Monday, September 03, 2007

Monday Morning Manager

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 3-4
This Week: (9/4-6: CWS; 9/7-9: SEA)

OK, this is it. I mean, this is IT.

No more fooling around. No more giving up 7-0 leads. No more inconsistent starting pitching. No more leaky bullpen. No more bad clutch hitting. No more insisting that you're a good team.

This is it.

The Tigers, if they still believe they harbor hopes of making the postseason tournament, have got to start, right NOW, playing like it. Because of their ineptitude during this hideous 44-game stretch (they're 16-28 since rising to 57-36 in late July), they now have to reel off one of those 10 out of 12 runs. They have to start winning and rarely, and I mean RARELY, lose. Their margin for error now is about as narrow as the width of a tightrope -- and that's where they find themselves on, wobbling, with no safety net below them.

They coughed another one up yesterday, a horrific 8-7 loss to the A's, who rallied from 0-7 down to sneak away with a 10-inning win. Former Tigers farmhand Jack Hannahan, just traded to the A's a couple of weeks ago, shot a flare out of his popgun in the 10th that landed on the fair (foul?) chalk line just past third base. Mark Ellis, hit by a pitch one batter prior, was running on the pitch and crossed home plate before Timo Perez could even pick the ball up, which by this time was rolling away in foul territory, maybe 120 feet from home plate.

You can bellyache all you want about the irony of Hannahan beating the Tigers on such a flukey hit -- especially considering he was only swinging because the count was 3-2 thanks to a poor bunting effort. You can yelp that last season, that ball lands foul. You can moan that the Tigers don't seem to be getting any breaks nowadays.


Yesterday's game should never have gotten to a Jack Hannahan fluke hit being the deciding factor. The Tigers, playing late, knew that the Indians had lost. They had a 7-0 lead and were poised to creep within 4-1/2 games of the Tribe. But they blew it, and even in the 10th they should have seized momentum, despite frittering away all of their seven-run cushion. This is because Todd Jones somehow, some way, wiggled his way off the A's fishing hook in the bottom of the ninth, when he loaded the bases with nobody out. A double play and a "I got it, you take it" fly ball that was nearly mishandled got Jones out of the inning. The Tigers should have made the A's pay for wasting such a golden opportunity. But they went out in order, feebly, in their half of the 10th, setting up Hannahan's heroics.

That game was, sadly, a microcosm of the past month for the Tigers. Blown opportunities. Suspect relief pitching. An inability to bury teams. And yes, some bad breaks here and there.

But bad breaks haven't placed the Tigers where they are today, which is on life support in this playoff chase. They haven't "bad lucked" their way into this situation. They've played poorly -- for over a quarter of a season now -- and unlike last year, when a similar August slump cost them the division but wasn't bad enough to rob them of the Wild Card, there isn't a Plan B. The Tigers are a patient on a gurney being rushed to surgery STAT. And just like a heart attack victim with a love affair for bacon and eggs, they did it to themselves.



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