We bid adieu to small ball, double switches, and sure wins. Say goodbye to the National League for another year
It's been a damn successful few weeks for the Tigers, to say the very least. They finished their run 'round the National League with a 13-5 record, their season record over .500 and find themselves back in the AL Central race. Not bad, huh?
As the Tigers won't face MLB's JV squads for another year, it's worth looking back and asking, "what have we learned?"
1. The Tigers are actually a pretty good baseball team. Too bad it took half a season for them to realize it.
2. They could/should be even better than they are, save for injury. Ordonez, Willis, Bonderman, Rodney, Zumaya, Sheffield, Inge, Granderson, they have all missed/are missing significant amounts of playing time thanks to extended stints on the DL. Any team in baseball would have trouble winning conisitently with that amount of walking wounded.
3. Detroit's farm system wasn't quite as barren as we originally believed. Armando Galarraga, Eddie Bonine, Clete Thomas, Fredie Dolsi, Matt Joyce, Casey Fossum, Dane Sardinha, Michael Hollliman, Brent Clevlen, all have had their moments to shine. (Some more than others, obviously) Look at that list of players, would you have imagined ANY of them significantly contibuting to the 2008 Tigers? Me neither. Some are up to stay, others are role players temporarily helping out during an injury crisis, but all have contributed.
4. If the Tigers played in the NL full time, we'd already be licking our chops, and saving up for playoff tickets. Hell, if the KC Royals played in the NL, their fans would be doing the same.
5. I'm not kidding when I call the NL MLB's junior varsity. They play the same game, are competitive playing amongst themselves, but just don't have the same talent level as the varsity, aka the AL. For example, Detroit had a lineup full of backups facing the Rockies in the final game of the series (Another of Jim Layland's infamous "Sunday lineups"), yet still beat them fairly easily.
6. Speaking of the Colorado Rockies, how in the Hell are they the defending NL champions? One crazy ass, fluky, never to be repeated, season ending winning winning streak carried them all the way to the World Series. From what I've seen over the past 3 days, the 2008 version of the Rockies will be extremely lucky to sniff .500, even in the inferior NL.
7. AL style baseball is a better game, making for better teams. I know, I know, there are some of you out there who enjoy the small ball and strategy of the NL. I'm not one of them. Yes, there is a place for small ball, but only in certain extenuating circumstances. I still think back to the San Francisco series, where the Giants had their number 3 hitter sacrifice bunting in the 2ND INNING. The 2ND INNING folks! I wouldn't call a man on 1st with no one out in the 2ND INNING extenutating circumstances. If Earl Weaver were dead, he'd be spinning in his grave. That small ball insanity may fly in the NL, but it'll have you laughed out of the AL. THE 2ND INNING!
8. The Tigers' 2008 season starts tonight. Out of their next 8 series, which would take them to the end of July, the Tigers play 6 within the division. Talk about a gauntlet. But now is the time to truely make their move. Will the Tigers need to play .770 ball, as they have over the past 3 weeks? It would be nice, but no. All the Tigers need to do is stay within shouting distance of division lead. They finish July where they are now, 5 games back of the divison lead, the Tigers will have a great shot at making the playoffs. Considering their awful start, having a shot would be quite the accomplishment.