Friday, June 16, 2006

Tigers Do Things A First Place Team Should

Right now, the absolute dregs of the American League are the Royals and the Devil Rays. They have been dutiful punching bags for their brethren throughout this season. The Royals, in fact, are a punching bag sitting on a doormat with a scarlett letter on them and a noose around their neck. And then some.

The Tigers are 11-1 against these teams, which means they're doing what first place teams SHOULD do: beat up on the weak sisters.

Beating bad teams is thankless; do it, and you get no praise. Don't do it, and the naysayers will be out so fast it'll make your batting helmeted head swim.

But here's some praise, after all: The Tigers are acting like a first place team. They are beginning to show signs of rebounding -- not letting bad streaks keep them down too long. So when the team was in a 2-8 slump after losing two games in Chicago, Tigers fans started to look at each other with the same expression reserved for when you're seeing a new foal taking its first steps: you know you're going to see some falling down.

So what have the Tigers, a first place team, done since then? Only win six of eight, including three of four over the woeful Devil Rays. That's what the good teams do: right themselves, and do it at the expense of a last place club, to boot.

Our ballclub is also developing the uncanny knack for pulling games out of the fire. Sure, they've been burned a few times themselves, but they now lead all of baseball in winning games that they trailed after eight innings -- four of them and counting. That, too, is the sign of a first place team. Even the game the Tigers lost to Tampa was an extra-inning affair made possible by a ninth-inning rally.

People still ask me if I feel the Tigers are for real. I'd say after 67 games, they don't look to be going anywhere anytime soon. Still there are disbelievers. My photographer/art director at MCS Magazine, Greg Shamus, told me last night, "I don't think they'll make the playoffs. I think the White Sox are too tough, and I don't think the Tigers will get the wild card."

That may be so. Sixty-seven games does not a playoff qualifier make, that's for sure.

But I think regardless of what happens, the first 67 games have ensured that the remaining 95 are going to be pretty fun.

And we haven't had 95 fun games around here since 1987.


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