By: Eric Thomas
Jose Iglesias is the latest injury, out indefinitely now with fractures in both legs. The Tigers are slowly shedding starters as they approach opening day, seeming impossibly snake-bit, and fans are going to have to face the music: the team might not be as good as they’ve been in the past few years. It’s hard to say if Tiger fans have the stomach for it. Fans have had trouble in the past few years when they were good.
You’d never know it if you listened to fans, but the Tigers have gone deep in the playoffs the last four years. Fire up your Twitter or read a few blogs and you’ll be convinced it’s 2003 all over again. One wonders how many “Fire Leyland” tweets will still ring across the blogosphere, even though Leyland left the team last year. Pirates fans nearly ran through the streets naked after their team made the playoffs. Tiger fans felt the season a failure because they “only” made their third ALCS in three years.
This season, on paper, certainly at least the start of it, looks troubling. The Tigers had crossed the line of allowable minuses a few before Andy Dirks, but losing Iglesias, that’s when the Tigers need to start panicking. On opening day, the ENTIRE infield will be different. Five out of eight position players will be playing the position for the first time as a Tiger, except for Miggy, who hasn’t played first base in three years. Add to that the fact that there is no timetable for the young short stop’s return and the bad gets worse. The Tigers are in trouble, and all the—don’t call it—payroll shedding they did in the off-season looks even more terrible in hindsight.
The only upside is an irrational one, that the team was ill-conceived as murderer’s row. There are some who argue that runs can be manufactured through steals and the occasional suicide squeeze. The Tigers had all the mobility of pontoon boats last year and it reflected on the base paths. Will the addition of Rajai Davis add speed to a team that so severely lacked it in the past?
Oh, Davis was scratched from yesterday’s game. So was Anibal Sanchez. The team hasn’t mentioned any injury yet, and they claim they’re not concerned—but they took their time telling us about Iglesias, too. Bad got worse, again. And it’s not even April.
The Tigers spent the last few years in luxury’s lap. Prince Fielder is available? Here’s a jersey with his name and a check. Torii Hunter is a free agent? How much does he want? Anibal Sanchez is due a raise, let’s go get the Brinks truck and leave him the keys. Even though the time of the feast, the fans griped along the way. If a single game was lost, they cried for retribution. (“JV NEEDS TO GO TO TOLEDO!!”)
How will they react when the team actually struggles with a banged up lineup and depth players? It’s not clear, but it might not be pretty if Prince starts jacking home runs in his new home, which is likely to happen. The Tigers are in an unfamiliar place right now: they lack talent and depth. June could get ugly.