Where do the Tigers go from here?

Jared Wickerham

Another high-profile exit could inspire the Detroit front office to dig even deeper in pursuit of the World Series

Part of me wants to see Detroit finally win the World Series so Mike Ilitch can stand down.

Part of me thinks the Tigers' inability to get a ring is eventually what's going to sink them.

Or maybe recency bias with Prince Fielder is skewing my view. He just had such an all-around-awful ALCS that it's easy to make more of it than a bad week. He really didn't show up in any of the three facets against Boston.

Hitting: He went 4-for-22 with two walks and five strikeouts, good for a .182/.280/.227 line. He did not drive in a run during the entire postseason.

Fielding: Two ugly miscues around first base led to the Tigers' defeat in Game 2.

Baserunning: This happened.

I mean.

Given the way his leg kicked out as he started his flop, I thought he might've been trying to draw an interference call. But I didn't see that in any of the quotes, so apparently he just had no idea where he was. The result: a baserunning blunder that even Alejandro De Aza couldn't whip up this year. His indecision cost the Tigers a run, and from that point on, Max Scherzer and friends spent the rest of the game on the ropes until Shane Victorino knocked them out.

This postseason flop comes after his most ordinary season to date (at least since he became a star). Granted, it still beat any full season by a White Sox hitter in 2013 -- .279/.362/.457 (120 OPS+) with 25 homers and 106 RBI -- but the Tigers are on the hook for $24 million per season through 2020. He drew enough boos to inspire Torii Hunter to defend his teammates, and if he can't escape this rut, things could get ugly.

He wasn't even supposed to be on the Tigers, but the injury to Victor Martinez created a temporary need for a DH, and Dave Dombrowski found a more-than-temporary solution for nine years and $214 million. If the Tigers won the World Series in 2006 ... or if the Rangers didn't beat them in six games in the 2011 ALCS .... would the Tigers have dropped all that money on Fielder before the start of the 2012 season?

Hard to say, but however it happened, the Tigers have $108 million tied up in five players next year. That kind of payroll allocation makes the stars-and-scrubs formula hard to shake (which is one of the reasons trading Scherzer is an idea), and outside of a full season of Jose Iglesias, they could have the same bullpen-and-defense problems that plagued them this year if they can't figure out a way to mix it up without ponying up.

Then again, with the Tigers coming up short, and after a tense series where their own errors were as much to blame as anything, it wouldn't be out of the question to see the Tigers devote even more resources even more to make that World Series happen. There are a lot of ways they can go, and that mix of desperation, payroll and trade chits seems to make Detroit the most unpredictable team in the AL Central this offseason.

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