Tigers Are Fun Again (For A Change)
By Eric Thomas
I decided to just enjoy this win. The Tigers 700th turnaround win was a roller coaster, characterizing a season filled with embarrassing lows. Who am I kidding? It was a GAME of embarrassing lows. In the end the crowd rose to their feet out of seats worth their price because of a single flip of the bat.
Tigers fans have been through it this year. The singing of Prince Fielder caused a February party in the D. Grocery store lines and bars buzzed with anticipation for the year of the bomb. Fistfuls of yen were slapped confidently to the masthead because people were gonna see the bigs go yard. They lined the turnstiles to see a team with SIX All-Stars.
The lineup was discussed in hushed tones. The words ‘world’ and ‘series’ were tossed around. Even in the beginning of the season an AL Central crown was a foregone conclusion. The Tigers were playoff bound and if you raised a finger to protest you were dismissed as a babbling idiot that didn’t know baseball. The Tiger lineup was called ‘That’ by everyone in town. You are going to do a lot of damage with ‘That’ lineup.
The tsunami of reality crashed to the shore and dismantled everything, dragging the wood and cars of our expectations to a watery grave. Awful defensively, they haven’t pitched well outside of Verlander and they struggle to get one run at times. With ‘That’ line-up. Some Tiger fans tied their hopes around V-Mart’s return like that would finally turn the tide in this swamp of sagging bats and defensive disasters. The doctors suffocated that optimism.
The final game of the series against the Twins found them in a terrible spot. Jim Leyland apparently slept on his office after deciding to bat Ryan Rayburn in the two spot. If the couch in his office is what drove him to that lunacy, perhaps he needs a new couch. Ryan Rayburn has been a consistent out this year, perhaps not worth the rare instance when does something. I am sorry. A major league player that hits a sacrifice to move Jackson from second to third does not deserve to be carried back to the dugout. Rayburn is the only player allowed to work out his problems in the major leagues. Ryan Rayburn wasn’t even a good Mudhen this year. He hasn’t figured out what his problem is. The best you can hope for is that he only gets himself out.
Outrage in the two spot notwithstanding, there was still plenty to nauseate you in this game. Porcello, Prince Fielder and Gerald Laird collided on a pop up bunt that made everyone in metro Detroit shake their heads. The defense actually had a decent day throwing guys out at the plate, but it certainly wasn’t encouraging. Porcello had a good day ‘ERA’-wise but he sure gave up a lot of hits. He might be the first Tigers pitcher this year bailed out by the defense.
But then, in the 8th inning, Leyland shook off the dust in his head from the couch. Austin Jackson legs out a triple, and Leyland sends Berry to the plate. If it really was a tossup for Leyland between Berry and Rayburn, why did he send the career minor leaguer to the plate for the win? Berry, as he is known to do, worked the count to a walk and Miggy hits a grounder up the middle. It was awesome. Cabrera was a welcome respite from the dark recesses of Tiger tragedy in the past two games. It was disappointing to see the dearth of long fly balls in the first game with the Twins but yesterday and today was awesome. The big man came up in the clutch and ties the game for the Tigers.
For most games in 2012, this is where Tiger fans hearts are. The Tigers have heated up a rally only to have it fall apart totally, whole-hearted and complete numerous times. In most games this would have been the at bat that hits into a double play and everyone throws insults and vocal cords at the bums who get paid millions to play a game. Most games this year, we have left the park trying to soothe the feeling of horror in our stomachs. We drive to the store and restock the beer, and buy a bottle to make us forget.
Prince took a pitch, and swung at the next. No doubt. He flipped the bat down with dismissive certainty. I stood up in my house. I had my hands in the air. I TIVO’ed it 30 times, at least. I laughed harder. I saw Miggy’s reaction of first base. He and I had much of the same reaction. It was a beam of radiant light in cobwebbed darkness that has been this season. For the first time since the opening series against the Red Sox, it was fun to be a Tiger fan.
I am not looking too much into this. I have written the ‘turnaround’ twitter update at least 40 times this season and I am not making that mistake again. I am not enduring ubiquitous Nelson ‘ha has’ that follow the people who allow positive vibes to leak into my consciousness though osmosis. I refuse to be tricked again. I refuse to find myself following this team again like the pied piper only to be led to river and drowned.
But Thursday was fun. I’m just going to enjoy that.