Winners or Losers: We know what the Tigers have been called for years. I also know what many Tiger fans and non-Tiger fans are thinking right now: these guys are losers too. Not so fast. Don't get dejected because this team has fallen below .500 for the first time this season. These players, new and old, are not going to play this way every night. It mainly has to deal with who they are playing right now and how the others perform. The Angels have one of the best line-ups in the entire major league. Sure, they might be missing Garret Anderson and Tim Salmon, but Chone Figgins is an excellent replacement and others like Vladimir Guerrero and Troy Glaus are playing beyond their own capabilities (which are extremely high). The Tigers are going to beat these western division teams here and there, but this is where they will get most of their losses, as in years past. Once the Tigers get past this stretch of playing the Angels (who have scored at least ten runs in four of the five games this year against the Tigs) all will be better. Remember that baseball is all about streaks. Yankees' hitters started off slow, but look at them now. The Rangers are in first and stinging the ball, but they will eventually fall because of slumps, both hitting and pitching (R.A. Dickey isn't that great is he?). Also, look at the Indians and Bo-Sox. Cleveland is victors of four straight, while Boston has dropped five in a row; however all of these wins and losses are outside of their divisions. This brings me to my next point: the most important games to win are those when you play against division foes. Despite this horrible swoon against the West (2-6), the important games for the Tigers will be against the Central, especially Chicago and Minnesota. In order for this 2004 Detroit team to be winners, they must win a few here and there against these non-division teams and play at least .600 ball against the Central. This may not win the division, but we are coming off one of the worst seasons in Major League history. I know this is hard to admit, but we have to get out of the mindset of "if we don't win now, we are failures." Win a few more now to get Detroit interested again and continue to do this for the next few years. We will win when the pitching is here along with this hitting.
Speaking of Pitching: If I had a vote, I know who I would vote as my comeback player of the year. Sure most of these awards are won by guys who have career threatening injuries or even diseases, but I think the Tigers should promote for this player if he continues to play as well as he has so far. I am talking about Mike Maroth. For a man that went through the last season with the fear of becoming a 20-game loser and then actually doing it, took a ton of courage. I am glad that this has already been noted before, but if you don't know, other writers and players have commended Maroth for his courage and resilience that he has shown in taking his lumps in stride. There is a journal that he writes (with help from Jason Beck) on mlb.com where he talks about his week-by-week adventures as a major league pitcher. I am glad to see that he is so positive about his duties to his team and that he doesn't complain. This is the type of player that many kids should look up to. Maroth has even said that going through all of that losing can only make him stronger. He has been the most consistent Tiger's hurler this season posting a 3-1 record with a 4.26 E.R.A. They can't give a player an award based on those stats, but if he can get anywhere close to 15 wins then I truly believe that it should be a no-brainer. Anyway, I appreciate his class on and off the field and would like everyone to keep Mike Maroth in the back of their mind when it comes time for voting for a comeback player of the year.
Ups and Downs: Like I said before, baseball is all about streaks. So far this season I have already cussed out at least ten different Tigers for their lack of abilities. Right now the hot seats consist of Nate Cornejo, Al Levine, and—well basically—the entire pitching staff minus Mike Maroth and Ugueth Urbina. Honestly though, Al Levine started great but has slumped in his last three relief appearances. Cornejo is finding his way out of the rotation while he nurses his wounds—probably physical and mental. These guys are professional so I am sure they are going to correct their mechanics and come through in the clutch at some point in the coming weeks. Hitters that have made my list are Greg Norton, Eric Munson, and Carlos Pena. These guys are going to have to break out of it at some point—I hope—to get their averages respectable. It is going to take Munson and Pena some guts to show that they can live up to expectations, and start by helping Pudge, Carlos Guillen, and Rondell White, produce some clutch hitting. On the flip side, Brandon Inge is not going to hit all year long and Pudge is not going to be batting in the .370 range. Please, don't be too judgmental with all of these guys so soon. Give them some time to show you what they are made of. I would bet some money that the Tigers will not keep losing—in fact—I would bet that the Tigers will have a four or five game winning streak in the near future. The pitchers and hitters will click at some point, but they will also falter too. Remember to keep in mind the statistics of baseball. A man that is successful thirty percent of the time is a hell of a hitter. In the same right, a man that can hit only two out of ten times is mentioned with the likes of the Mendoza line. Stay positive and supportive and know that the Tigers are not going to be as bad as last year, and we should be thankful for that.