Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Monday, June 12, 2006

Now that the smoke's cleared...

Okay, how are we feeling about the Tigers today? They just finished a grueling stretch, the one that was supposed to prove whether or not they were "for real," and worth pledging our attention and devotion to for the rest of the summer.

16 games against their two closest AL Central rivals and the top three teams in the AL East. The Tigers took some heavy body blows and were brought to their knees a couple of times (or was that just Todd Jones?), but managed a respectable 7-9 record during that stretch. Shaken, but still standing.

In Detroit, we're pretty familiar with 7-9. During football season, anyway. At least we were, until Matt Millen started working in the Lions' front office. Nowadays, 7-9 might get someone a Coach of the Year award around here.

But is a 7-9 run satisfactory for the boys of summer? Considering the Tigers had the best record in baseball before those 16 games, maybe not. Yet the Tigers are still Kings of the Hill, even if they're standing on one leg and wobbling a bit right now. Ahead by a smidge? Hey, they're still ahead.

Despite what many of the naysayers - the ones with arms folded, waiting to say "I told you so" - predicted, the Tigers did not end up 40 games under .500 after taking on the Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, and Blue Jays. And the next 10 games, each against teams with sub-.500 records, could provide some much-needed Icy Hot to the strains and bruises suffered over the past two weeks. The minty aroma of that balm might give the Tigers just what they need.

Besides, a really good record is okay with us. We've seen what the best record can do for a team. Red Wings? Pistons? Watching the playoffs at home. Best records don't work for this town. Not these days.

▪▪ Mack Avenue Tigers has a much more detailed look at the team, post-gauntlet.

▪▪ Who's my Tiger? Curtis Granderson! I enjoyed the big feature on him in yesterday's Free Press. And #28 is also the topic du jour at Out of Bounds.

▪▪ Is it weird that both the Free Press and News have run articles about fan heckling in the past two days? Or just a co-in-kee-dink?

▪▪ Did anyone else watch Andrew Miller pitch for North Carolina on Friday night? I hate to say the first name that came to mind when I saw him - left-handed, all long arms and legs, blazing fastballs and sliders past opposing hitters - fearing a career jinx. Did the same thing occur to you?



  • At June 12, 2006 2:12 PM, Anonymous Evan said…

    Anyone who thinks the 7-9 the Tigers went during that stretch is terrible wasn't watching the games.

    The only thing that should be worrisome coming out of this stretch is whether or not the bullpen is as strong as we all thought. It's clear that the offense can work when it needs to. It's clear the starting pitching is everything we thought and more. And it's clear that we're a defensively sound, hard-working team.

    So Grilli, Seay, and Jones looked like crap. OK. At the same time, Zumaya looked like a beast -- he even shut people down when he didn't have his command in his first game against the Jays -- and Rodney and Walker only really had one bad outing each.

    I'm not worried. Not at all. They could have folded on this trip, and *that* is what we needed to fear: that a 3 game skid would turn into a 10 game skid and the boys would lose their poise and confidence.

    Instead, we faced the best teams in baseball at near a .500 record that included at least 3 or 4 really, really close games that the Tigers arguably could have and should have won had the bullpen not broken apart. Now that Leyland knows that's going to happen from time to time, he can adjust. And we'll be that much better next time we play these teams.

    For anything negative you can take out of the various series we just watched, the things that stuck in my mind were:

    (1) Even if the relief pitching is bad, the offense always has a shot to make up the difference.
    (2) When Leyland talks, they really do listen. He mentions playing more small ball, and what happens? The Tigers execute it flawlessly. He talks about certain players needing to step up, and they step up. And so on.
    (3) The starters are for real and had some monster outings against impressive line-ups. The only things that could hurt them now are Verlander and Miner's lack of experience. Will their arms get rubbery down the stretch? I actually doubt they will, as Leyland manages the young guys pretty tightly.

    Those are all positives. The Tigers might start looking into how to get the relievers back on track or how to replace one of them. But beyond that, how anyone could be disappointed in this is beyond me.

  • At June 13, 2006 1:11 PM, Blogger the sports dude said…

    I don't really think it should be any cause for alarm and even Leyland said it best. They are not the Yankees, they are not the Red Sox, they are just finally starting to compete after 300 years of stench!

    Look, as long as the Tigers beat the teams they should beat (please see the Royals, Twins, D-Rays and other bottom feeders) then there is no reason to panic and I do not see anything changing. The difference is, as Evan pointed out, they listen to Leyland - something no Tigers team has done to a manager since Sparky.

    I liked Rosenberg's column today in the Freep and he made a good point, if the Tigers stumble the resy of the way and just play at a .500 pace they will still end up around 90 wins which should mean some wild card contention come September and beyond. Even I don't think that is asking too much.


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