|World Series to watching: Cardinals and Tigers fail to earn a shot at defending pennants|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 27 September 2007 09:41|
``Where is the players' lot?'' the driver asked.
``Just down the street,'' a reporter replied.
No, the Detroit Tigers will not need their luxury rides in the Motor City this October.
The defending-champion Cardinals don't need their cars in St. Louis, either.
St. Louis and Detroit will be relegated to watching the playoffs, marking the second straight year teams coming off a World Series appearance did not earn a chance to defend their pennants.
``It just tells you there is good parity in baseball,'' Tigers first baseman Sean Casey said. ``It also shows that to get to the playoffs, you have to be a great team and you have to have a lot of things go your way.''
The Cardinals and Tigers had to deal with setbacks in spring training, and the hits kept coming the rest of the season.
St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa was arrested in March for suspicion of drunken driving and reliever Josh Hancock died in a drunk-driving crash the next month.
On the field, ace Chris Carpenter's elbow required season-ending surgery after pitching on opening day to hurt a franchise that failed to adequately replace free-agent pitchers Jeff Weaver, Jason Marquis and Jeff Suppan.
Several position players, such as first baseman Albert Pujols and third baseman Scott Rolen, were slowed by injuries.
``We just ran into a lot of bad luck this year,'' said utilityman Scott Spiezio, who underwent treatment for substance abuse in August. ``I know that's an excuse, but in this case, you lose your best pitcher and then you have a tragic death. There's just been some weird stuff that's happened this year.
``Had we had a little better of a season like we did last year as far as injuries, I think we could have taken this again this year.''
The Tigers were saying the same thing in their clubhouse.
Starting pitcher Kenny Rogers found out he had a blood clot in his left shoulder during spring training, keeping him off the mound until late June. Then, Rogers missed all of August with an elbow injury.
Hard-throwing relievers Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney were slowed by injuries for much of the year. The lineup suffered when designated hitter Gary Sheffield was in and out of the lineup with a banged-up shoulder.
``No smooth sailing,'' Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. ``But I like what I found out about this team.''
Detroit (87-72) mathematically stayed in contention for the playoffs until the New York Yankees won Wednesday night - about 20 hours after the transporter arrived to ship the Tigers' cars away.
``I don't care what anybody else says, I think this club has done a helluva job under the circumstances,'' Leyland said.
The Tigers, who drew 3 million fans for the first time, did not disappoint their fans because their favorite team had a sub-.500 mark in each season from 1994-2005 and lost an AL-record 119 games just three years ago.
St. Louis, meanwhile, is used to being in the playoffs.
The Cardinals earned a postseason bid the previous three years, six of seven and seven times since LaRussa became their manager in 1996.
Despite the lackluster season, St. Louis still had a shot earlier this month when being one game over .500 was good enough in the NL Central to be only one game back.
Rick Ankiel homered twice and had a career-high seven RBIs to lift the Cardinals to a 16-4 win over Pittsburgh on Sept. 6. Then, the former pitcher's feel-good story and his team's season turned when a report surfaced about him taking human growth hormone in 2004.
St. Louis responded to the latest blow by losing nine straight - its longest skid since 1980 - to end any legitimate hopes of playing in the postseason.
The Cardinals, who were officially eliminated from the race a week ago, lost for the 16th time in 20 games Tuesday.
``It's a lot easier to play the last month when you're in contention,'' LaRussa said.
Of little consolation to both teams, some individuals put together good years.
Detroit's Magglio Ordonez has a shot to be the franchise's first batting champion since 1961; Curtis Granderson joined Willie Mays in baseball history with at least 20 stolen bases, homers, triples and doubles; Justin Verlander threw a no-hitter, a year after being the AL Rookie of the Year.
Albert Pujols had at least 100 RBIs, a milestone he has reached in each of his seven seasons with the Cardinals.
``I've been consistent every year,'' Pujols said. ``But I wish I could trade that and be in the postseason, playing next month.''
AP Sports Writers R.B. Fallstrom in St. Louis, Nancy Armour and Colin Fly in Milwaukee contributed to this report.