Way back on June 11th, yours truly wrote an article about the possibility of Detroit Tigers' manager Jim Leyland getting fired. In more ways than one, I was hauled off to the proverbial woodshed for a whuppin for daring to mention the unmentionable -- at least in Tigertown. I'll get back to that.
Over 3 months have passed in the interim, so let's take another look around.
Teams that either weren't supposed to be that good, or at least fade down the stretch -- apparently are -- and haven't. In the American League "wild card" race, the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland A's are several games ahead of the Tigers. The LA Angels are a couple games ahead, and the Tampa Bay Rays are neck and neck with them. Like the age-old children's party game, when the music stops in a couple weeks, some of them are going to get left out. Currently the O's and A's are in a comfortable position, while the Tigers find themselves as long shots to get into the postseason as a wild card.
Of course, winning the AL Central Division outright would get them there, but seems to be getting more problematic every day. Right now the Tigers trail the division leading Chisox by 3 games with 15 games to go. A mere 3 games doesn't sound like a lot, but it really is when looking at the whole picture.
Let's say the Tigers get hot and win 10 out of the 15. That would be a .667 winning percentage, 2 out of 3. That also doesn't sound like such a big deal until one considers the best teams in the major leagues are barely above .600 for the year. But it could happen. Conversely, it could go the other way with them stumbling to a 5-10 finish, but let's be optimistic and assume the former.
At that, the Chisox would need only go 8-7, quite a mediocre standard over the last 15 games, to wrap up the Central Division title. Sure, crazy things can happen. The Tigers could win 5 in a row while the Chisox lost 5 in a row. The Detroiters would then be ahead by 2 games with 10 to go. Then again, it could flip with the opposite occurring in the next 5 games to put them right back at 3 games behind with only 5 to go. Who knows? That's why they play the games -- right?
Thing is, right now the odds are against the Tigers making the postseason, and the remaining games are counting down. As every game passes without them closing the gap, the odds gets longer. Tick, tick, tick.
From the preseason, on into the dog days of summer, most pundits were fairly confident the Tigers would eventually run away with the AL Central Title, much like they did last year. But barring a season ending hot streak by the Tigers and a monumental collapse by the Chisox -- that's not going to be the case.
The music is going to stop and what might happen if the Tigers find themselves without a chair?
Jim Leyland's finishing out the last year of his contract. Owner Mike Ilitch has entrusted GM Dave Dombrowski to acquire the necessary "pieces" to bring a championship to Deroit -- all the while not shying away from shelling out ridiculous amounts of money to make it happen.
If after all the expectations, hype, pomp, spin, kool-aid, and sometimes just flat-out BS, if the Tigers don't even make it to the playoffs -- somebody might be in trouble.
And guess who's head is usually first on the chopping block?
Despite the local fascination he garners, and some even being intimidated by his gruff attitude, Leyland's just a journeyman manager. No more and no less. He's done well in some places, and stunk it up in others. He even quit on a team once (the Colorado Rockies). After having managed over 3300 games, his career winning percentage stands at .502. The epitome of average. A coin flip. Certainly nothing special.
A lot can happen with 15 games to go. Depending on how that turns out -- even more might happen afterwards.