Monday, August 20, 2007

In Truth, Tigers' Cup Should Be Running Over

It’s an old saying. Granted, it’s trite. But it’s also true. We live in a world where the glass is either half-full or half-empty. It depends on how you look at it.
The Tigers just lost three straight games after winning the series opener in New York. And they should have won at least one of their losses because the Yankees didn’t necessarily play nor pitch that well. It was, bottom line, bad baseball by the Tigers. Whatever they did well was negated by mistakes or poor at bats or questionable pitches or shoddy fielding.
It does seem like the season is getting away from the Tigers - and quickly. Glass half-empty.
Yet, the Tigers are only a game and a half behind Cleveland in the American League Central, with the Indians coming to Detroit for a three-game series this week. Glass half-full.
I think there should be concern. Every time it seems like the Tigers start playing a little better - wham - they fall apart again.
A lot of fans are waiting for an emotional outburst from manager Jim Leyland, but I doubt that is going to happen. I talked to him about that before the Tigers left for the road trip. The last thing he wants to project as a leader is panic.
But his actions suggest he is uneasy. The Tigers are looking for shots in the arm. It’s why Cameron Maybin got so much playing time over the weekend. He is a potential spark. It’s why Ryan Raburn is going to start at third base Tuesday against the Indians. He has been hot and Brandon Inge has been awful. Raburn struggled with the glove at third base during his minor league days, but the risk is minimal because it’s not like Inge has played well at third base lately.
This is not the time of the year when hurt feelings matter. Results do. If Raburn gives the Tigers a better chance to win games this week, so be it - play him over Inge.
I do think this season is far from over. The odd twist is that the Tigers are just hair away from finally getting their bullpen in order with Fernando Rodney back and throwing much better, and Joel Zumaya about to return.
Do I think they will win the division? Yes, I do. But it might be more a case of the Tigers backing in than running through the front door. I am sure that their fans would take such a scenario - no questions asked. And once in the playoffs, anything can happen. Remember the Cardinals last year? But given the way this season has unfolded, it shouldn’t be a glass half-full, glass half-empty proposition. The Tigers should be winning their division in a rout. That they aren’t is disappointing.

Random Thoughts

- Inge’s dismal performance has been as puzzling as it has been underwhelming. Leyland and the Tigers management don’t like him - they love him. It’s why he got such a handsome contract during the off-season that comes with the assurance he won’t have to return to catcher. But he has clearly taken a step backward this season. His four-year, $24 million contract, which seemed like a bargain when it was signed, might have been a mistake.

- Fans who are standing in judgement of Cameron Maybin’s long-range future based on three games in New York, or even the rest of this season, are completely clueless. Did you know Mickey Mantle got off to such a slow start he was sent back to the minor leagues by the Yankees and was talked out of quitting the game by his father? Did you know Willie Mays was hitless in his first 12 at bats in the major leagues, homered off hall-of-famer Warren Spahn in his 13th at bat - and then went hitless in his next 13 at bats? Both were 20 - the same age as Maybin at the time. Oh, and by the way, history is full of players who began their careers with a flash - and didn’t pan out. Where have you gone Brent Clevlen and Chris Shelton? Detroit turns its lonely eyes toward you. And the Tigers aren’t rushing Maybin. He is good enough that he is easily one of the 25 best players in their organization. He will learn far more in the major leagues than he will in the minor leagues at this stage. Bringing him up was the right move.

- I have a feeling my impression of the Lions’ second preseason game is pretty typical. I liked the way they looked, but I am not sure if it was because they were so good or because the Browns were so bad. The Browns were so discombobulated it was comical. But it shouldn’t dismiss how sharp the Lions were during the first half.

14 Comments:

Anonymous Marty said...

Pat,

I am getting excited about the Lions now. I finally got a chance to watch the TIVO of the first preseason game and I was very impressed with both starting lines. The offensive line really kept pressure off of Kitna, with the exception of the one bad sack that Mulitalo gave up, and the defensive line looked powerful and pushed back Cinci's O-line on pretty much every play so that Palmer had to get rid of the ball quickly. Of course recievers were open down field, so it didn't matter, but the lines look pretty good. Hopefully the secondary starts playing better by the regular season though.

-Marty

11:51 AM 
Blogger Fred Brill said...

As I wrote my first draft of this response - it became clear as I listed my points that the difference is confidence.

Confidence.

Confidence that a tight or losing game can be won in the ninth.

Confidence that the bullpen can close out a win - or hold them so we can catch them the next at bat.

Confidence that a man on third will score ...

ya-da-ya-da-...

I don't think we the external fans can sense how they the players truly feel. I think your relationship puts you in a better position to judge.

But I sense NO CONFIDENCE. And that inspires no confidence from me.

Am I giving up? &^*&%$#* NO!

As for Inge - yes he has struggled recently, but I think it's to early to judge his four year deal by the last 3 weeks of performance.

Poor Mags. He is the one consistant factor. Great year. Great confidence.

Maybin? I liked his first hit and first homer off of Clemens. Great for telling his kids. But I don't see anything yet, and I agree it may take years.

A couple of years to build confidence.

12:51 PM 
Anonymous Danny said...

Pat, it is good to see Leyland making moves to try and get them on track. Yelling doesn't work every time.

He has to play Rayburn somewhere because he is hitting. Hopefully Polanco will be back on Tuesday after missing all the games in NY. Can't play Rayburn in left, so 3rd is a good option.

Inge's big swing at everything has been ridiculous. Now he's whining in the paper that he gets “pitched to like he’s Babe Ruth” -that he hasn't seen a pitch down the middle for a week. Duh, that's good pitching - which the Yankees clearly showed. They know he will swing, so they pitch him outside like they pitched most of the Tigers.

I see the glass half-full. Six weeks to go, 1 ½ games out. Hopefully the rest will be a good thing and they can start by taking a series from the Indians. Need some quality starts.

Cheers,
Danny

1:24 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would not use the words Lions and sharp in the same sentence.

They remain a horrible team. Be careful to read too much into pre-season games.

They are what they are. When they start playing for real on Sundays then their true character or lack of will show.

Allan

2:40 PM 
Anonymous Tony B said...

Good stuff Book ... my only observation about the Tigers is that after this huge fury of changes on Friday, they're still as soft as a baby's bottom (I'll keep with the cliche theme :-) They've obviously had more than their share of adversity but a tough team with this much talent and depth would be up 10 games on the Indians right now. I think this crippling flu bug during the hardest stretch of the season is at the very least an open-handed b-slap by the irony police but even perhaps the predictable fortune of a soft-minded (and bodied) group of players. Who gets the flu in August by the way? Have they put Polanco on the 60 day DL yet? Take some dang-gone vitamins! Just don't get them from Neifi's old locker.

4:01 PM 
Blogger Sir Charles in Rochester Hills said...

Pat, Despite my usual respect for your tough love on relevant sport topics for Michigan, I need to challenge you on your appraisal of Jon Kitna. In the past 2-3 weeks in separate interviews, both Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson cited Jon Kitna as "the" critical influence in their careers as professional football players and as men in general. This same legacy is already in play with several of Jon's current teammates with the Lions, where Jon is the undisputed leader of the team. This has already become evident to me as a fan with the play of Fuhrey(sp), Bailey and Orlovsky. Yet since it hasn't lead to a superbowl, winning season, or playoff birth, we see lables such as "grunt" used to describe the best thing that's happened to the Lion's since the drafting of Luther Ellis. Can I ask you to dig a little deeper in your reporting to look beyond the easily observable, to where you peel back the onion to see what's really going on... In a league filled with aimless players who continually run into and away from the law, and or retire in financial/if not moral bankruptcy, we need leaders like Jon Kitna to pull the NFL out of the tailspin it's in. How about a "special" report on the lives of the various Lion's and their families that Jon has impacted? That would be real reporting!!! I think you would soon change your label of Jon to Hero, or "Real Leader" after your research is done...

I look forward to seeing this report real soon!

Thank you,
JJJ in Oakland Co.

4:19 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Marty,
I don't disagree with anything you said, but my view on the Lions is that none of it matters until they do something when it counts. That means all the rhetoric about a change of attitude, or some good things the preseason games have produced so far. The tangible proof starts Sept. 9 in Oakland. We'll know more after that game - and the following week vs. Minnesota at home. Both seem like winnable games.
Caputo

4:27 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Fred Brill,
When "confidence" was mentioned to Sparky Anderson, he used to blow his stack. It was, "You'd better have confidence in yourself or you don't belong in the major leagues." To him, a lack of confidence was the same as being weak mentally. He didn't see it as an excuse. Neither do I. I agree with him.
Caputo

4:30 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Allan,
It is maddening trying to read the tea leaves about the Lions. I still doubt they will be that good. I like their offense, but not their defense. Time will tell.
Caputo

4:32 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Tony b,
LOL on the Neifi comment. Seriously, they have had to overcome a lot of adversity this season. Rogers, Zumaya, other nagging injuries. But the Indians have left the door wide open for the Tigers. It's disconcerting they aren't flying through it.
Caputo

4:34 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

sir charles in Rochester Hills,
I meant what I wrote in my Sunday column as a compliment to Kitna. How can you not root for somebody who is a longshot that. But I do wonder if he is that good. One out of every 10 plays the Lions ran last season ended in a sack, fumble of interception. There is a reason he hasn't panned out yet - and is 35 years old. So I am not so sure if he is that good. And that hardly makes me a club of one. I hope he is as good as you believe, though. It'd be a great story - and I'm all for those.
Caputo

4:40 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Danny,
Inge's Babe Ruth comment was a little odd. He is struggling - and he has pretty much struggled most of his career except for last season. Maybe he just isn't that good of a hitter. It's possible.
Caputo

4:42 PM 
Anonymous Andrew Winkle said...

Pat the Book,

Big game tonight, big series with the Tribe and a big homestand this week. A repeat of the last homestand could be traumatic to the high hopes for a return to the Fall Classic.

I was glad to read that Raburn is getting the start at third, though a do think Inge is going to come out of his funk before September. I'm hoping that Thames gets the start over Maybin in LF.

I prefer Marcus'es age and experience in such a critical game and series. Of course, if he goes oh for, with a couple of runners left in scoring position, then what the heck was Leyland thinking? Playing a career reserve over a future all-star!

Thanks for the suggested reading selections about the Tigers. Now if I can just get Ernie Harwell's audio tapes from my Dad, I'd be all set for the off days during the pennant race.

1:48 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Andrew Winkle,
Thames has done a good job. He seems to have improved his consistency as a hitter. I think the more you see Maybin, though, the more you will like him. Ernie's audio book is a treasure. I listened to it endlessly while driving during the winter - and never grew tired of it.
Caputo

9:25 AM 

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