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10/14/06 11:55 PM ET

Mailbag: Who's replacing Casey?

Jim Molony answers fans' questions from ALCS Game 4

DETROIT -- Tiger fans are enjoying the sweep sensation of heading to the World Series while A's fans are left to wonder what went wrong for their team as the American League Championship Series came to an end on Saturday night.

I don't think Ken Macha should have stayed with Huston Street with two on and two out. Where was Joe Blanton this entire game? This series was lost because the A's didn't do enough to score when it counts, make a big pitch when it counts, or make a defensive play when it counts. The Tigers seemed to get every break and pretty much played mistake-free baseball. The A's will be back, the Tigers look more like one-season wonders.
-- John, Concord, Calif.

Blanton got up at one point during the game but didn't warm up. Street was going to be the guy tonight, one way or the other. Unfortunately for the A's, it was the wrong way.

Now that the Tigers are in the World Series, and if the Mets make it also, what do you think the Tigers' chances are of NOT winning, because the Mets and the Tigers are practically equal. Mets may have a slightly better lineup. Fielding is both virtually great. And the bullpens have been the best in their leagues all season. But the Tigers have better starting pitching. What are the chances the Tigers lose, because if the Cardinals make it, it's a no doubter to the Tigers.
-- Dan, Mich.

I don't think it's a no-doubter the Tigers will beat either team. Detroit will be favored over either NL team, they have the home-field advantage, and the pitching will be well-rested and that could be an even bigger advantage if the NLCS goes six or seven games. The Tigers are on a roll right now, and it is hard to envision them losing the World Series.

How can a team that has had the heart and drive all year long play that terrible in the ALCS? Did they not realize that this series was the one before the World Series, not the one after? Why did they play like there was nothing to play for? Was getting past the ALDS enough to hang it up? I will give the Tigers their credit, but come on, they are not a better team than the A's. Why did the A's look like they were on auto-pilot the entire series?
-- Joe, Calif.

I disagree with you, I think the Tigers are a better team than the A's. They won five of nine during the regular season and four straight in the postseason. Losing Mark Ellis and being without Bobby Crosby hurt, but the fact is the Tigers outplayed the A's in all phases of the game.

Why wasn't Bobby Kielty in the starting lineup against the Tiger's left-handed starters in Games 1 and 3? Bobby usually hits lefties well!
-- Denise, Calif.

Ken Macha wanted to stay with the same trio of outfielders, so Kielty stayed on the bench except for a pinch-hitting appearance.

Why are the A's pitchers constantly pounding the outside part of the plate? The Tigers are simply going to the opposite field. It's not rocket science.
-- John, Menlo Park, Calif.

The A's haven't thrown inside as much since Game 1, when the Tigers had four extra-base hits, including a pair of home runs.

I heard something on Friday's ESPN radio broadcast that I feel kind of bad about. Joe Morgan and Jon Miller were commenting during the game that there is some "blame talk" going on in the clubhouse. I feel bad because one of the reasons my family enjoys being A's fans is because of the team "chemistry," and how much it's reported that the players enjoy the atmosphere in Oakland and playing together. Was the radio talk just embellishment, or is there truth to it?
-- Robert, Hollister, Calif.

I haven't seen or heard of any finger-pointing in the Oakland clubhouse. Frustration? Sure. Disappointment, obviously. But I'm not aware of anything more serious.

Dumb question of the day. I know that the winning team has a big celebration, but why in baseball do they not walk the field and shake hands like they do in hockey?
-- Walt, Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Who would have thought hockey could be so civil?

Even if Sean Casey gets a clean bill of health for the World Series, shouldn't they bite the bullet and carry Chris Shelton as insurance? Although Carlos Guillen has done a fine job at first base replacing Casey, it seems that it would be better to have the extra first sacker on the roster. Also, regarding next season for the Tigers, shouldn't the Tigers pursue another powerful left-handed bat, especially if they don't retain Casey? And, if so, who are the likely candidates?
-- Mark, Virginia

I would be surprised if Shelton isn't on the World Series roster. As far as next year, the Tigers will look for a left-handed bat, especially if Casey isn't re-signed. Some of the potential free-agent first baseman who will be available this winter besides Casey include: Aubrey Huff, Phil Nevin, Shea Hillenbrand, Nomar Garciaparra and Doug Mientkiewicz. Casey, Huff and Mientkiewicz are the only left-handed batters in that group. Huff, in my opinion, would be a good fit for the Tigers lineup if Casey isn't brought back.

Do you think it is amazing the A's made it to the ALCS considering all the injuries they encountered? Their best pitcher pitched only 50 2/3 innings, the middle infield being out injured and all the other injuries. Taking nothing away from the Tigers, they are good, but not great. The Tigers got hot at the right time. Just like last year's White Sox.
-- Tim, Illinois

It is amazing that the A's lost more than 500 player games to the disabled list and struggled during the first half of the season. Most people did not expect the A's to turn things around and reach the postseason. I know they didn't play well in this series, but that doesn't erase what they did to get here.

I know Billy Beane and the Oakland brain trust had a meeting to decide the Game 2 starter and it came out as a 5-5 tie. So does that mean that Billy voted for Esteban Loaiza since Beane is the one who makes the calls and Loaiza is the one that started the game? How can Beane or any other decision-maker go with Loaiza ahead of Rich Harden and Dan Haren? -- Chad, Honolulu

I believe Loaiza's performance in his ALDS start was the deciding factor in his favor.

I have been a fan of Oakland for over 25 years. It's been quite a struggle to be a loyal fan, so I understand the fans' frustrations. This team was a surprise in beating the Twins. I am, however, quite surprised they had so much trouble with the Tigers. The Tigers caught a lot of breaks and played mistake-free baseball. The A's played poorly. That being said, I am very disappointed with Oakland's starting pitching. I would have made Haren my No. 2 starter and Blanton my No. 3. They are horses and have been more consistent throughout the season. I would have made Loaiza my long reliever. I know it's hindsight, but I never trusted Loaiza -- even against Minnesota. Would you have thought the same?
-- Craig, New York

I would have gone Barry Zito, Haren and Harden. Never been a big Loaiza fan, but he was fair against the Twins.

Can any roster moves be made between the ALCS and the World Series? I would assume that Casey is done for the year? My choice would be to add Shelton and drop Neifi Perez. I have not liked the addition of Perez at all to the Tigers. He is a great fielder but can't hit.
-- Dwayne, Ontario, Canada

Casey will likely miss the World Series. Only players already eligible on the postseason roster can be substituted.

The problem the A's have -- and I am a big A's fan -- is that they don't have enough energy players. The A's have two that I can think of: Nick Swisher and Milton Bradley. But both of these guys are streaky. Former A's like [Miguel] Tejada, Eric Byrnes and Tim Hudson, the fire was the same no matter how they played. Watching the past three games, I feel the A's need an energy boost. -- Liam, Forest Knolls, Calif.

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The A's admittedly looked flat, but Bradley had a good ALCS and these same players hit well enough in the ALDS.

I wonder how many Londoners are staying up late to will the Tigers to win tonight. I'm one. And I'm not even from Detroit. And I'm a girl. OK, how many? Any idea?
-- Caroline, London

That's a question I can't answer, but I'm sure you're not alone. Read on.

I'm watching the game in England, and I was just wondering if you could answer me a couple of questions? First off, is the Tigers reaching the World Series the biggest season-to-season swing for games won and lost? And second, if they do win, will the Tigers win be the biggest surprise in the last few years? If not, what would be your biggest surprise win? Thanks for your time and great coverage of the playoffs.
-- Ray, Carterton, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

Detroit's regular-season record this year was 24 games better than 2005, and if the Tigers go on to win the World Series they will match the 2002 Angels, who improved 24 games from the the year before to win the World Series, as the biggest season-to-season improvement in recent years and the biggest since the New York Mets won the World Series in 1969. The "Amazin' Mets" were 100-62 during the '69 regular season, a 27-game improvement over their 1968 record (73-89). I do think, considering the Tigers lost 119 games in 2003, and the fact that they were huge underdogs in the ALDS, that this would be a bigger surprise than the Angels, if not the '69 Mets.

You'll think I'm crazy, but I don't know if Harden can stay healthy for a full year with his violent delivery. What do you think about Harden as a major player in the bullpen next year? Can you imagine Harden in the bullpen as a shut-down guy pitching two innings every two or three days? This would keep his innings down, he would have an impact on more games, and maybe he could make it a whole year. Something is better than nothing, right?
-- Jeff Arkin, Benicia, Calif.

I don't think you're crazy, and Harden as a reliever is something more than one scout has mentioned in the past. I think he would be an ideal setup man with his stuff, but great stuff does not always mean instant success in that role. He might be the next Joel Zumaya, or he could be the next Kyle Farnsworth. To me it's worth exploring, but the A's seem intent on Harden as a starter. Maybe Harden will be the next Hudson.

My son asked me how the World Series got its name. What is the true story behind the naming of the World Series.
-- Jim, Bentley, Western Australia

Prior to 1903, the series was known as the Championship of the United States. That year the Providence team was described in several publications as "World Champions." When the newly formed American League came along, a series was set up for the league's champion to play the National League champion. A new name, "World Series," was coined for the series and it stuck.

The Tigers have been considered underdogs for the last two series. Will they still be considered underdogs playing either St. Louis or the New York Mets?
-- Jason, Fairview, Mich.

According to oddsmakers, the AL champion (probably because the AL has the home-field advantage) is the current favorite over the NL champion, regardless of who wins between the Mets and Cardinals. The AL has swept the last two World Series, Boston in 2004 and Chicago last season.

Where do you think Zito will go when this is all said and done?
-- Randi, California

I don't think even Barry knows the answer to that right now, but if I had to pick a destination that seems to be a fit and makes the most sense based on some of the other considerations, I would have to go with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Both New York teams, however, will almost certainly pursue the left-hander this winter.

I know Casey is out of the ALCS, but what is his status for the World Series? If he cannot make the Series, what are the Tigers' roster options for his spot?
-- Rob, Louisville, Ky.

Shelton is the obvious possibility to be activated for the next round. Carlos Guillen, who filled in at first base during the ALCS, could stay there. Those are the only two players with first-base experience who are eligible to be on Detroit's World Series roster.

During last night's broadcast, while discussing the injury to Casey, FOX's commentators said that Shelton had played the next most games at first base for Detroit, but was not even on the playoff roster. Well during the game, when one of the cameras was on the dugout, Chris Shelton was seated in the classic Tigers blue and white jacket next to a player on our active roster. So what is the deal on Shelton?
-- Sara, Michigan

Shelton isn't on the active roster for this series, but that doesn't mean he can't be in uniform and sit in the dugout. Mike Maroth, also not on the ALCS roster, is doing the same thing.

Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.