This has been the most disappointing Tigers season in recent memory. It might not match 1988 (lost the pennant by one game), but it's pretty damn bad. I'd much rather take their 2003 season - the one in which they lost 119 games - than this one. This year, there were expectations. Not high ones, necessarily, but I thought a .500 season was in order. Instead, they stand today at 71-90. Last year, they ended 72-90. Now down 5-1 against the Twins and Julio Santana, they seemed destined to have a worse record this year than last.
This is especially frustrating because any objective, paper analysis of the team shows them to be pretty decent. They have four starters who have ERAs about league average, and one starter - Jeremy Bonderman - who I'd take over just about any starting pitcher in all the major leagues as a guy to build a team around. Not great, but not terrible. The have the generation's best all around catcher. They have the guy who will lead the major leagues in batting average, even though he won't be recognized (because his stats are split by the leagues). When healthy, they have one of the game'ss best power hitters in right field. Their shortstop is one of the handful best in the game when healthy. They've got great young players in CF and 1B. I feel like players like Craig Monroe and Brandon Inge, though not superstars, are solid players who could certainly be part of a winning ballclub. On paper, this team looks competitive.
Alas, the games are not played on paper. The team is losing and losing. Part of the problem is that the team's offense is almost entirely tied up in batting average. The team has very little power and even less patience. Ivan Rodriguez has been awful this season, having single digit number of walks and dragging down the offense. Ordonez, a guy with power and patience, has been injured for half the year. Pena, another guy with both of those skills, was relegated to the minor leagues for much of the year. Other than those guys, there are a lot of free-swingers and not much to balance them, then no depth when players get hurt.
Tomorrow, I fully expect Alan Trammell, one of my favorite Tigers of all time, a player I grew up watching and respecting, to be fired as manager. This was always a possibility, which is one reason I thought it was dumb to hire him as manager in the first place; it would be too tough to see him fired. But it's evident that he's lost control of the team, with reports of everything from massive clubhouse warfare to rumors of Dmitri Young drinking in the clubhouse during games. With Trammell, we'll also see Kirk Gibson being shown the door. Major bummer.
And it's been a major bummer of a season, a season that saw the team up over .500 as late as July, something us Tigers fans relished. But now it's back to below-mediocrity, and I've never felt less confident about the future. In the past, at least I knew that the future was bright, but most things I predicted with this season have gone the opposite of what I've expected, and it's disappointing.
I'm sure soon I'll be thinking of Joel Zumaya and Justin Verlander, two of baseball's best pitching prospects, and how they'll be part of the rotation as soon as next year. I'll be thinking of Cameron Maybin, the team's #1 draft pick last year, and how he's been compared to Ken Griffey as a player. But right now, it's tough not to feel depressed about this team.
You Orioles fans don't know how lucky you have it. First place for a whole half a season? I've been waiting for that for 17 years.
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