Marsh said he did not see a replay that showed the ball hit Inge, and Major League Baseball's vice president of umpires stood by Marsh.

“I understand and respect Jim's call for accountability because umpires should acknowledge when they miss a call,” said MLB's Mike Port, who said traveling has prevented him from seeing the pitch in question. “But if Randy Marsh, who has worked about 4,000 games, said the replays he saw were inconclusive, then I would have to agree with his assessment at this point.

“I spoke to people today with more than 100 years of experience who saw replays, and none of them would bet a large sum of money that it was conclusive one way or another,” Port added.

Even though the Tigers took issue with the call that didn't go their way, they missed other opportunities to win the game — a recurring problem late in the season.

Detroit hosted the Twins in the finale of a four-game series on Thursday with a three-game lead and a chance to clinch the division but lost 8-3.

The Tigers then were at home against the slumping Chicago White Sox, who had nothing at stake, and could have avoided a tiebreaker by winning two of three games during the last weekend of the regular season.

Alas, Detroit won only one game in the series with the White Sox — on the final scheduled day of the season — and it was forced to deal with a distraction created by star Miguel Cabrera.

The first baseman with a $152 million contract got drunk enough between Friday and Saturday's games — with the White Sox, authorities were told — to have a 0.26 blood-alcohol reading.

Cabrera got into a fight with his wife, leaving him with a bruised and cut face and a trip to a police station, where Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski picked him up.

That overshadowed what had been a strong season for Cabrera, who ranked among AL leaders with a .324 batting average and 34 home runs.

Dombrowski will have another chance today, when he meets with reporters, to address the choices Cabrera made along with the ones the GM has to make this offseason.

Key players such as closer Fernando Rodney and second baseman Placido Polanco are eligible for free agency and Justin Verlander, who won 19 games, might be due for a long-term contract.



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