Friday, May 19, 2006

Tigers For Real -- But So Many Others Have Been At Times, Too

Are the Tigers for real?

Well, yeah -- the same way the '78 Red Sox were for real, or the '69 Cubs, or the '64 Phillies, or the '51 Dodgers for that matter. Maybe they're for real the way the '59 Go-Go Sox were for real, or the '67 Red Sox, or the '69 Mets. They might even be for real the way the '97 Marlins were for real, or the 2001 Diamondbacks. Or the '03 Marlins.

The truth is, all those teams were "real" in their own way. Some were for real from April to September, before autumn's arrival struck midnight on their seasons. Some weren't all that real until after the All-Star break, and yet others were real in the most important of times -- the season's final weeks. Still others, like the '84 Tigers, were real from the end of spring training to the middle of October.

The Tigers are for real -- for right now. They sit at 27-13 after the season's first 40 games -- some sort of magical barometer, if you listen to baseball folks. They play at a .675 clip, which is a percentage that typically cannot be caught. It's also a percentage that typically cannot be maintained over the course of 162 games.

When the Tigers were playing .250 ball in 2003, also in May, I dismissed their chances of challenging the 1962 Mets (40-120) for baseball futility. No way, I said, could they be "real" bad for that long. They darned near proved me wrong. They were for real, in a baaaad way, until the season's final week, when they got "hot" to finish 43-119.

So maybe the Tigers will play .675 ball thru the summer.

Yes, it's very unlikely.

But they are for real now because they have the pitching (a 3.15 team ERA), the defense, the clutch hitting, and they play with smarts. If your team does all those things for 40 games, it'll be for real, too. For the time being.

I think the fun will last for most of this summer because the pitching is something that shows no sign of fading, and isn't that the barometer of all barometers? The smarts are unlikely to go south, too. And the manager will be sticking around, and I think he has a pretty significant hand in all this.

So are the Tigers for real?

Sure they are. As real as you can get after 25% of the season has been played.


Blogger Ozz said...

As good as things have been going, I'm still not ready to deviate from my pre-season prediction of 83 wins. A lot of things have been going right all at once, and it's unlikely to continue for the course of the entire year.

However, the Tigers are "for real" if by that you mean "a real winning franchise". A new era has begun this year, and it'll get even better next year when they finally return to the post-season for the first time since '87.

1:19 PM  

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