I’m channeling my inner optimist and the twelve-year-old boy who last saw the Detroit Tigers win a World Series to convince you that the Tigers are NOT out of this race yet. I probably have been too harsh on the Tigers this year but I feel it’s my job to call it like it is. I took some slack in my article in late may about the Tigers spiraling towards mediocrity (but I was right), or my article about trading David Price (still might be right), or my mid-season grades.
As we read all the articles and blogs about the Tigers needing to be sellers, cashing in their chips as the season is over and the impending rebuilding years to come… I wanted to tell you that I think that the Tigers are still in it this year. Matt Pelc posted an article from the Detroit Free Press on Monday that hit me hard about Dave Dombrowski also being a free agent at the end of the year. I read this and realized that there is no way Dave will be a seller and give up. He has ZERO incentive to sell. He has all the incentive to go all in. Plus you add the aging Mike Illitch who I think is only living like a Weekend in Bernie’s to see a Tigers championship, this team is going to be forced to try to win.
Looking up nine games at the Royals, it’s pretty safe to say that the Tigers fifth consecutive AL Central Division is a fetch. The wild card is more of their opportunity. But what’s that you say Lee Corso? “Not so fast!?!” Why?
The Schedule – the Tigers play seventy-four games in the back half of the season. This is where it gets interesting. The schedule favors them as they get to truly pick their destiny based upon their performance. They play the Royals fifteen times! Nine in August and six in September. The Twins SIX times! That’s twenty-one games against those that they are staring up at. Then look at the other contenders for the wild card – Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Houston, Toronto. The Tigers play a combined nineteen games against these teams. Add the division leading Angels for another three games and that’s a total of FORTY THREE of the seventy-four games (or 58%) of the games against contenders. You talk about crunch time.
But wait there’s more! The Tigers play the team they love to pounce all over, the Indians, six times in the back half.
You couldn’t ask for more if you wanted to control your destiny, could you.
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Contract Years – Funny things happen in contract years, don’t they? Players really step up and don’t want to be associated with a losing team or effort. The free agent market after this season is somewhat competitive so now is the time to show your A game. David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Avila and Joakim Soria all have many reasons to give it their all to the end. And so does….Dave Dombrowski. He’s not signed beyond this year and his scarlet letter is a big ZERO for no championships while in Detroit while having some of the most talented rosters in the league in the past four years. Let’s also add Brad Ausmus as he could be on the chopping block if he doesn’t succeed.
Veteran Leadership – I’ve written several times about younger teams like the Twins, Royals, Nationals, Cubs being hungrier than the giant payroll teams like the Tigers. But, the veteran leadership that the Tigers have is an intangible that most teams would love to have. Ian Kinsler and his World Series experience, Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez have all been to the big stage and can guide the team. They just need to realize how bad they want this opportunity to advance to the post season and further. They’ll realize that if they miss this window, it might never happen for them again.
Miggy Returns – The Tigers won’t make the mistake of rushing back Miggy like they did with Verlander and Martinez. He’s going to be as healthy as he can be. The offense without Miggy has actually been decent. The infusion that he will offer in a month will be all the momentum the Tigers need to pull through to the post season.
Pitching – Trader Dave will make a deal or two for some mid tier pitching. Alfredo Simon will be in the bullpen soon and Shane Greene back to Toledo. Sanchez has been firing well lately, Verlander continuing to pitch well and Price as steady as they come. The deals will happen here shortly and provide the relief (no pun intended) that the Tigers need to shore up their pitching.
It’s been since 1984 since I saw Larry Herndon catch the final out of the World Series and danced on my couch. It’s time again and I want to believe. Who’s with me?