Monday, June 16, 2008

Monday Morning Manager

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 6-1
This Week: (6/16-18: at SF; 6/20-22: at SD)

Five games in a week.

That's how much ground the Tigers gained on the first-place White Sox over the past seven days. At this rate, they'll be in first place before July begins.

OK, OK -- I'm getting a little ahead of myself. But it's fun to dream when the dream doesn't seem as much like the pipe variety -- which is how it could be classified one week ago today. Last Monday, the Tigers lost a yawner to the Indians to fall to 11 games below .500 -- with the White Sox coming to town and on a seven-game winning streak. The Tigers were 11 games out of first place.

This morning, the Tigers are riding a six-game winning streak, the White Sox have cooled off -- largely due to a sweep at the hands of the Tigers -- and suddenly the Bengals are but six games out of first place. Not terrific, but plenty of teams have been six out in mid-June and come back to win.

Of course, there's that tiny matter of there being two teams between the Tigers and the White Sox, but neither the Twins nor the Indians seem to be exhibiting any sort of propensity toward winning these days. It may be only a matter of a couple weeks before the Tigers leapfrog them in their pursuit of the White Sox.

For whatever reason, the Tigers feast on interleague play -- and have been for several seasons now. It may just be a sports oddity, but there it is.

There are six more of those IL matchups this week -- three each in San Francisco and San Diego. Neither of those ballclubs are among the National League's best. Then again, neither are the Tigers among the AL's best -- but that's just overall. They're trending toward the upper echelon right now.

Just one week ago, I wrote that the impending return of relievers Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney was coming too late; that it was likely to not have much of an impact on a mediocre team. I said so, back in the days of double-digit deficits in the standings.

I'd like to take my mulligan on that.

Since the Tigers' offense appears to be gaining steam, the bullpen suddenly becomes more relevant, since there are now leads to protect in the late going. So maybe Zoom Zoom and Rodney can still help, after all.

By the way -- and this I've mentioned before but will repeat -- there's no one in the big leagues more powerful or stronger than Marcus Thames. Period.

Thames continues to rank among the likes of Willie Horton and Cecil Fielder as the most physically strong hitters ever to grace a batter's box in Detroit.

Thames doesn't just hit home runs when the pitcher obliges by throwing a fastball in his wheelhouse. No sir. He reaches out, lowers himself, extends himself -- whatever it takes -- and still somehow has enough power to thwack the ball some 390, 400 feet to the alley and over the fence. He did it again yesterday -- and he's done it all week, smacking five HRs during the just-completed 10-game home stand. If Gary Sheffield is famous for launching his lasers that get out of the park as if they were heat-seeking missiles, then Thames' home runs could be classified as hand grenades, launched in high, arcing parabolas that explode on impact. A Sheffield home run zips out of the park in seconds; it's quite possible that you'll miss it if you're not looking. A Thames home run gives everyone a chance to marvel at it -- even the folks who weren't paying attention until tapped on the shoulder -- because they are lazy, high fly balls that seem to enjoy being airborne and the center of attention.

Oh, and Sheff should be back in a week or so from his oblique muscle injury. He says he feels great.

Not too late for his help, either.



Post a Comment

<< Home