Monday, July 09, 2007

Monday Morning Manager

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 5-1
This Week: (7/9-11: All-Star break; 7/12-15: at Sea)

Five straight wins against Cleveland and Boston is the right way to end the first half. And that's what the Tigers have wrought, leapfrogging them into first place all by their lonesomes, by one full game over the Indians. None of this "ahead by percentage points" stuff.

There are a few memorable catches I've seen Tigers outfielders make. There was Jim Northrup, robbing Davey Johnson of the Orioles by leaping above the left field fence to snag a homerun, back in 1972. There was Bobby Higginson, also against Baltimore, taking another homer away, in right field in 1999. Both of these were in Detroit, in old Tiger Stadium.

But Curtis Granderson may have eclipsed both of those efforts with the ridiculous grab he made yesterday off Wily Mo Pena, in left center field. Everything had to go right -- the timing of the jump, the lunge with the glove, the ability to keep it in the mitt after tumbling to the ground. Curtis did it all, and made the catch of the year, without question.

Who says you need the three All-Star starters in the lineup to have an exciting game? The Tigers sat Magglio Ordonez, Pudge Rodriguez, and Placido Polanco, for a variety of reasons, but mainly for rest. And the Tigers didn't miss a beat, nor should the fans have felt cheated, for there are plenty more heroes than just the big guns on their ballclub.

Last season, even when the Tigers were zooming off to their unreal 76-36 start, there was a nagging feeling that they were still unproven against the "big boys", namely Boston, New York, and Chicago. The White Sox had beaten them fairly regularly, and so ahd the Red Sox and Yankees. Not until the postseason did the Tigers put that nonsense to rest.

This year, that was beginning to be the case again. 0-5 against the Indians in the first five meetings; 1-3 against the Red Sox. But the Tigers have now beaten the Tribe four of their last five contests, and the Red Sox three in a row. And they handled the Angels pretty well back in May.

The All-Star break is here, believe it or not, and the Tigers are a first-place team without the benefit of full health, or anywhere near it, from the get go. Kenny Rogers, Joel Zumaya, Nate Robertson, Fernando Rodney, and Tim Byrdak --almost half a pitching staff, have all missed significant time due to injury. Many of the hitters got off to horribly slow starts in April. Yet the Tigers lead the majors in runs scored.

Is the best yet to come for the Bengals?

If it is, then there will certainly be October baseball again in Detroit -- LATE October.



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