By: Eric Thomas
Thank you, José Iglesias. You’ve saved August for us. Monday night, in an otherwise ho-hum affair where Chris Sale gave remaining White Sox fans some hope for the future, Jose Iglesias barehanded a ball that bounced off Doug Fister’s glove and made a play. Everyone sitting—stood up. Hashtag web-gem wow. Did we even need to watch the rest of the game? How many times did you rewind it? Had to be three, right?
Poor Dan Dickerson was charged with describing what he saw and he sounded on the edge of aneurysm. “He was falling forward, then he barehanded it, scooped it, flipped it, all while still in the, but he wasn’t even looking at the, and the, with the, how the…[slow degradation into vowel sounds while his face melts]”
Jim Price, “Wow.”
The Tigers have been almost annoyingly efficient as of late, leaving little controversy for famously acrimonious Tiger fans to complain about. Even the bullpen is good. Is that even possible? Has that ever happened? Even when Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney were blasting through lineups, the Tigers still had Todd Jones to make things interesting. The “Fire Leyland” crowd has to sit there, arms out in a surrender V, making sputter sounds and shaking their heads. Prince Fielder has been struggling, but he has a habit of getting a clutch hit right before they pull out the pitchforks and torches. He’s hopefully passed his nadir. Prince’s struggles have passed into the background, because of the new guy’s fireworks. Between that and Cabrera’s offensive show, the Tigers have arguably the best offensive and defensive weapons in the game.
Iglesias was an inspired acquisition, on par to Dombrowski’s trade for Miguel Cabrera. His leather flashes like a liquid whip, his balance seems straight out of the Matrix, his no-look throws prove there is no spoon. He can provide a spark from defense; his dropping average should be irrelevant to Tigers fans. He’s an easy out, but he turns infield singles into outs. His Mendoza line might be .150.
If nothing else, Iglesias gives us something to cheer. The Tigers are simply too talented for any team in the American League Central to catch them. The Royals are red hot for the moment, but so were the Indians a week ago. Water finds its level. Both of those teams—while they are far better than predicted—are a few years away from threatening. Tiger fans are waiting around for the playoffs. As great as Miguel Cabrera has been, and he’s established himself as one of the game’s all-time great hitters, the stakes don’t feel very high. It’s going through the motions. When you expect to make the playoffs, this is what happens.
So thank you, José Iglesias, for making August fun to watch. Tiger fans will spend their time with feet up on the ottoman, popcorn in lap, DVR remote within arm’s reach, watching Miggy rake and José pick. We can look at this as the deep breath before the plunge. September is only a few weeks away, and October is almost an embarrassment of riches. It’s going to be firing on all cylinders in a few weeks—you’re going to have trouble remembering your children’s names.
For now, Cuban youngster not named Puig has the spotlight. You’re going to tell your kids this years from now. You get to watch Iglesias play defense and Miggy at the plate. Every day. The Tigers arguably have the best players in baseball on either side of the ball.
It’s going to be a few more months before we know how this ends, but one thing is clear. This team is fun to watch.