Tigers

Eric Thomas: Tiger Fans Have A Right To Be Frustrated

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Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. (File photo/Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. (File photo/Leon Halip/Getty Images)

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I’ve been marinating on why Tiger fans are a little listless this year, and I think I finally know why. The local media, including myself, wondered at times if Tiger fans are ungrateful.

Detroit has a team in the playoff hunt, and they have a much better than average shot of grabbing the AL Central crown.

But fans, in general, have a queasy feeling. Tiger fever is not detectable. In fact, the overall temperature of Tiger fans has been cool. Many scream about Jim Leyland, or a particular player that hate that week, rather than happy the fact that the team seems destined for the post season.

As for the media, we’re a victim of the times. We live in an age of instant opinion. The people paid for those opinions can only go on what unfolded on the field. There were times when the Tigers looked abysmal, getting swept by teams that are barely good enough to play in the majors.

They’ve been blanked by such notable names as Samuel Deduno and others who will probably be selling insurance in a couple of years. Hard to build an argument that a team is going places when they stink up the joint.

They have done just enough to keep themselves in the hunt, their nadirs have never been long. Their apexes haven’t been that long either.

For fans, its been difficult just to watch. The way in which they have been bad is what’s frustrating. The Tigers lead the league in hitting into double plays. There is nothing more frustrating than watching your team hit into a double play.

By nature, it can only happen when the team is starting to get guys on base. So you watch the game, feeling optimistic, then just as quick as the rally started you’re heading back to the dugout. It’s the kind of thing that makes you scream at the TV and make threatening comments on Twitter.

I don’t have a stat for this, but the Tigers have also left a lot of runners on base. Dozens of times, they left the bases loaded and didn’t score a single run in the process. When your team has bases loaded and no outs, then wind up not scoring a single run in the inning, you can see how fans might want to burn their hats in effigy.

What’s worse is the Tigers have done this several times, sometimes even in the space of a week. You can see why fans take to Twitter and fill Facebook with announcements that they will never ever watch this team again forever and ever and never again.

It’s been a season of near misses. Verlander had a no-hitter going into the 9th, long enough that the world started watching live, only to have a single up the middle. The bouncing into double plays. Leaving the bases loaded again. They finally part ways with Brandon Inge only to have him, personally, crush the Tigers in a series in Oakland.

Verlander starts the All-Star game and almost gets pulled. Valverde giving up seemingly 1,000 runs to the Rockies in a game that they were winning until he blew it, then the same again in Cleveland. The season of near misses is the reason I think that Cabby will miss the Triple Crown by inches, because its been going that way.

What do all the events lead to? Frustration. The team has done the bare minimum to get into this position, but at least they are in the post season. But the way they have done it has been ugly. It’s astounding to those of us who watch every day they got this far because that team is UGLY.

Some fans are expecting a world series this year, but I don’t. I expect a World Series next year, and I always did.

They spent the equivalent of a small country’s annual GDP on Prince Fielder, but he was a replacement player. Now, next year, they will have Prince, Miggy and Vmart.

They have figured out that Brennan Boesch just isn’t going to work out, and they will probably have a new closer and short stop. They know that Miggy can play third, and Garcia looks like he can contribute.

I also expect Quentin Berry to be an everyday player next year.

Next year is do or die. World Series win or bust next year. This year, I can live with just making the post season.

Having heat on the team is fine, but you gotta turn it up gradually. That’s how the game is played. I wrote off 2008-2010 as rebuilding years.

Next year, they gotta win it all.

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