Friday, June 01, 2007

Granderson's Level-Headed Thinking Being Put To Test Now

Times were good. The Tigers had just smacked the Los Angeles Angels, 12-0, to move to 12 games over .500. It was their 17th win in 23 games. The bats were hot. The pitching was in a groove. They were in, ahem, first place.

So when I approached Curtis Granderson after the slaughter of the Angels and asked him about the upcoming seven games with the then-second place Cleveland Indians, he spoke with the cool, level-headed mind of the player, while the fans and media wanted to talk otherwise.

"I think it's a lot of talk, mostly," Granderson told me. "I think to the people on the outside -- like the fans -- it means a lot. To the players on the inside, it doesn't mean as much."

Then this -- more level-headedness: "If I'm not mistaken, last year [when we played the White Sox] they took it to us at the beginning of the season, but toward the later part of the season, we kind of took some wins from them.

"If a team (in these Tigers-Indians games) goes 5-2 or 6-1, from the fans' standpoint, they might think, 'Oh, our team isn't as good as we thought.' But as players, we always know we're one pitch, one swing away from winning the series or winning that particular game."

Granderson's words come to mind now, because the Tigers are on the verge of being the team on the wrong end of that 5-2 or 6-1 record -- and their fans will certainly ask the question that Granderson proposed in his analysis.

Namely, IS our team not as good as we thought?

Well, maybe not now -- but it's also not as healthy as we thought, either.

Last night's 11-5 loss to the Tribe was not an anomaly. These Indians, as I had said they would be during the offseason, aren't going anywhere this season. They are the class of the division. Their bullpen isn't rotten, like last year's.

But the Tigers, at this time in 2006, were the class of their division, too. Their bullpen wasn't rotten, either. They were healthy, for the most part. They were winning games in all sorts of ways -- and many that they had no business winning. They cobbled together a lead that reached double digits in games by the middle of August.

Then they had to play the last 50 games -- during which they went 19-31. And they lost the division that they had all but sewn up.

There's a reason the MLB schedule is 162 games. Rarely will it produce paper champions, or emperor-less clothes.

The Indians are the class of the AL Central as the calendar turns to June. But there is 2/3 of a season still to play. Doubtless that fact is not lost on Curtis Granderson or any of his teammates.

It's our job, after all, to do the worrying and second-guessing. And we're quite good at it, I might add.


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