Contemplating the Tigers

The Tigers are now 10-2 on the road this year, and with a sweep of the Mariners this weekend they’ve started their second 5-game road winning streak of the season. That’s something we Tiger fans have not seen in a long while. In fact, this is their best road start since 1984, in which they opened the season 35-5 overall. At 12-7 there no
telling where they’ll go from here, but right now they’re tied with Boston for the second best record in the AL; they’re behind only the White Sox.

I spent the weekend up in Michigan/Ohio and I finally had access to Fox Sports Detroit for a couple days and was able to see the team play a bit. On Saturday night I was hanging out with some old buddies I haven’t seen for years at an “Irish” pub in Westland (near as I can figure, the only thing Irish about it was the name and the Guinness), and in between ogling the most impressive collection of waitresses I’ve ever seen in my life and watching three guys take down a “tower” of Guinness in record time, we watched the last half of the Tigers’ 2-0 win. I have to say there
is one thing right now that impresses me the most about Jim Leyland’s managing of that club; he shows complete faith in the ability of his players in tight game situations and they’re responding to him. It’s such an amazing 180 from the last two years of the Trammell era.

While that is a knock on Alan Trammell, understand it’s not a mean-spirited one. I love Trammell and I still think the clubhouse lacked any decency last year the way they bailed on him. Also, Tram absolutely was the right guy for the job three years ago during the Tigers unbelievably abysmal 119-loss season. Nobody could’ve won with those players and the fact that nobody mutinied that year is indicative of the steadying hand he provided. But as the Tigers started to put legitimate major league talent together the past two years I don’t think he adjusted to that and consequently he mishandled them on the field and in the locker room. Leyland just seems to know the pulse of this roster in ways that Trammell obviously didn’t.

All that said, it’s still a young Tiger team and I’m not convinced they can play consistent ball for a full season. Right now, however, they’ve only failed to win two series: a sweep at the hands of the White Sox and a four-game split with the Indians. They have capable hitters all the way through the lineup with only one regular hitting under .250 (Craig Monroe, who has hit two home runs the last two games). Their starters have been unbelievable on the road so far (they only allowed one run in the entire Seattle series), and there’s a ton of talent in that bullpen.

This team isn’t ready for the White Sox yet, but I think they’ll hang in there with both the Twins and Indians, finish over .500 for the first time since 1993, and factor into the wild card chase in September. It’s hard to remember a time when sports fanaticism in Detroit didn’t go into hibernation for the summer, but as the number of Tiger hats and jerseys I saw in Michigan this weekend can attest, that’s finally changing.

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