Sunday, August 2, 2015

Tigers and the absurd

A Detroit area columnist recently penned an interesting remark regarding the Tigers. He said they had "pulled the chute" on this season with their pre-trade deadline purge of two star players. I would respectfully disagree. Pulling the cord on a parachute is done to slow one's descent from higher altitudes. Wise long-term moves or not, getting rid of David Price and Yoenes Cespides for "prospects" was more akin to shucking the parachute entirely and going into free fall. If the Tigers ever had a shot at making the post-season this year -- it's gone now. Like sky divers without a parachute, it's only a matter of time before a thud happens. This could be the once pseudo-promising Tigers landing in the basement of their own division. Ouch.

Not long ago, local pundits crowed the Tigers had the "best starting rotation in baseball". A debatable claim at the time. Then they traded off starter Doug Fister for a ham sandwich. Rick Porcello was shipped to the Bosox. A whopping $140 million contract offer wasn't enough to keep ace Max Scherzer from leaving Motown for Washington.

And look at what they have now. It's August and Justin Verlander, he of the $28 million salary, has won a grand total of one game. Anabel Sanchez is currently 10-9. The rest of their patchwork starters more likely belong in triple A ball at best. Their bullpen has long been a joke. No lead, regardless of how large, is safe when these guys take the mound and start serving up batting practice.

On another front a different Tiger has found his way back into the news. For the first time in a long time, Eldrick Woods actually put back to back competitive rounds together in a PGA tournament. As they have long been prone to do when it comes to anything Tiger, the media went wild. Could he be back? Let's see the usual few hundred replays and breathless commentary. Alas, it was not to be. Eldrick crashed and burned on Saturday at the Quickens open in Ohio. Once within a shot of the lead, he's now back in familiar territory. A double digit deficit and hopelessly out of contention. Saturday has been called "moving day" by pro golfers. Some moved on up. The lever was pulled on Tiger's "throne", with him in it, and he swirled on down -- again. Funny thing about those thrones. When one is sitting on top, it's a place of comfort and relief. But if one is viewing it from the bottom up -- it is not a pretty picture whatsoever. (There is a derivative of Murphy's Law that says it best. Where you stand on an issue depends on where you sit. Close enough.)

Yet he still managed to make the highlight reels. On a par 3 hole, Woods nailed his tee shot within a few inches of the pin. While the announcers were hyper-ventilating and his groupies flogging themselves in pure ecstasy, what went unnoticed was his playing partner, one Charles Howell, stuck his tee shot within a foot and a half as well. Very impressive stuff but, in the end, just a pair of deuces on a par 3. Throughout the day, Tiger was in the woods, in the drink, on a road, in the sand, over hill and over dale, and occasionally hit a good shot. He would wind up carding a 3 over 74. On a day when the course presented perfect playing conditions -- only five golfers in the entire field would shoot a worse round. Like his Detroit baseball namesakes, chalk up another thud.

Which once again raises the question: What will it take for the fascination to wear off when it comes to Tiger Woods? Forget being amongst the elite. Eldrick doesn't even rank in the top 200 golfers anymore. Given the PGA's new format, Tiger needed a win at the Quicken Open to qualify for the "playoffs". That's not going to happen. For all intents and purposes, Eldrick's season is done.

Sure, he'll be allowed to participate in the final major of the year, the PGA tourney, because as a past champion from long ago, he enjoys such an exemption. But the chances of him being remotely competitive there are slim to none. Unlike the Quicken, a second tier tournament ignored by many, all the big boys from the world over will be on hand at the PGA.

Tiger had perhaps the most dominant decade professional golf has ever seen. He won everything in sight. But now it's over. And all the groupies and media cheerleaders can't change that. At the tender age of 39, Woods has become little more than a ceremonial golfer, ala Tom Watson, though more than two decades separate them in age. Big on name, and can perhaps shoot a very good round here and there -- but no longer good enough to slog through four rounds of competition to win a tournament against the current generation of incredibly talented younger guns. His wheels are going to come off somewhere during the course of 72 holes.

It just is what it is. The difference between the Detroit Tigers and the Eldrick Tiger? The ball club has and will be around forever. Though experiencing a low period, they can rebuild and hopefully once again become a contender somewhere in the future. The same cannot be said for Eldrick Tont Woods.

Yours truly has espoused it repeatedly in recent years and will do so again. Stick a fork in him. He's done, at least in the upper echelons of golf. The other players know that privately, but won't dare say it publicly. Tiger can still clean up on endorsements, write a book, make speeches, or maybe even get a movie role here and there, but he won't be hoisting any more trophies for winning golf tournaments, much less majors.

Not a chance. Over is over. The thud comes sooner for some than others.

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