I don't know if I have to give a weekly pep talk, or if this is a weekly rant. I feel like I have to say it repeatedly throughout the year. Whenever the Tigers hit some waves, the ship begins to rock and the rats come running to the surface. Relax, I repeat, or you'll ruin the season for yourself -- and others.
The week that wasn't. You don't need to be a glass-half-empty individual to realize the past week in Tigers baseball was not a pleasant one. Following a dreadful series against the Rangers, Detroit continued its tradition of losing at home to the Seattle Mariners. Why? Who knows. Just the way it has been for the past few years. As if a sweep at home wasn't enough suffering, the Tigers hit the road for Yankee Stadium, where the home team is remarkably consistent, which is to say remarkably good. Without a strong showing from a rookie pitcher, the Tigers may have been oh-for-the-week. On top of all of that, the team had to deal with a public relations hit stemming from allegations of a drunken left fielder yelling bigotry on the streets of New York whilst getting in a fight. It was not a good week.
The doubters among us are ready to wave the white flag. Read the comments section, it won't take long to find that sort. If you're brave, check out the commentary on any newspaper's comment section, or tune into your local sports radio show. There are worries. Vaguely, the batters aren't batting, the pitchers aren't pitching and the defense isn't defensing. This team has serious issues, they'll tell you. Interestingly, few of them saw these issues ahead of time but many seem to think the events of the first month of the baseball season will run like a broken record for the rest of the year. Prince Fielder is just a really expensive singles hitter. The All-Star catcher Alex Avila will battle to stay above the Mendoza line. The slugging shortstop Jhonny Peralta will not hit: not for average, not for power. The offense is doomed. That's the package they're selling. Buy it at your own risk.
Call me crazy, but I see a good month ahead. We know going into April it would be a tough month -- probably the toughest for the team. Red Sox, Rays, Yankees, Rangers. It's a tough way to make a living. Just ask the Orioles. Yet Detroit has a winning record (6-3) against the East, and a winning record (4-2) against the Central. Some of the starting pitchers the Tigers faced? Jake Peavy, Colby Lewis, Yu Darvish, Felix Hernandez. That's four of the AL's top 13 pitchers by ERA. A little deeper and you find a James Shields and Jason Vargas among the top 25. I haven't even mentioned stars like CC Sabathia and Josh Beckett, both of whom were in the Cy Young running for much of last season. Point is, if it seemed like the Tigers made every pitcher they face look like a stud, it's because a fair number of the pitchers actually are pretty darn good. In May, Detroit will be seeing a lot more of the White Sox and Indians, the A's, the Pirates, the Twins. The schedule actually does matter -- unless you thought the Tigers were going to lazily dream to a 105-win season.
And let's cut out this "Fire Leyland" nonsense. I shouldn't even humor this with a topic. Yet a shaky 10 days and the sharks are circling. You don't like Leyland's lineups? Donate to the fund to make the Tigers the Yankees. He doesn't have enough all-stars to create a lineup that's going to look good every night. He has a roster of 25. Some nights, he's going to call on players whose strengths are hitting righties (or lefties) or maybe at playing defense. Some nights, maybe he just has to rest someone. They're not pixels in a video game, they do need mental or physical breaks to stay on top of their games for the nine months from February through October. It's not always going to be pretty. Get over it. Leyland doesn't use his bullpen right? How, exactly, do you propose he change that? Maybe Octavio Dotel, Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde can pitch 162 games each. Wait, you don't like Valverde either now, do you? Clearly Leyland's fault that Valverde stumbles, or that Brayan Villarreal, Adam Wilk, Luke Putkonen, Thad Weber, Daniel Schlereth and others are limited in their abilities. Yes, I'm sure Leyland's forcing the organization to keep better players far away in the minors because he loves his guys so much.
You want the truth? I'll tell you the truth. This is a good team. It is the best in the division. It is in the top third of the American League. It will be better when Doug Fister returns to the rotation. It will be better when Fielder starts to hit home runs, when Avila and Peralta and Boesch hit the ball, period. And once that happens, on any given day, this team could beat any team in baseball. In any given series, it could take two of three, three of five, four of seven -- or it could lose those series, too. This is baseball. There's no magic bullet. There's no "for sure" things. Sometimes the last place team is in first, and sometimes the first place team is
in last .500. Deal with it.