I’m going to maintain that the Tigers will be fine — but I have to admit, it’s getting pretty frustrating being a fan of this team right now.
We all deserve credit for sticking with them. Two adjectives that could best describe this team—underachieving and unlikable—aren’t exactly what you want attached to your favorite team. After starting 9-3, they’ve gone just 10-18 since due to poor performances and they haven’t endeared their fans in the process. The only thing worse than Leyland’s annoyance at valid questioning of his poor decisions and the bungling of the Brandon Inge situation — who should have never been on this team — was Delmon Young’s drunken, anti-semitic rant in New York. All incidents that could make you question your allegiance.
Twice in the last week they’ve had “defining moments” that could have reversed our perception, but failed to gain any momentum from them. The Tigers followed up a huge comeback win against the White Sox by getting swept at home the next two days by the hapless Twins. Justin Verlander’s near no-hitter on Friday played out before an electric crowd at Comerica Park. The playoff atmosphere downtown would mean a return of the team we grew to love last season—wouldn’t it? All was forgiven for that night in the eyes of a disappointed fanbase. However, the Tigers turned in a lackluster showing against the Pirates and Yankee castoff AJ Burnett the next day.
The Tigers inability to get a key hit from a player not named Cabrera or a shut down start from someone not named Verlander has been mind boggling, and even has the defiant Jim Leyland at a loss for words. They have the payroll, they have the talent and they absolutely have the fan support. In fact, the team the Tigers are chasing — the Cleveland Indians — would love to have half the support that the Tigers have. Simply put, the fans and team are in a relationship and the Tigers don’t deserve what they have now. Tigers’ fans have given time, money and tons and tons of emotion so far this year, but they have got next to nothing in return.
The team decline in production coupled with Leyland’s uncanny ability to make the wrong decision this season — the opposite of last year — has the team pressing and searching for answers as to why they weren’t simply handed the AL Central Crown before the start of the season. The Tigers are already a few games out to an Indians team that is significantly better than last season’s Cleveland team which made an early run. A four-game deficit can turn into 10 awfully quick if the Indians get hot and the Tigers keep playing as they have.
If the Tigers want to take charge of the division, it needs to at least start now. They don’t need to rally off 10 consecutive wins or sweep the Indians in their upcoming match-up, they simply need to show up for series.
They need production from their players, smart decisions from their coaching staff, but definitely don’t need any more support from their fans. They’ve got plenty of that.