.500 is not the goal. Sure, it's better than 43-119, sure it would be more than nice to break an eleven-year losing streak, but it's not worth mortgaging the future for a chance dance with mediocrity. .500 is fourth place in the AL Central. The goal is a sustained run of relevance.
The Tigers sit at 36-36 today, and I don't mean to imply that I'm not thrilled that they're decent, that it's not much more fun to be a fan this year. I just want Dombrowski and friends to remember that this is not success. At some point they will be faced with a choice. Someone may come in with a reasonable offer for Rondell White, for Jason Johnson, for Mike Maroth. The Tigers may have a chance to go get an expensive free agent to-be. They'll need to decide what do to based on whether or not this is the year they can be relevant. If they're merely .500 when the time comes to decide, the Tigers need to strongly consider the selling players who won't be around next year.
All that said, .500 is a reasonable goal for the upcoming homestand. The Tigers get a look at first place when the White Sox come to town, and they get a look at fear and loathing when the Yankees follow them into the CoPa. The Sox started hot and have stayed hot. Frank Thomas is back, and has seven HRs in 43 ABs. Carl Everett, noted scientific and political thinker, is just as scorching. And tonight, the Tigers have to face Mark Buehrle, exactly the kind of pitcher they struggle against. Buehrle, and this was true even before he lost his ability to pitch poorly this year, works quickly and throws strikes. Since 2002, he has a 2.72 ERA against Detroit, making the Tigers his third favorite team to face. We'll also face Brandon McCarthy, a hot prospect who may not quite be ready, and Freddy Garcia, off to his best start since he won the ERA crown in 2001.
After them, the Yankees, and enough has been written about them. We'll face Randy Johnson, though, and even if he's not worth $18m this year, he's far from done.
So I'd be plenty happy with exiting this homestand at 39-39, and putting the buy/sell decision off for a little while. Perhaps I'm shooting a little low, but I'd love to be surprised. And you know, things don't look too bad when you look at it this way:
AL Wild Card Standings, 6/28
Baltimore 42 34 -
Minnesota 41 33 -
Cleveland 40 34 1
NY Yankees 39 37 3
Texas 38 36 3
Detroit 36 36 4