I’m establishing it right now. The Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics have a rivalry. Heck, I’ll even put this series ahead of last year’s ALCS (which established my pure, undeniable hatred for the franchise in Arlington). The A’s and Tigers have something that dates back to the days of Reggie Jackson and Mickey Lolich. It’s one of the best kinds of rivalries in sports: a postseason rivalry.
Every rivalry begins with two teams (sometimes equal; sometimes an underdog and a favorite) that compete for something at stake (a championship, a regular-season record, home-field advantage). College football has Michigan-Ohio State. College basketball has Duke-North Carolina. The NFL has Chicago-Green Bay. The NBA has Boston-Los Angeles.
However, baseball is different. There are actually a lot of rivalries that make up baseball instead of one marquee matchup. There’s regional matchups (Tigers-White Sox, Yankees-Red Sox), inter-league matchups (Cardinals-Royals, Athletics-Giants, Nationals-Orioles), and, the best kind, postseason matchups (Twins-Yankees, Pirates-Braves, Tigers-Athletics).
What we have is a postseason rivalry. Both teams have impressive fanbases and good teams to boot. The Tigers finished strong in the AL Central and claimed their second consecutive division title. The A’s, however, were the talk of baseball as they swept away the Rangers en route to their first AL West championship since 2006. The best moments in each of the team’s histories have often come against one another. The A’s took out the Tigers back in 1972 in the ALCS in an emotional series for both sides, en route to their World Series triumph over the Cincinnati Reds.
But down the line 34 years later, the Tigers would instead triumph in another emotional series. The 2006 ALCS matched up the upstart Tigers against a solid, gritty team in the AL West champion, A’s. The Tigers would not be denied as they swept the A’s in one of the most dramatic Game 4 finishes in American League history.
Enter 2012. Both teams have their eyes set on a larger goal than just making the playoffs. But to address the point of this article, I do believe we have a rivalry on our hands. Both teams have a history with one another. Both teams have defining characteristics (A’s- youth, resilience, teamwork; Tigers- fundamentals, star power, flash) and have a realistic chance at winning the World Series. Additionally, both teams also have a realistic shot at making it back to this point next year.
So, on the afternoon before Game 4, I’m officially recognizing the Oakland-Detroit rivalry. This series is going to be exciting, on a baseball level. But on a Detroit level, it will be very satisfying to clinch on their field.