The Detroit Tigers, who haven't been under any pressure all year after starting the season by winning 35 of their first 40 games, will be expected to dominate the American League playoffs, whether their opponent is Kansas City, Minnesota, or California. Anything less and Manager Sparky Anderson's popularity in Detroit is apt to fall somewhere around the level of the Edsel. One thing Anderson has going for him in the playoffs is that the Tigers, by clinching their division early, have given Sparky a chance to arrange his pitching rotation any way he wants.
Anderson has already said that he will open the best-of-five playoffs next Tuesday night with pitcher Jack Morris, a 19-game winner who is back in the groove again after a shoulder injury reduced his effectiveness for a while.
Detroit, baseball's first team to lead its division wire-to-wire since the 1927 New York Yankees, helped Anderson set a managerial record with its 100-plus victories. Sparky has become the first manager ever to win 100 games in both leagues. He previously reached the century mark three times with the Cincinnati Reds. What happened to division champs?
If you are wondering why all four of last year's division champions came unraveled this season, the most popular reason given is the unavailability of key players due to injury or other reasons, with complacency (some call it false hustle) also high on the list.
Los Angeles, for example, never overcame the loss of pitchers Jerry Reuss and Steve Howe in the National League West. The Dodgers also had trouble getting that key hit, with the result that they left an inordinate number of runners on base.
In the NL East, Philadelphia got very few complete games from its pitching staff and lost so much faith in the defense of shortstop Ivan DeJesus that it probably will trade him. The Phillies may switch second baseman Juan Samuel to center field in 1985, since Samuel also had a lot of problems defensively.
In the AL East Baltimore never recovered from Detroit's super-fast start. Several of the Orioles' best hitters also had off years. Ken Singleton, who had 84 RBIs last year, has driven in 50 percent fewer runs.
And in the AL West, Chicago, its vaunted pitching staff a thing of the past, ordered too many bats with holes the size of baseballs in them. Plucked from the rumor vine
Here are some rumored personnel changes blowing in baseball's late-season breezes: Kansas City third baseman George Brett to the New York Yankees in a multiple offseason trade ... Billy Martin gets a two-year contract, plus the right to approve all trades, as Montreal's new manager ... Pedro Guerrero of the Dodgers to the Expos for catcher Gary Carter ... the White Sox to switch pitcher LaMarr Hoyt (1983 AL Cy Young Award winner) back to the bullpen ... Milwaukee to replace Manager Rene Lachemann with Cubs' coach Don Zimmer ... Pitcher Bob Welch of the Dodgers to Texas for third baseman Buddy Bell ... and the wildest rumor of all: Atlanta Owner Ted Turner toying with the idea of giving a two-year contract to California's Reggie Jackson to manage the Braves and pinch hit. At any rate, present manager Joe Torre is gone. Elsewhere around the major leagues
* From General Manager Jack McKeon of the San Diego Padres, whose multiple-trades have turned the team into a winner: ''When I joined the Padres front office staff in 1980, I was pretty much burned out as a manager. The idea of trying to build a team for somebody else really appealed to me. But now that I've been away from managing for a while, I think someday I'd like to try it again.'' McKeon made himself a piece of minor league history years ago when, after hitting into a double play, he raced past first base and eased his frustration by climbing one of the light poles in right field!
* One of this year's ironies is that the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres, who will meet in the National League playoffs next week, began the 1984 season as the only NL teams which had never appeared in these league championship series since their inception in 1969. The Cubs, who finally clinched the NL East title Monday night via a 4-1 victory over Pittsburgh, hadn't won a championship of any kind since their 1945 NL pennant, long before the advent of the playoffs. The Padres had never won a title of any sort in their 15-year history until they clinched the NL West crown last week.
* The following sign appeared recently in the kitchen of a popular Chicago restaurant: ''Any employee wishing to miss work because of a crisis in his family had better notify the office by at least 11 a.m. on the day of the game.'' Cub pennant fever - it's wonderful!