Thursday, September 17, 2015

Detroit Tiger Pollyanna syndrome

The media in some cities won't hesitate to slam one of their home-town athletes when they mess up. A couple days ago, a NY paper had a front page that blared -- THE $84 MILLION DOLLAR DOPE -- in a reference to Eli Manning's stunning brain fart that resulted in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

LA can be tough on their jocks, and Phillie downright brutal. Boston pretty much rips everybody else. The Cheesers in Green Bay are fiercely loyal to their team, because that's pretty much all they've got.

[Idle thought. If the Green Bay Packers are indeed owned by the fans, then who appoints the president and general manager of the team?]

The Chicago Cubs have always been loveable losers, but they're pretty good this year. Likely playoff bound, but don't get carried away, northsiders. The World Series will happen in October, but your team won't be in it. And hey, what's another year? Regardless, you won't see the Chitown press dissing their beloved boys.

And then there's Detroit. Land of the eternal, if delusional, optimists. Every year is THE year for the Lions -- until it isn't. The Pistons are always on their way back to being contenders, until the season starts and they're exposed as cannon fodder again. The Red Wings brag of having made the playoffs for 24 consecutive seasons. Hey, half the teams in the NHL make the playoffs. Though they'll never admit it, the Wings are very close to total rebuild mode. It's coming. Zetterburg and Datsyuk are getting old, and signing free-agent cast-offs as bandaids is only going to work for so long.

Most interesting is the Detroit Tigers. Though they haven't won a World Series since 1984, much has been made of their teams in recent years, both by the media and fans. All those division championships. Supposedly the best starting rotation in baseball. The acquisitions of super-star free agents. See their tickets sales go up, up, up. Along with the prices, of course.

But in the end, they never won squat. Close doesn't count. Only the foolish boast of also-ran status.

Somewhat surprisingly, or maybe not, after a fast start this year the Tigers started heading south -- fast. With 20 games left to go, they've not only already been mathematically eliminated from another division title, but find themselves in last place. The basement. For that matter, only the Oakland A's have a worse record in the entire American League.

Their once vaunted pitching staff has become a shambles. They're defense is lacking and forget team speed. They don't have any on the basepathes. For every good play there's a bonehead. Once lauded Pres/GM Dave Dombrowski was kicked out of town. He caught on with the Bosox, and don't look now, but the injury ravaged Beaners have passed the Tigers in the standings.

Manager Brad Ausmus is basically a dead man walking in Detroit. He'll be fired at the end of the year, and probably should be. It's not his fault Dombrowski looted the farm system, only to see it blow up in his face, and left the cupboard bare to the point where the Tigers have to utilize everyday players that should still be in the minor leagues. But make no mistake. With what little talent he has, Ausmus has made some incredibly bone-headed moves.

[Another idle thought. What gives with Ausmus and spitting through his teeth every 5 seconds? Is that really necessary? Sometimes he even runs dry and nothing comes out, but he still tries to spit anyway. C'mon Brad, kids are watching too. Is this what you're trying to teach them as a role model? Sparky may have smoked his pipe, Leyland had his Marlboros, and while both spouted inane platitudes, at least they kept it in the clubhouse.]

Nevertheless, the usual Pollyanna syndrome remains in Detroit. Sure, the Tigers may have bottomed out -- but that's supposedly a good thing. Huh?

Oh, that's right. As losers they'll get a higher draft pick. Maybe in a few years such a pick will be major-league worthy. Or maybe not. Or maybe they'll trade him away to another team for some aging free-agent on the back side of his bell curve that commands a mega-contract, only to see their original draft pick blossom into a star elsewhere. And OMG, they'll have first crack at players on the waiver wire. You know, guys that weren't good enough to stick with other teams. Gee, that sounds promising.

Bottom line is the Tigers are a mess with no help in sight, but their ever-faithful, if gullible, local media will always find a silver lining.

[Final idle thought. Ron Gardenhire, former manager of the Minnesota Twins, has been mentioned as a replacement for Brad Ausmus. Just one question. Why would Gardenhire want to take over this rag-tag bunch? He's already financially set for life. Worse yet, though Jim Leyland considered Gardenhire some sort of genius (not exactly a world-shaking endorsement), consider his record while with the Twins. He was 6-21 in the playoffs and never did make it to the World Series. The only manager in major league history to have led his team to the postseason 6 times, while never making it to the WS. And the most telling stat of all..... His last four years as the Twins manager came with the worst record in the HISTORY of that team. He was finally rightfully fired. And this is a guy the Tigers are considering as a savior to their flailing franchise? Really? Well OK. He's a loser and gets kicked out of a lot of games -- but at least he doesn't spit as much as Ausmus. That's at least something.]

Alas, even if that happens, the Motown faithful will trumpet it to the heavens. Gardenhire will surely lead them to the promised land.


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