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Published: Tuesday, 10/30/2012

Tigers look to next year

Injured Martinez to return, but Young, Valverde?

BLADE NEWS SERVICES

DETROIT — Built to win a World Ser­ies this year, the Detroit Tigers came close.

Now they head into what could be an­other busy off­sea­son for one of base­ball's most talked-about fran­chises.

Although Detroit won the Amer­i­can League pen­nant, a World Ser­ies sweep at the hands of the San Fran­cisco Giants leaves a dis­ap­point­ing taste for the Tigers. It's im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that if not for a late-sea­son swoon by the Chi­cago White Sox, Detroit might not have made the play­offs at all.

"We ended up just not be­ing the main at­trac­tion. We got beat by the Giants," man­ager Jim Ley­land said. "They were the main at­trac­tion. We got to the heavy­weight fight and we got beat."

Ley­land was man­ag­ing on a one-year con­tract. He and gen­eral man­ager Dave Dom­browski tried to forgo any pub­lic dis­cus­sion of the man­ager's fu­ture un­til af­ter the sea­son, so that's prob­a­bly the most im­me­di­ate is­sue that needs to be re­solved.

If Ley­land is back, he'll again pre­side over a core of tal­ent that can match pretty much any in base­ball. Justin Ver­lander may win his sec­ond straight Cy Young Award, and he's backed by right-hand­ers Max Scherzer and Doug Fis­ter, who have be­come im­pos­ing parts of the ro­ta­tion.

Tri­ple Crown win­ner Miguel Cabrera is in his prime, and Prince Fielder made a smooth tran­si­tion to Detroit af­ter sign­ing a $214 mil­lion con­tract in the off­sea­son.

That was the move that sig­naled to ev­ery­one that the Tigers were se­ri­ous about mak­ing a ti­tle run right away. It had ac­tu­ally been a quiet start to the off­sea­son be­fore des­ig­nated hit­ter Vic­tor Mar­ti­nez went down with a se­ri­ous knee in­jury that would side­line him for the whole 2012 cam­paign. Then the Tigers acted boldly, sign­ing Fielder.

They didn't cruise to the AL Cen­tral ti­tle as many ex­pected. In­stead, Detroit went 88-74, barely good enough to out­last the White Sox by three games.

Ver­lander threw a shut­out at Oak­land in Game 5 of the di­vi­sion se­ries, and the Tigers swept the New York Yan­kees in the AL cham­pi­on­ship se­ries, rais­ing hopes that the team was peak­ing at ex­actly the right time.

"We've got to feel proud about what we did this year," Cabrera said. "We went through a lot, down and up."

After Detroit went qui­etly in the World Ser­ies, ques­tions will sur­face again on what needs to be done to im­prove.

"We have more ex­pe­ri­ence now. The same team is go­ing to be here — that's a pos­i­tive — with more," Fielder said. "A lot of great things hap­pened, but un­for­tu­nately it closed out with this. You win some and you lose some — and we lost four."

Mar­ti­nez's re­turn could mean the end of Del­mon Young's ten­ure in Detroit, and closer Jose Valverde may not be in the team's plans ei­ther af­ter fall­ing out of fa­vor dur­ing the post­sea­son.

The Tigers can ex­er­cise a team op­tion on short­stop Jhonny Per­alta — or per­haps they could go in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion and try to im­prove their in­field de­fense. If Detroit can't bring back right-hander Ani­bal San­chez, Drew Smyly may need to step back into the ro­ta­tion af­ter a prom­is­ing rookie year.

Austin Jack­son has so­lid­i­fied his hold on the cen­ter field spot, but left and right could be up­graded. Andy Dirks had a fine sea­son in the out­field and Quin­tin Berry added some speed to the lineup, but are the Tigers will­ing to stick with them and Avisail Gar­cia in the cor­ner out­field spots?

A lot may de­pend on owner Mike Ilitch, who is still chas­ing the fran­chise's first World Ser­ies ti­tle since 1984.

Ilitch signed off on the huge ex­pen­di­ture for Fielder, and if he's will­ing to raise the pay­roll even more, the Tigers may be ac­tive from the start this off­sea­son.

It was an un­even year at times for Detroit, but the win­dow of op­por­tu­nity is still very much open.

"We had a great run," left-hander Phil Coke said. "We just got cold at the wrong time."

Ser­ies TV rat­ingsset record low

NEW YORK — The San Fran­cisco Giants' sweep of the Detroit Tigers set a record low for the World Ser­ies' tele­vi­sion rat­ings.

The four games on Fox av­er­aged a 7.6 rat­ing and 12 share, Niel­sen Me­dia Re­search saud.

The pre­vi­ous low was an 8.4 for the 2008 Phill­ies-Rays and 2010 Giants-Rangers se­ries, which each went five games.

Last year's Car­di­nals-Rangers World Ser­ies went the full seven games and built mo­men­tum to av­er­age a 10.0/16.

San Fran­cisco's 2-0 win in Game 3 on Satur­day night earned a 6.1/11, down from a 6.6/12 for St. Louis' 16-7 win over Texas in the third game last year and match­ing the low­est for any World Ser­ies game. Phil­a­del­phia's 5-4 win in Game 3 in 2008 also had a 6.1 rat­ing on a night a rain de­lay pushed the start af­ter 10 p.m. on the East Coast and the game didn't end un­til 1:47 a.m.

The Giants' 4-3, 10-in­ning vic­tory in the fi­nale Sun­day night drew an 8.9/14, up slightly from the 9.2/14 for the Rangers' 4-0 win over the Car­di­nals in 2011.

Rat­ings rep­resent the per­cent­age of all homes with TVs tuned into a pro­gram. Shares rep­resent the per­cent­age watch­ing among all homes with TVs in use at the time.

Fox tele­vised the World Ser­ies in 1996, 1998 and has had ex­clu­sive rights since 2000.

It has an eight-year deal with Ma­jor League Base­ball through 2021 that in­cludes Ser­ies rights and costs an av­er­age of about $500 mil­lion an­nu­ally.

Tribe’s Sizemore files for free agency

CLEVELAND — In­di­ans’ cen­ter fielder Grady Sizemore and first base­man Ca­sey Kotch­man were among the 137 play­ers who filed for free agency on Mon­day.

Travis Haf­ner and Roberto Her­nan­dez are ex­pected to join them to­day, as the In­di­ans aren't ex­pected to ex­er­cise their op­tions for 2013. Haf­ner's op­tion is worth $13 mil­lion and Her­nan­dez's $6 mil­lion. Teams must make a de­ci­sion on 2013 op­tions by Wed­nes­day.

The In­di­ans are ex­pected to ex­er­cise Ubaldo Jimenez's $5.75 mil­lion op­tion.

NOTES: Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo is a fi­nal­ist to win a Gold Glove. The re­sults will be an­nounced to­day at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN2. Jeff Fran­co­eur and Josh Red­dick are the other fi­nal­ists.

The Cleve­land Plain Dealer con­trib­uted to this re­port.



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