Monday, May 05, 2008

Monday Morning Manager

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 3-3
This Week: (5/5-8: BOS; 5/9-11: NYY)

The Tigers are coming close to supplanting the Pistons as the most maddening team in Detroit (the Lions passed Maddening 30 years ago and now reside in Exasperating).

Tony Bennett sang "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." The Tigers could pen a new song: "We Left Our Bats in New York."

Oh, how infuriating it is to sweep the Yankees in New York, to creep one game within .500, only to be swept in Minnesota. And to lose the final game in come-from-ahead fashion after scoring six runs in the first inning. How many times have you seen the Twins peck, peck, peck away at leads, stinging your sides with annoying little hits that: a) aren't hit hard; and/or b) don't even get out of the infield. Then, when the dust settles, they've stolen your lunch.

The four-run 7th inning yesterday was a typical Twins rally in that damn Metrodome. Carlos Guillen fails to come up with a routine grounder at third, with the Tigers still ahead by three and about to get out of the inning. Then, an infield hit (a "Dome hit" off the front of the plate), a well-placed line drive to left-center, and a seeing-eye tapper up the middle, and suddenly the Twinkies have scored four runs and moved ahead. The Tigers went scoreless after Inning One, and let not only starter Boof Bonser off the hook, but the Twins' tired bullpen as well.

It's mind-boggling that Bonser needed 45 pitches to get out of the first inning, then only five to escape the second. If this was a boxing match, that's like a fighter absorbing a fusillade of punches in the first round for three minutes, then sitting down for a cup of tea with his opponent in the second. Crazy.

It's also crazy that, after 32 games, the Tigers STILL have failed to show any sort of offensive consistency. Now the inconsistency is rearing its head from inning to inning; used to just be a game-by-game thing. It's crazy that Justin Verlander is 1-5. It's crazy that Pudge Rodriguez has one home run. It's crazy that Miguel Cabrera has morphed into a solitary microcosm of the team's schizophrenia. He, too, looks alternately good and bad from one at-bat to the next.

There's no time for the Tigers to catch their breath. The Beasts of the East -- the Red Sox and the Yankees -- come calling this week. Manager Jim Leyland promises "drastic" changes to his lineup. Speculation has Curtis Granderson moving toward the middle of the order, though I fail to see how that will help things. Leyland says the shakeup won't involve any bench players, so how drastic could it really be? Just moving guys around in the order isn't necessarily going to help matters. But Leyland is grasping at straws now, and has even used the word "shocked" to describe his team's Jekyll and Hyde act.

The bottom line? The Tigers over the weekend gave away all the momentum and good feelings they had gained by virtue of their sweep in New York. They're four games below .500 -- just as they were when last week began. They wasted another week, is all they did. Thankfully, nobody seems to want to take control of the AL Central. Not yet, anyway. But someone will, and when they do, Jekyll and Hyde ain't gonna cut it anymore.

Eager to see these "drastic" changes tonight.



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