Monday, May 21, 2007

Monday Morning Manager

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 4-3
This Week: (5/22-24: LAA; 5/25-27: CLE)

It was great to see the Tigers spank the Cardinals after getting a little wind knocked out of their sails by Boston. This is the sign of a good team -- when you can shake off a frustrating series like the one against the Red Sox and then kick a team that's down, as the Cardinals are.

Surely the Cardinals must be experiencing one of the worst seasons of any defending World Series champion -- including the 1998 Florida Marlins, who lost well over 100 games after winning the Series in '97. At least that freefall was relatively predictable, considering how ownership went on a salary-dumping spree. But with the Cardinals, it's almost as if they're being punished for winning the World Series. They lost starting pitchers Jeff Suppan and Jeff Weaver to free agency; manager Tony LaRussa got arrested for drunk driving in spring training; the team got off to an awful start; then the biggest blow of all -- the tragic death of pitcher Josh Hancock in a car accident, in which it was determined he was under the influence of alcohol and maybe other substances.

"I wish we hadn't played them this season," Tigers manager Jim Leyland told the media after Sunday's win. "Tony's a special friend ... It's hard to see my friend go through a tough time like this ... I hope they go on a long win streak."

The Tigers might be on their way to another one. They righted themselves -- big time -- against the Cards after losing a tough doubleheader to the Red Sox on Thursday. They shrugged off the DH loss by jumping out to a 14-0 lead on Friday night. The next two games, the Tigers relied on an awakening offense and clutch defense and pitching to win.

The All-Star break is still nearly two months away, but if the Tigers can continue to separate themselves from .500 -- and beating up on the struggling clubs is a great way to do it -- just think of the good shape they'll be in when first Kenny Rogers, then Joel Zumaya return to the pitching staff from injuries.

Interesting little weekend set with the Indians at CoPa starting on Friday, too. And hey -- the Sunday game is an ESPN night tilt. The Tigers are now ready for prime time, apparently; it'll be their second Sunday nighter in three weeks.



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