It's tough to figure out the Detroit Tigers. Sometimes they look like world beaters, bombing the ball all over the park. Other times they go meekly, and get bombed themselves.
True, such is the nature of Major League Baseball. On any given day, any team can beat any other team. It's not at all unusual to see a last place team bop a first place team. Sometimes two or three games in a row. It happens all the time.
Strangely, there are instances when an "inferior" team just seems to have a "superior" team's number. There's no good reason to explain such a phenomenon -- it just happens. It must drive the good team, their manager, and fans crazy.
Upsets aren't exactly rare in other sports, but they don't happen with the same frequency as MLB.
The Tigers, and their "lame-duck" manager Brad Ausmus, find themselves in a precarious situation. With almost half the regular season having been played, they continue to hover around .500. Win a few, then lose a few. And .500 isn't going to get it done as far as reaching the post-season.
Few doubt the Tigers have plenty of hitters. When they hit. But these guys can put up 10-12 runs one game, then look totally lost the next game, like they've never seen major league pitching before.
Supposedly, the Tigers had a decent starting pitching staff. But these guys get rocked more often than they should. The weakness was in their bullpen -- but supposedly the Tigers addressed that problem in the off season. It hasn't worked out.
Thing is, while the Tigers struggle to stay above water, other American League teams are starting to gain some "separation". In their own division, the Cleveland Indians have been on an absolute tear. The Tigers have yet to beat the Tribe all season long. And a lot of the games have been blowouts.
It appears unlikely the Tigers are capable of winning their division, so their only hope is for a "wildcard". But the longer they keep plodding along, the longer those odds become. Though the cliche is overused, if the season were to end today the Tigers would be in eighth place out of 15 AL teams -- far out of contention.
Baltimore, Boston and Toronto are faring well in the East. Texas has been on a hot streak in the West, and Houston is playing as well as anybody.
Even within the Central Division, it's likely only a matter of time before the defending champ KC Royals wake up and start making some noise.
The Tigers find themselves playing nip/tuck with teams like the Yankees, White Sox, and Mariners for mediocrity. Did I mention .500 isn't going to get it?
Could the Tigers go on a hot streak and zoom back into contention? Sure. They've got enough horses.
Then again, it could just as easily go the other way. They could fold their way back into the nether regions like they did last year, although it would take a monumental collapse indeed to out-bottom the woeful Minnesota Twins.
It seems like it would be almost better for their fans -- and front office -- if one or the other would happen in the next few weeks or so. And let's get real. Despite their whopping $200 million player payroll, only the hardest core of their followers honestly believe they're an elite team, by any stretch of the imagination. Too many flaws, too many ups and downs, a regular yo-yo that seems to find its equilibrium at mediocre. World Series caliber? Does anybody buy that?
It might be better if they bombed out. At least that way, the manager situation would be resolved. Ausmus would be gone.
But the Tigers have put themselves in a tough situation. They have a few mega long term contracts they're on the hook for paying guaranteed big bucks to guys that aren't producing at that level.
The other teams aren't dumb. Why would any of them want to take some ridiculous contracts off the Tigers' hands for players that haven't been earning them lately?
True, the Tigers have a couple of young players with star potential. But they've also got an aging core of high-priced veterans. For the Tigers to win, they typically have to score a bunch of runs. Most days, their pitching staff is going to give up at least a few. With the on-again off-again nature of the Tigers hitters, it's hard to visualize them getting on a roll for an extended period of time.
Sure, other clubs ahead of them could slump, but likely not all of them.
It's certainly beginning to appear the Tigers are headed for another ho-hum season. All that money obviously hasn't produced a consistent winner.
But you never know. There's a long way to go in the season, and that's why they play the games.
Yet an objective look would suggest the Tigers are mediocre at best.