About five o’clock on Monday evening, in a dimly lit public house in downtown Detroit, the door opens, and through the bright sunlight, a silhouette appears. As the door closes and the figure moves closer, a young man in his early thirties wipes his brow with a handkerchief, which he tucks into his front pants pocket as he bellies up to the bar. He is dressed in jeans, a pair of Nikes and a navy blue polo shirt with the Olde English D embroidered on the chest. "Bourbon" he tells the bartender, "and let’s make it a double, please."
"Sure, Allin," the bartender replies. "Tiger troubles?" she asks as she turns toward the glass shelf where bottles are lined up like players standing at attention for the national anthem. She pulls down a bottle of ten year old Bulleit, takes a rock glass from the bar, tosses in a scoop of ice cubes and pours the liquor over the rocks.
"Patti, I’m at my wit’s end with these guys," he says as she puts the drink in front of him on the dark wooden bar. The bartender is wearing blue jeans with a gray t-shirt, the "Tigers" script written across the front in orange and navy letters. Patti is about the same age as her patron, with medium length brown hair and bright red lipstick. "All-Star break" she replies, giving the customer a chance to unload his thoughts.
"Yeah" says Allin, "we’re nine games out of first place, three and a half games out of a wild card spot. We’re two starting pitchers short of a rotation, the bullpen sucks, and the best hitter on the planet is out for six weeks, at least." Patti walks toward the center of the bar, grabbing a frosty beer mug as she approaches the taps. "What do you think they’ll do?" she asks.
Allin is a purchasing agent for a nearby sporting goods store that specializes in Detroit sports gear. He takes a sip, puts the glass back down and says "We’ve got no choice here. We’re too close to the playoffs to throw in the towel, and the window of opportunity isn’t going to be open forever. We’ve gotta go all in. Prospects be damned, there’s nothing worth worryin’ about in the minors anyway."
From the opposite end of the bar, a middle aged man gets up off his stool, heads toward a window on the side wall opposite the bar and slides the window shut. "How’s it goin' Al?" the man asks as he strolls back toward the bar and sits down next to where the younger man is sitting.
"Not too bad Sal, I’ve been better, I’ve been worse", says Allin as Pat tosses a cardboard Heineken coaster, frisbee style on the bar and puts a cold beer down in front of Sal. "You?" says Allin.
Sal works for a local Ford dealer as a car salesman. He is dressed in Levi’s khakis with a pair of topsiders and a short-sleeved light blue and white checkered shirt. He dons a brand new looking Tigers’ hat, navy blue with the white "D" front and center, with graying dark side burns on the sides "Busy," Sal utters. "Big sale, this year's winding down. Gotta make room for new inventory."
"I’m not feelin it this year" says Sal, lifting his mug and holding it up toward the young man. Their glasses clink as Sal says "Slainte, Miggy." "Slainte, Miggy," says Allin. Seconds later, the two beverages simultaneously rest on the bar again.
Sal continues: "Too many holes. We’ve had the worst rotation and the worst bullpen in the league over the past month. Two starting pitchers, a catcher, two outfielders and a closer, all set to walk. We can’t afford another mass exodus of free agents at the end of this season without getting anything for them. We can get a haul of young, inexpensive players, and come back stronger next year with spending room to reload." Sal raises his mug for another swig.
"That’s why I think we’ve gotta go all in," says Allin. "Each of those potential free agents will cost more than they’re making now to retain them or replace them. Two wild card teams played in the World Series last year. Maybe it’s a long shot, but we’ve gotta take it." Allin raises his glass to take another sip. "What do you say?" he asks as he looks toward the bartender.
"Hell, I dunno", she says. "I hate to throw in the towel so early. I'd like to get Miggy, Victor, and JV all healthy at the same time. There’s still plenty of excitement around here during games. The fans haven’t given up. I’ve seen this team finish strong before. I say we stand pat, see how the month finishes, and maybe pick up a couple of inexpensive players off the wire like that relief pitcher we just got. Then get most of these guys extended."
"Well," says Sal as he puts down the half empty mug. "The math says that this payroll isn’t sustainable. As sure as you’re standing there, Patti, it’s gotta be reworked pretty soon. We did it after '09 with a budget that was tapped out, and reloaded to make a run these past four seasons. We need to do it again. Best do it now, while we have some pieces to trade. Besides, we haven’t got much in the minors to trade away to get the kind of players we really need this season."
Patti turns away from the bar toward the shelf. She knows the answer to the question she’s about to ask. The number "24" is displayed on the back of her shirt, some lettering covered by her hair as she reaches for the bourbon."Two more?" she asks.
"Sure," come the replies, in stereo from the two men as a pair of empty glasses hit the bar.