By: Kurt Snyder
Don’t fall for it. Don’t echo all the same sentiments from thousands of Tiger fans around the state and around the country. Don’t do it. I know how easy it would be to just throw in the towel, given all we know about the Tigers this season, and having witnessed Cleveland go 11 for 11 against the Tigers.
In baseball, it’s so important to look at the big picture, because there are so many games, so many things that can happen, all at the drop of a hat. Case in point. Once the Tigers hit Cleveland, Detroit put 2 starting pitchers on the DL. You want more doubt? You want more distraction heading into a series? Well, outside of the streak, this certainly didn’t help.
After the Game 1 loss, a game where Nick Castellanos continued to be one of the few Tigers hitting well against the Tribe; he came down with the flu. Out of the lineup goes our hottest hitter, in comes our worst hitter to fill in. Out goes Zimmermann, in comes Sanchez who has been pitching out of the pen for a reason. He’s been bad. You want more doubt? You want more distraction going into Game 2? Well, you got it.
As you know by now, Game 2 was a disaster and now the talk is about desperation. How important is it that the Tigers put an end to this streak? Sure the Tigers need a win. Sure, it’s probably a good time for Fulmer to take the mound, given all his success. But don’t fall for it. Assume nothing.
The Indians don’t seem to care who the Tigers pitch, just as long as he’s wearing a Detroit jersey. That’s all they have needed to feel extremely confident.
But let’s get our arms around this mess. There is much more to worry about long before facing the Indians again. The very last thing the team needs to concern themselves with the rest of July, is the Indians. Sure there will be scoreboard watching, but the Tigers need to concentrate on winning enough games this month to make the rest of the season meaningful at all.
Forget the Indians. We don’t get another shot at them until September. Six times to be exact.
What we need to be concerned about once again, is our health. With both Norris and Zimmermann now on the DL, the Tigers are in scramble mode with their starting rotation. Sanchez will be forced to get more starts, maybe even guys like Matt Boyd or Buck Farmer. None of us like the sound of this, but the team will have to fight through it.
The Ilitch family has a lot to decide this month. They will be watching the team very closely. They have seen the Tigers struggle against Cleveland. They see the daunting schedule ahead. They see a division race where the Tigers again have fallen more than 7 games behind. But they also see the Wild Card race. A race that currently shows the Tigers sitting only 1 ½ games behind.
A question needs to be answered every year at the end of July. And if we have learned anything about Mike Ilitch, it is that he is hell-bent on winning a World Championship. Not to make the playoffs, but to win a Title. But how much do you invest in a post season that just may begin and maybe end with a Wild Card game? How much do you invest to be sure you make that game?
According to Al Avila, there won’t be any deadline deals; they won’t be buying. This is the team they will run with. But we heard that in the spring just before Ilitch decided he wanted more offense, translating into the signing of Justin Upton.
But because we don’t have a crystal ball, we don’t know what this team will look like at the end of the month. With 2 starters dropping before our eyes in just 24 hours, what’s next? All this is why this team needs to be concerned about July and July only.
It may not matter that September brings 6 more games with Cleveland. The results of those games may mean nothing if the Tigers don’t put this series behind them and concentrate on what is ahead. Win or lose on Sunday, the Tigers can turn the page or close the book moving through the calendar. It’s their choice.
And as fans, how should we react? Well, don’t be too enamored by the Indians. Teams can fall apart just as quickly as they can get hot. It’s just a matter of whether the Tigers are still in a position to take advantage should it happen. There is time. Half of the season remains. So much can still happen. But it’s the rest of July that will determine their future path and decisions.