If a Hollywood writer had scripted the Tigers' rapid fall from grace over the past week, even the most hacky of producers would have said, "No,no, no! This is too much for audiences to handle! Tone it down! No team in playoff contention would play that badly!"
You want to push the big, shiny panic button, don't you?
Unfortunately, as we've seen with our own disbelieving eyes, this past week wasn't the result of a screenwriter's imagination. The Tigers are playing that badly. As in "I'm having second thoughts about this team remaining in contention" badly. As in "This team can't buy a clue, let alone be buyers at the trade deadline" badly. As in "Blow the team up" badly.
Then I remember it's been less than a week of bad, if not rotten, baseball. Let me repeat that, LESS THAN A WEEK.
Almost all teams go through such stretches, even good ones. It's only seven of 162 games.
It's time to talk myself off the ledge.
Our fearless leader at BYB has often said no team is as bad as they look during a losing streak, or as good as they appear to be during a winning streak. We need to keep Kurt's mantra in mind.
The Tigers are not this bad.
Even though I have my issues with Jim Leyland (his lineups against the Indians Saturday night and Sunday left plenty to be desired), I have to agree with him when it comes to his team. When asked about having a team meeting after last night's loss, Leyland shot it down immediately.
"I don't think so," he said. "That all reads good. The fans like it. But if we have to have a lot of meetings, it usually means you're a bad team -- and we're not a bad team."
The Marlboro Man is spot on, if a little nicotine addled. The Tigers are not a bad team. They just aren't playing well at the moment. (OK, using the term "not playing well" is a bit of an understatement. A more apt description is to say they're playing like the 2003 Tigers...)
As Leyland also said last night, they are one well pitched game away from breaking out of their funk.
"But it's a matter of some pitcher going out and sticking it to the other team."
That's a bingo!
The Tigers actually have a pair of pitchers more than capable of "sticking it to the other team" in Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. If last Saturday is any indication, Rick Porcello can turn a pair into trips. The bullpen is starting to show some strain, yet they are still doing a solid job picking up the starters.
Could the Tigers have gotten some better performances on the mound during the losing streak? Sure. But they've also thrown well enough to win a few...such as Armando Galarraga did last night.. The pitching isn't why the Tigers are doing their best imitation of a team in a death spiral.
Instead, blame an offense hitting .196 with RISP over the last seven games.
But this the same offense with a Triple Crown and MVP candidate in Miguel Cabrera batting cleanup. You no longer have fans complaining about Magglio Ordonez's contract vesting, as he can still hit the ball with authority. Despite their recent struggles, Johnny Damon, Brennan Boesch and Austin Jackson are still getting on base.
Yes, the bottom of the order is still a black hole of suck, and has gotten even suckier with the loss of Brandon Inge. No matter how good he is with the glove, losing a .263 hitting Inge shouldn't end the Tigers' chances at contending. If it is, then they were just pretenders all along.
Admittedly, Dave Dombrowski has his work cut out for him over the next ten days. Their are some roster holes the size of a '57 Buick Roadmaster, but those holes can be bondo'ed. (No, not that Bondo, this bondo) Dombrowski has a flawed team on his hands, but the Tigers play in a flawed division. The brass ring is there for the taking. Hell, they're only 3 1/2 games out of of first. The Tigers can't be sellers at the trade deadline, despite what columnists like Lynn Henning believe.
Playing for the future is utter lunacy when you're a franchise with all of five playoff appearances in 42 years. When you're in the hunt, and the Tigers are in the hunt despite their current struggles, you cannot throw in the towel.
I get just as disgusted with the Tigers' bad play as the rest of you. But this too shall pass...like a huge kidney stone...but it will pass.
The Tigers were in first place not much more than a week ago. An entire season doesn't pinwheel around to the point of writing the year off and blowing up the roster in 6 days. So get your fingers off the panic button!
I'm not waving the white flag. Nor should you. More importantly, neither should the Tigers.