Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday Morning Manager

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 1-5
This Week: (9/22-24: KC; 25-28: TB)

Well, it's almost over. Finally.

The Tigers are sputtering to the finish line, wheezing. The end can't come soon enough, it appears, for this bunch. What else do you call it when a 1-9 record in the last ten games is seen next to their name in the standings?

By the way, I seem to remember the "Last 10" designation first appearing in newspaper standings sometime around 1984. Not sure how it started, nor why there was deemed a great interest in a team's previous 10 games. But I must admit that the standings would look "naked" without a "Last 10" column. And it truly is a neat way to see how the teams have been doing lately, at a glance. I notice that NHL and NBA standings are showing it now as a matter of procedure.

Now, let's play over-and-under, hindsight version.

What do you suppose was the over/under on the Tigers' win total for 2008? You could have made a mint if you had picked anything less than 95. Less than 80, and they would have had you committed. But the Tigers may not even win 75 games, which would have been off the books in March. You couldn't have gotten any self-respecting bookie to even take you seriously with such a prediction.

How about this one? If you would have shown someone the Tigers' schedule, and pointed to the four season-ending games with the Tampa Bay Rays, and said, "One of these teams will have sewn up a playoff spot by this time -- and it won't be the Tigers", how long before the white coats would have arrived? And none of this backing in, Wild Card nonsense for the Rays. They are in as all baseball teams should be in -- by winning their dadgum division.

Forget the stock market, pre-collapse. Your best bet at making money would have been in the bars and casinos and sports books across this country, wagering against the Tigers and their rosey outlook. You would have cleaned up.

It's a shame, of course. These final seven home games could have really been something: teeming with playoff implications, or a nice warm-up to the post-season. Even a Battle of the Titans-like series with the Rays this weekend would have been a nice playoff preview. Instead, they're like so many other September home games around here over the past 15 years, save the 2006 and 2007 seasons: meaningless and just something that needs to be done, like mowing the lawn or cleaning out the attic.

But there's always next year, right?

Manager Jim Leyland promises, among other things, "no hanky-panky" in spring training '09 when it comes to who's playing which positions. Maybe someone should school the manager as to what "hanky panky" means, but whatever. Basically, he says that some disorder over positions -- he mentioned Brandon Inge by name -- last March contributed to the slow start this season.

I really don't care what Jim Leyland thinks is the matter with his baseball team, as long as he fixes it. He says the Tigers aren't far away from being "back in the thick of things" in 2009. He's probably right. It's hard to imagine so many bad things happening to the Tigers again next year. Correction: it's nauseating to imagine that.

Well, at least next year we won't have to hear about 110 wins and 1,000 runs and such. Let that be someone else's albatross.



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