Winning isn't everything.

Winning everything might be, I suppose. But all the winning the Tigers did last fall clearly wasn't enough for Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder and the rest of the defending American League champs.

So, as the Tigers gather in Lakeland, Fla., for the official start of spring training next week, that's the underlying sentiment: The only thing missing for a team that seems to have everything is the only thing that matters.

"We're here for one reason: To win the game at the end." said Cabrera, the reigning AL MVP and baseball's first Triple Crown winner in 45 years. "That's our goal, talking about all 25 guys."

And considering all but a few of those guys are returning from last season, including all the critical pieces, the ring's the thing for the Tigers in 2013, without question. They won their division and the pennant before making a World Series appearance last October that ended all too abruptly with a four-game sweep at the hands of the Giants.

"I think it does add to it," Verlander said when asked about the residual effects of that success and failure. "You get that taste, and that desire. And you can draw from the disappointment, I guess, to come so close.

"I mean, you've got to look at the big picture and realize what we accomplished last year was great. But it wasn't the ultimate goal. We were four wins away from the ultimate goal."

The challenge for manager Jim Leyland is making sure his players understand they're probably 100 or so wins away from that ultimate goal. Maybe more, depending on how the Central Division race shapes up.

Last year, Leyland had all sorts of worries heading into the season, trying to figure out what to do at second base, and in the outfield, and with the back end of the rotation, and so on.

This year, there are a few issues, most notably the unsettled closer's role in the bullpen, with rookie Bruce Rondon the fingers-crossed answer for now, and the three-way battle for the starting job in left field, where Andy Dirks should get the nod over Brennan Boesch and Avisail Garcia.

From The Detroit News: