After a hot start, then a slump, then finally struggling back to .500, the Detroit Tigers are pretty much where they belong.
The Bosox just pasted them in Fenway and the Tigers find themselves a handful of games under .500 again.
Ah, but the ever-present half-fullers in Detroit, particularly certain media homers, will tell us Detroit is only 4 games out of first place in their own division -- the American League Central.
True enough. That would seem to be an anomaly I'll get back to.
However, out of 15 teams in the AL, the Tigers are in 10th place. For that matter, they're only a couple games out of being in the basement of the entire league.
If they were in the Eastern Division, they would find themselves 7 games behind the resurgent Yankees and tied with the Blue Jays as cellar dwellers.
Out west, the Tigers would be a whopping FIFTEEN games behind the streaking Houston Astros.
Currently, they're 5 teams and several games removed from any playoff wild-card spot.
So it's all how you want to look at it, but 10th place out of 15 teams after 60+ games is what it is -- and it ain't pretty.
There is little to suggest their lot will improve.
The Tigers have next to none when it comes to team speed, their team defense is below average, and what few quality players they have are aging.
First and foremost would be Justin Verlander. He's been referred to as the ace of the staff, the horse that pulls the wagon. Yet JV, now 34, is lumbering along at 4-4 this year with a meh ERA closer to 5 than 4. He's lost a few MPH on his once renowned heater, and for some reason no longer even attempts to throw his dreaded "split-finger" pitch that was so devastating just a couple years ago. In other words, he's eminently hitable.
Yours truly got quite the guffaw when one of the above-mentioned "homers" recently suggested that JV should have won the Cy Young award last year. Really? Let's see. He went 16-9, with an ERA around 3. Very respectful to be sure.
But former Tiger Rick Porcello, only now 28 (and how did they let this guy get away?) went 22-4 for the Bosox with a similar ERA. That wasn't even a close call. Hello?
Perhaps this should be expected from the Pollyanna snake-oil salespeople that have been prevalent on the Detroit sports scene for so long.
After all, these are the same people that will get the Motown faithful revved up every year thinking this will be the one when the Lions are finally capable of getting to a Super Bowl. It's been going on since the Eisenhower administration. You know, when shows like Ozzie and Harriet, I Love Lucy, and Leave It To Beaver were all the rage. Andy, Barney, Opie, Aunt Bee, and town drunk Otis of Mayberry hadn't even made their first appearance yet. Nor had color TV. Let's just say that was a LONG time ago. But they've roped in the sappies every year since. It might just be that Phineas Taylor (PT) Barnum had Lions' fans in mind when he stated there's a sucker born every minute. It would be hard to dispute that, given the team's last 60 years of futility while the faithful continue to believe. And you know what? They'll buy into it again this year, because it's just what they do. Poor souls knoweth not how they've been had.
Regarding the above-mentioned anomaly, something strange indeed has been going on in the AL Central Division so far this year. That would be the Cleveland Indians.
Let's not forget they were within an out or two of winning the World Series last year, before the Cubbies rallied to take it away. Let's also remember the Tribe pulled this off minus their best position player and down two quality starting pitchers due to injuries.
Those guys are all back and healthy now, but Cleveland has yet to find its stride. It's seems odd that with a starting pitching rotation that should be among the best in all of baseball, they have instead ranked dead last in productivity. Top to bottom, players one through twenty five, the Indians are infinitely more talented than the Tigers. But they continue to struggle along at a few games over .500.
Of course, anything can happen in Major League Baseball, and sometimes does, but with roughly 100 games remaining, it would be surprising if Cleveland doesn't exert itself and pull away from the field in the AL Central. Barring another rash of injuries, it seems inevitable.
The Tigers? They could put together mini-winning streaks here and there, but there's precious little to suggest they will be "in the hunt" as the regular season winds down. Too many other teams in the AL are just better.
What's worse is the Tigers pretty much looted their farm system in recent years, trading off promising prospects for "prime-timers" in a "win now" mode. But they never quite got over the hump. They still haven't won a World Series since way back in 1984.
And lord knows they keep bringing up, out of necessity, whatever conceivable talent they think they might have in the minor leagues for major league tryouts. Predictably, they don't last long. Even the "homers" admit the Tigers have a lot of what they call 4-A players. Pretty good at AAA ball, but not ready for prime time just yet -- if ever.
The Detroit Tigers would appear to be a team destined for a mediocre season. Maybe .500, a couple over or under, but certainly not playoff worthy.
As their few "star" players continue to age, and their skills decline accordingly,the future doesn't look exactly rosy either.
They could be forced to go into all-out blow it up and total rebuild mode shortly, because it doesn't seem like they're going to have much of a choice.
Tis the nature of the game for most every team over time, and that of the Tigers draws nigh.