Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Tigers' Pennant Drive? The Pursuit Of .500

Last night, the Tigers lost a baseball game because Jack Cust, who if he was a bicycle or a car would be equipped with squares for wheels, beat out an infield single in the 11th inning.

And you can add that loss to the list of oddities and curiosities that have made up the Tigers' 2008 season, a year that is becoming serio-comic and absurd.

You really have to laugh at this point. The only other alternative is to cry, and why waste tear duct energy on this bunch? They win a couple games, talk about having fun again, then go back into hibernation. Then the manager makes yet another lineup change based on a combination of desperation and hunches, and there are some short-term results, but then it's back to losing, forthwith.

It's clear now, the season more than one-third completed, that the 2008 Detroit Tigers will go down in recent baseball history as one of the biggest disappointments ever to put on cleats and eye black. And that's OK. Someone has to be that, I suppose. And we haven't had too many out-and-out disappointing teams around here in a while.

1969. The year after the World Series win, the Tigers won 90 games, but the Orioles were super-human, winning 109. So you really can't call this all that disappointing, because how are you going to win 110?

1985. The year after the '84 magic. The Tigers started 5-0 and then played about .500 the rest of the way. This was mostly the same team as the year before, but closer Willie Hernandez proved to be human after all, others went down in production, and the other teams in the league enjoyed beating the defending champs a bit too much. Yes, a disappointment, but everyone knew there would not, could not, be another 1984.

2000. The Tigers were moving into a new ballpark, had just traded for a superstar in Juan Gonzalez, and seemed to have the makings of a scrappy ballclub to match the personality of its new manager, Phil Garner. But Gonzalez under-achieved, didn't want to be here, and despite a second half surge, the Tigers settled back into their familiar place near the bottom of the division.

2007. A hot first half start turned cold after an injury to Gary Sheffield. An almost certain playoff spot was lost thanks to a wretched August.

That's about it, folks. And none of those seasons can come close to matching 2008's downer, mainly because of all the pre-season hype and expectation. High profile moves to secure Edgar Renteria, Miguel Cabrera, and Dontrelle Willis -- combined with the team's existing roster -- were supposed to put the Tigers on another plane.

So what to do when such a team disappoints to this magnitude? Nothing, really. Just watch it play out and wonder if there's any surges left to lift it close to .500. That's what this season has been reduced to: a chase toward the break even mark. That'll be our own little, private pennant race.


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