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Barely Alive

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Greg Bowman

It looks like Deja Vu all over again for the Tigers. For the fourth straight season, it appears the Tigers will collapse in the second half of the year. Even in 2006, when the Tigers went to the World Series,  the team went into a tailspin in the second half and wound up finishing in second place, but managed to get the Wild Card spot in the AL Central.

Manager Jim Leyland says if he’s the problem, then he should be fired. But  owner Mike Illitch has said that Leyland and President Dave Dombrowski will be back next year. Of course, owners say a lot of things and change their minds,but that has not usually been the case with Illitch.  It’s my guess that hitting coach Lloyd McClendon will not be back.  The Tigers hitting has been awful, especially the last few weeks.  And now even Miguel Cabrera isn’t doing much,  since teams know they can pitch around him. And that’s what they’ve been doing.  It’s incredibly frustrating for fans to watch the Tigers approach, or lack of one, when they come up to bat.  In one inning on Sunday, I watched the Tigers hit a foul pop up on the first pitch; the next batter hit another pop up on the second pitch, then the third batter hit a weak grounder to end the winning.  The coaches can’t bat the players,  but they can’t allow players to keep taking strikes, swinging at balls, and leaving runners stranded in scoring position game after game.

Brennan Boesch, who was so terrific in the first half of the season, has been mired in a slump that has seen his average fall more than 60 points.  He finally hit a home run against the Angels this weekend, his first in more than two months.  So let’s hope that might help get him turned around.  And Brandon Inge is back, with Carlos Guillen due to return to the Tigers on Monday. But with the Tigers under 500 and far out of first place, it may be too little too late.

If you’re a baseball fan, and I assume you are or you wouldn’t be reading this blog, I highly recommend you read “Willie Mays: A Life, A Legend.”  It’s a fascinating insight into a man  that many believe may be the greatest  all around player ever to play game. Ernie Harwell said that Mays was the best player he ever saw, and Ernie watched all the greats.   Unfortunately for those who grew up in Michigan,  we didn’t get to see him play here, except for the 1971 All Star game at Tiger Stadium.  Most fans know him for “The Catch,”   Mays amazing basket catch in the 1954 World Series that helped lead the Giants to the title.  But he was so much more than that: A real five tool player who could hit, catch, throw, field and steal bases.   Like Jackie Robinson, Mays was one of the pioneers who helped integrate baseball.   And although he was not outspoken and did not take part in civil rights marches,   Mays in his own quiet way helped open the door for other black and Latin players,  like Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda.  And he hit 660 home runs in the pre-steroid era that was largely dominated by pitchers.   It truly was “The Golden Age of Baseball.”   And while there still many great players in today’s game, I wonder if kids are still awestruck by players like A-Rod, like we would have been if we’d seen Mays or Al Kaline or Willie Horton when we were young.  Unfortunately, I think we know the answer to that question.

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