The Detroit Tigers are running out of rope. Just when all seems right with the world, after a 3-game sweep of the division leading White Sox and with the Indians coming to town, this team, yet again, has found a way to disappoint. Faster than it takes Alex Avila to grow a beard (or kill a rally), the Tigers are seemingly grasping at straws for the umpteenth time this season.
When is it going to stop? Will it ever? Will the curtain close on the 2012 season with a feeling of complete embarrassment cast over this team and the still proud city of Detroit?
Conventional wisdom has persisted for much of the year – give this team more time and they will come together and overwhelm the AL Central. Well, here we are 5 months later still preaching the same sermon.
When the Tigers finished off the White Sox on Sunday night and grabbed a tie for 1st place, the writing seemed to be on the wall. The Tigers had been beating up on the AL Central most of the year and the horrible Cleveland Indians were up next for 3 games. The Tigers were in prime position for another September surge.
What they didn’t know is they were going to be facing Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in the first two games of the series. Sorry, I read that wrong, apparently it wasn’t two Cy Young’esque pitchers, it was merely Corey Kluber and Justin Masterson.
Kluber entered the game with a 0-3 record and 5.16 ERA. He stifled the Tigers over 6 strong innings to snag game 1 for the Tribe. Up next was the 10-12 Masterson armed with his 4.91 ERA. No problem for Cleveland. 6 more riveting innings from an Indians starter and some more solid work out of the pen gave the series win to the Indians. The same team who was a pathetic 6-29 in their 35 games prior to this series. The same team who had no American League equal in terms of bad baseball in this season’s 2nd half. Yep, that team.
How can this continue to go on? We keep hearing the standard answers from Jim Leyland, because really, what else can he say? “That’s baseball” or “It is what it is” or “yes, he struggling, and we’re working through that” are starting to sound like hollow answers from a man without a plan.
I have not often rocked the Jim Leyland boat but he needs to find a way to inspire this baseball team. Even the best of the best can use a little kick in the pants from the coach.
It might not hurt to keep Delmon Young active during the best hot streak of his career. Yes, Masterson is tough on lefties, but Delmon can hit a good fastball and is incredibly locked in. To bench him in a game the Tigers needed to win last night seemed precarious. Was it really the move that gave the Tigers the greatest chance of winning?
To bat Brennan Boesch 2nd, ever again, is pure error. Yes, he hit a triple that got the scoring started for the Tigers on Saturday night, but this guy is not a 2-hitter. He is not a table-setter. He had his chance and blew it early in the season. Give me Andy Dirks every day.
To bat Don Kelly 6th? I’m not sure what adjective best describes that move. He’s collected extra base hits in 3% of his at-bats this season but there he was in a run-producing slot last night. He did manage an infield single.
Leyland’s track record for picking his spots with fill-in players is actually pretty good but sometimes the creativity foils the greater good. The Tigers need wins now and for the next 30 days. Lots of them.
The Tigers know who their best players are. It’s time for these guys to rise to the occasion and play winning baseball. If Alex Avila faked his birth certificate and actually is 38 years old, as he appears to suddenly be, then put his old ass on the bench.
It’s time to win. Now.