By: Brian Chapman
Tigers fans are feeling pretty good about their team right now. They had no confidence in their bullpen, then Dave Dombrowski traded for Joakim Soria, Phil Coke somehow became a lights out reliever and Joe Nathan has only fallen apart once in the last five weeks. Fans wanted the team to respond to the A’s acquisition of Jon Lester and Dombrowski traded for 2012 AL Cy Young award winner David Price. Experts at CBSSports.com, MLB.com and ESPN.com have the Tigers in the top four of their power rankings. Sports betting website Bovada gives the Tigers the second best odds to win the World Series at 5/1 (tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers and trailing the Oakland Athletics at 9/2.) Based on all that, it’s hard not to puff out your chest a little bit.
There’s just one thing the Tigers have failed to do.
I’m not talking about winning in October. That month is still two months away. I’m talking about winning now. Since the David Price trade in the middle of the game on July 31, the Tigers are a mere 4-3. Since the Joakim Soria trade after the game on July 23, the Tigers are 6-7. Since the great 27-12 start, the Tigers are just 35-37.
That’s two and a half months of mediocre baseball.
That’s two and a half months of losing baseball.
That’s two and a half months of not performing like a World Series contender.
The Tigers got to 27-12 and 15 games above .500 way back on May 18. Since then the Tigers have been better than 15 games above .500 for exactly one day. They haven’t continued to crush weaker competition. They haven’t gotten to 20, 25 or 30 games above .500 to look like arguably baseball’s best. Instead the Tigers have stalled; they appear to be hitting their head against an imaginary 15 games above .500 ceiling and are feared solely based on the names on the lineup card.
It doesn’t matter how many MVPs and Cy Young award winners are on the Tigers roster if in real life they continue to play losing baseball as they have done for the past two and a half months. Similarly, it doesn’t matter if the Athletics don’t look nearly as imposing on paper if they continue to win and stay on track to win 99 games. (The Tigers are on pace to win just 90 games.) Like most people I believe the Tigers can be a great team and win the World Series, but at some point soon they need to start proving it again by actually winning more games.
As far as blame as concerned, there are a lot of places to point the finger. You can point it at Justin Verlander and his 1.40 WHIP. You can point it at Alex Avila and his .220 BA. You can point it at the bullpen and its 4.48 ERA which is third worst in MLB. You can point it at Brad Ausmus for remaining too calm or not having enough experience. You can point it at Dombrowski for trading away Fister. You can point it at the offense for not coming through in the clutch often enough. All probably deserve some portion of the blame, but I don’t really care who you choose to blame the most. All I know is that as a team they’ve been playing .500 ball for months and somehow no one seems to be concerned.
Recently I’ve heard way too much complacency from Tigers fans who don’t want to hear about the losing record since the 39th game of the season and think this team will be just fine come October. Trust me. I think they’ll have a good chance in the Postseason crapshoot too due to their history and the names on the roster, but in the meantime this team is playing below .500 baseball on a daily basis right now and not giving its fan base enough in terms of entertainment value. That should be alarming to Tigers fans, but for whatever reason, it’s not.
The average Joe works hard until 5pm or 6pm each day then comes home and sits in front of his flat screen TV to get entertained by the Detroit Tigers until bedtime. Wins are more entertaining than losses and teams like the Tigers are supposed to provide more a lot of entertainment by winning a lot of games. That’s a simple concept. Instead, since May 19, the average Joe has come home to see the Tigers lose most of the time for over two and a half months. That’s not a small hiccup or a tough little road trip. This 72 game stretch of losing baseball has eaten up over 44% of the season! And the worst part is that over that period of time the average Joe hasn’t seemed to notice or care about the prolonged stretch losing baseball, probably because of the great names on the team and the lack of pressure from opponents within the AL Central.
The bottom line is that this is not an attempt to scare Tigers fans into thinking they have a terrible baseball team. This is just an attempt to open your eyes to the fact that for the last two and a half months, this playoff bound baseball team baseball team has only looked like a World Series contender in one place. On paper. On the field the Tigers have simply been mediocre at best and the fan base doesn’t seem to have a problem with it.