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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

WS PREVIEW: Tigers get season-long advice from their Cardinal connection

The Associated Press/Gerald Laird (left) and Octavio Dotel both won a World Series championship with the St. Louis Cardinals last season, but joined the Detroit Tigers in the offseason as free agents.

DETROIT — The twosome were like your grumpy uncles at Thanksgiving.

You know, the ones who have a story for everything.

And, like those grumpy uncles, Octavio Dotel and Gerald Laird kept telling, and telling and telling the same story, over and over again, all season long, using it as a glaring reminder that nothing was over just yet.

“Come here and sit down on the couch. Let Uncle Octavio tell you about the time the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals overcame a 4 1/2-game deficit in the Wild Card standings with 16 to play ...”

Both Dotel and Laird came to the Detroit Tigers as free agents in the offseason, having won the World Series championship with the underdog Cards a year earlier. So every time someone asked a question about the Tigers’ current deficit, they’d just shrug, and dust off the same old tale.

“I was talking all year about how nice it is to be a champion. Thank God we come through. Now we’re here. Hopefully, I will have the same feeling I had last year,” Dotel said after the Tigers clinched a spot in the World Series by finishing off an American League Championship Series sweep of the Yankees. “To be a champion, it’s unbelievable how excited I am right now.”

Laird admitted that from here on out, he’d probably modify the story he tells just a bit. Rather than the tale of the Cards making up ground in the Wild Card, he’ll probably tell the story of the Tigers being three games out in the AL Central standings with 16 to play, then going 11-5 to streak past the stumbling White Sox.

“Yeah, it’s all Tigers now. Last year’s last year. It’s the World Series this year, and we have one goal, and that’s to win it. It would be unbelievable to win it with this group of guys,” said Laird, who is in his second tour of duty with the club. “I leave for a year and win a championship, and it would be unbelievably special to have a chance to win with this group that I got to know a couple years ago.”

The Tigers’ main catcher in the disappointing 2009 season that ended in the Game 163 loss, Laird split time with Alex Avila in 2010, then left to join the Cardinals for a season, playing very sparingly behind Yadier Molina. Dotel was traded to St. Louis midseason from the Toronto Blue Jays, and appeared in 12 of the Cards’ 18 postseason games.

They got their hardware before a game in April — ironically with the Tigers facing the team their Cardinals had beaten in the World Series, the Texas Rangers — and had no problem showing it off.

But the twosome had a bigger role than just acting as an object lesson, and flashing their championship jewelry.

Both were elder statesmen on what is — for all its built-in playoff experience — still a young team, and both took on some leadership aspects.

Dotel may have talked his way into that scenario late in the season, when — on the heels of a doubleheader sweep at the hands of the Minnesota Twins — he told the Detroit News’ Tom Gage that he didn’t see the same fire from his current Tigers teammates that he did in last year’s Cardinals.

When asked for comment, Tigers manager Jim Leyland had a terse response: “He needs to tell THEM that. If he feels that way, he needs to tell them.”

Whether or not Dotel had that conversation with teammates, the energy level picked up as the race narrowed in the season’s final weeks.

“Late in the season, we believed but we weren’t pumped up. Then next thing I know everybody was pumped up and compared for last year, this team, they’re pretty much similar. We’ve got the talent, we got the guys, we got the pitching, we got the bullpen, so I think what we have compared to the other team last year, is pretty much similar to what we have,” Dotel said. “We’re pumped up, we’re excited and when you have a team like that, it’s exciting. It’s a good thing that’s going to happen. When your team is really, really pumped up and happy and believe, a lot of things can happen.”

Now both Dotel and Laird are back in the World Series with a different team.

“I don’t know if I am the good luck, but hopefully I am because we got one more step to go and hopefully things go right and hopefully we win the next step because that’s the really important one, win the next one. That’s the World Series championship. We just do that. I hope I am the good luck, me and G-Money,” Dotel said.

“That’s priceless. It’s priceless. It’s something that I’m here and I cannot believe that I’m back to back in the World Series with different teams. This is unbelievable because last year St. Louis, this year I go with the Tigers, American League. This is something that very, very — this is priceless for me. This is unbelievable for me.”

It’s not much different for Laird.

“It’s excited. I’m excited. Guys wait for this moment once in their career, I get an opportunity to do it twice. Words can’t describe how I feel right now,” Laird said. “This team is hot, and we’re ready to go. Like I said to Dotel, I said, ‘We don’t know how it feels to lose our last game of the season yet.’ Hope we don’t get that feeling this year.”

Email Matthew B. Mowery at and follow him on Twitter @matthewbmowery. Text keyword “Tigers” to 22700 to get updates sent to your phone. Msg & data rates may apply. Text HELP for help. Text STOP to cancel.


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