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AL Championship From A Detroit Perspective

Red Sox players stretch during a team workout at Fenway Park in preparation for Game 1 of the AL championship series. (Elise Amendola/AP)

Red Sox players stretch during a team workout at Fenway Park in preparation for Game 1 of the AL championship series. (Elise Amendola/AP)

BOSTON — The American League Championship Series will begin Saturday night at Fenway. The Red Sox open the best of seven series against the Detroit Tigers.

The Sox made it to the ALCS by dispatching the Rays in four games so Boston fans have some cause for optimism, but so do Detroit fans. This is their third ALCS in three years.

Anna Clark, a Michigan native who lived in Boston in the mid-2000s, is a freelance journalist who writes about sports for Grantland. She joined WBUR’s Weekend Edition to share the Detroit perspective.

Sharon Brody: What do you think Red Sox Nation needs to understand about your Tigers? What is it you think maybe we don’t get?

Anna Clark: Oh my goodness, I think the biggest thing to know about the Detroit Tigers, and certainly the Detroit Tigers’ fan base, is that there is a rapacious capacity for joy here. There is a lot of  powerful spirit that I think is behind the team, in the city, and I think that there’s a lot of momentum heading into this next series.

You speak of the Detroit fans’ capacity for joy and yet, I’m wondering, I mean the headlines generated by Detroit have been not exactly Chamber of Commerce stuff lately. You know, filing for bankruptcy, having the former mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, sentenced to 28 years in prison in a big corruption scandal. Then again, the Tigers are attracting a lot of positive attention. So, give us a sense of how important this team is in the community.

It’s absolutely true that it has been a very intense year in Detroit. Every year that goes by and you think it’s generated the worst of the headlines, it seems like there’s going to be… That we head into one where there’s more. And we’re definitely moving through the fire of transformation right now. There’s no getting around the fact that sports in this community is a huge factor that really does build a lot of really powerful, joyful, community among people from a lot of different kind of backgrounds.  It does give people space to be playful and exultant and excited. And the Tigers have just certainly been coming through just at the time that a lot of us need them. But I also want to be very careful and note that baseball, as magical as it is, it ultimately is just a game and we don’t have to make a metaphor to make it amazing and important. By virtue of it being a game, that makes it worth paying attention to.

Right. You’re a lifelong Tigers fan but, I understand you’ve also lived near Fenway Park. And I’m wondering how you would describe the different vibes of these two teams and their fans and sort of the general experience of baseball in Detroit and in Boston.

They’re both full of people who are passionate, excited, these are both sports communities where fandom is passed down through generations. That really does create a different kind of mood in the stadiums, outside the parks, in the neighborhoods and things like that, so that’s something you have in common. But I think one thing that seems to be distinct, in my mind at least, is that, at least in Detroit, a lot of the values that are really embraced by the fans, you know, in their game, tend to be a lot of the values that I think really shape Detroit in a lot of fundamental ways. So, work ethic and loyalty and all these sorts of down-to-earth values I think have played a pretty pivotal role in making the city, and also have turned out to be the kind of things that we love most about our players and our team.

Are you ready to go out on a limb and make your prediction for the series?

I think Detroit’s going to win in seven. I think that our pitching lineup is just tremendous. And it’s the oldest rule in baseball that good pitching beats good hitting. I think their bats are beginning to wake up, which has been what’s been holding us back over the last month or so, even coming back into the regular season and I just think it’s our year. I mean, we’ve been consistently showing up in the playoffs the last few years, we’ve been getting close and haven’t quite gotten there. I think the players that we have in our core group are really ready to bring the first World Series title to Detroit since 1984 so, I think we’re ready to go.

Alright then, in an accent-off, who wins? Detroit or Boston?

I gotta go with Boston. There’s just no comparing. I know we say our A’s funny over here in the Midwest but, Boston’s Boston.

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