By: Eric Thomas
It’s a blessing that the Tigers have started losing. It got a little too quiet around here.
When they went on the road and demolished American League East teams one after another, Tiger fans didn’t really know what to do with it. Many sat in front of their TVs and watched a series of relatively easy wins, making small sheepish thumb circles and wondering what to put on Twitter. Many have found themselves slack-jaw, staring at the TV, thread of drool running the distance from their ankles to their chin, unstimulated, waiting for some mistake to rail against or a pitcher to load onto the spit.
Fans have spent the last couple of years swearing off the Tigers despite the team spending the last four years in the ALCS because LEYLAND NEEDS TO BE FIRED NOW. “Who is the new Brandon Inge?” is a phrase that has been uttered among fans. The fact that Inge phrase even exists is amazing. It represents an empty stockade, and Tiger fans are always eager to load someone into the blocks. So when the Tigers galloped out to a 27-12 record to start the season (THREE DAYS AGO), many fans who’ve carried their pitchforks and torches to Comerica found themselves with little to discuss. The stockade stood empty.
Fans awoke when Phil Coke trotted to the mound in game three of the series against the Indians. They swept off the pillory, and stood with drunken grins. Al Albuquerque’s balk-off hit their collected blood brain barrier with force and trolling Detroit fans came alive. They found their pitchforks and torches in the garage. Robbie Ray’s meltdown in game one against the Rangers was gasoline on said torches.
Lost in all this is that baseball is a very, very, very long season. We’ve seen the Tigers outright stink before—last year they fluctuated wildly—only to pull it together in the end and win the AL Central. While many fans point out that the AL Central is among baseballs worst, they deny Detroit’s post-season successes against teams who aren’t the AL Central. Is the current team better than last year’s team? Absolutely! Does an isolated sample of a few games at the end of a long road trip erase what has been an otherwise wildly successful May? No! Does Joe Nathan deserve to sit in the stockade after he blew ONE SAVE? NO.
Memo to Brad Ausmus: ignore us. All of us. It’s your first season as manager of the Tigers and you need to understand that this is how we love. Tigers fans love their team like Lennie loves rabbits. You may not have heard this side of us early on, and don’t take it too personally.
Take Robbie Ray, who up until his start against the Texas Rangers was undefeated as a starter in the major leagues. He struggled mightily in the third start of his career, and my phone kept going off. One person, who shall remain nameless, actually sent this text: “Robbie Ray looked good,” he wrote. “Welcome to a team not named Minnesota or Houston. You See Fister Tuesday? 7 innings 2 runs vs Johnny Cueto and the reds [sic]” The excitement almost POURS out of that text, because this is how we love.
Some criticize Detroit as primarily a football town, unable to understand the fits and tantrums of a common baseball season. Legendary teams go on losing streaks. The 1984 Tigers had a few four game losing streaks in the regular season. Murderer’s row lost four in a row in August of 1927. It happens, but Detroit fans completely freak out. I guess it gives us character.
We’ve seen what the team is capable of, and we shouldn’t adjust our expectations because of the sudden slump. At least they didn’t have to face Prince in the process. That would have been just too much.
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