There are several levels of Tigers fandom, various degrees of obsession. If you're the kind of person to regularly read a site like Bless You Boys in the offseason, chances are you're slightly addicted to the Tigers. If you're part of that sub-section of our reading audience who also listens to our podcast week after week, you're definitely addicted. And then, of course, there are the truly hopeless cases like the staff of Bless You Boys -- we need Tigers-related content in our lives so badly, we'll generate our own posts just so we have something to read!
If you're in any of these three categories of fandom, however, chances are good that your extended family knows about your obsession, and that makes you something of an "expert" at family gatherings. As you tuck into your third plate of stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie, odds are good that your old Uncle Mort is going to sidle up at some point (oh, Mort, always with the sidling) and want your expert opinion on the current and future state of the Tigers.
That's cool, right? Appreciate the fact that you're respected enough to be asked for your thoughts on the subject. On the other hand? You just want to pass out on the couch watching the Lions lose, with a thin gravy film around your lips and some pie crust crumbs on your sweater. You don't want to argue about baseball, and Uncle Mort doesn't give three figs and the wiggle of a lamb's ass about your breathless descriptions of wRC+ and RE24. We're looking for simplicity here, we're looking for agreeability, and above all else, we're looking for more gravy because dear god turkey is dry and disgusting.
Here are the five questions about the Tigers that Uncle Mort is most likely to ask you over Thanksgiving dinner.
What do you think about Al Avila so far?
That's easy: the Tigers needed a new direction, and clearly Dave Dombrowski was holding the team back (zero World Series trophies, Uncle Mort, zero), and Al Avila is the one who originally discovered a young prospect named Miguel Cabrera, so basically our October Playoffs ticket has been pre-punched. Yeah, sure, ok, Avila did choose to keep Brad Auswipe around, but -- and here you should lower your voice to a whisper for dramatic effect -- honestly, that was probably the result of a power struggle between Mike and Chris Ilitch. Besides! Al Avila had the good sense not to re-sign his couldn't-even-spell-RBI son Alex, right? Good signs ahead.
The Tigers are going to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes, right?
THEY'D DAMN WELL BETTER! (Give old Uncle Mort a knowing nudge here and guzzle half of your beer.) Cespedes was exactly the spark-plug the New York Mets needed! Hell, he practically carried them single-handedly into the World Series! And you saw what happened when the Oakland A's traded him away mid-season when they were in hot pursuit of a division title. Tank city. Yep, the team that gets Cespedes is the team that's going for all the marbles, so Mike Ilitch better start filling out that money order now.
Do you like the Tigers chances in 2016?
Well, that depends on whether they do the smart thing and bring back David Price. I like their chances going into April, but I reserve the right to change my mind and declare them DOA by the first week of May if things aren't going well. (Probably a good time for another beer here.)
Did they fix that damned bullpen yet?
They did! They traded away some minor league scrub for Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez. That's the kind of closer where, shoot, you don't even need to look at his numbers -- they literally nicknamed him after strikeouts! What more do you need?
Yeah, yeah, I know, he's turning 34, which is about 86 in baseball years, but we're a long way from worrying about age-induced decline. He's not just another "re-tread" like Joe Nathan, because Joe Nathan was closer to, like, 53 years old when they signed him. And nobody ever thought to nickname Joe Nathan after a strikeout!
How can the Tigers win anything with Brad Ausmus still managing?
(Sigh deeply, rub your forehead as if the very mention of Ausmus's name causes the onset of a migraine.)
Look, it's not going to be easy, and let's not pretend otherwise. But yeah, it's a pretty safe bet that Ausmus knows his job is on the line, and he's in the last year of his contract, so I'd expect him to wise up and be on his best behavior this next season. Just trust Al Avila to idiot-proof the roster and everything should be ok. If things aren't looking ok by June 1, the smart money is on Mike Ilitch shooting Ausmus out of a cannon and into Lake Erie before the All Star break.
Hopefully by this point in the conversation, the Lions are being impossibly stupid and you and the rest of the family can go back to something everyone agrees on: the Ford family is just awful.