Monday, May 15, 2006

I don't think you understand

Can you understand what its like to grow up loving a baseball team. Growing up and seeing that team begin a season so dominate, that the race for the AL East was over before the end of April. And then, three years later, watch as that team finished one of the most dramamtic comebacks in baseball history to win the AL East in 1987. And then wait. Can you understand what it is like to watch, season after losing season, giving up hope. Watching your team marginalized. When it should be a proud franchise like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers. Do you know that the Tigers were a charter member of the American League. That despite their claims of poverty and complain about trying to remain competitive, that Detroit is one of the largest markets in the US. certainly bigger than Minnisota. And Kansas City. The cities that they are lumped together with whenever the talk af big market and small market teams get brought up.

There was Sparky, refusing to manage scab players in the lockout. And then the strike in 1994. And then, for over ten yars, nothing happened in Detroit. Their was hope, springing occasionally. When they moved into the ballpark, replacing the beloved but impractical Tiger Stadium for Comerica Park. And it was going to be a big year. Bobby HIgginson and Jeff Weaver and Rob Fick and a host of others who were going to bring the team back to respectability. And still, nothing happened.

We wondered, forget about September, would the Tigers ever play a meaningful game in May. Buddy Bell and Phil Garner and Alan Tramell and others tried and failed to manage this team. But the talent was empty, the minor leagues were dead, and the Tigers were a team that were never mentioned nationally after the preseason predictions predicted they would finish 5th in the AL Central.

And they finished under 500 for eleven years in a row.

In a town that has a baseball soul.

A soul that was nearly destroyed, by Hockeytown and Piston success. Since the last Tiger playoff team, the Pistons have gone to the finals four times, and won it three times. The Wings won three stanley cup in four visits to the finals. The Lions have won more playoff games since 1987 than the Tigers. And that is saying something since the Lions have won one playoff game since winning the championship in 1957.

But that soul has survived somehow, and finally, it is being reawakened. We turn on the TV to watch the Tigers, or the radio, and listen, expecting the Tigers to pull off another win. A sweep in Cleveland? It had been 16 years since that happened before last week. Ten games over 500. You have to go back to 1993 to find the last Tiger team was was ten games over 500. My son who will turn ten this summer has never seen the Tigers win more than 78 games in a season.

It is so refreshing. The night the Wings were eliminated by Edmonton, I didn't care. The Tigers won that night. Baseball is back, and they are doing it the old fashioned way. Strong starting pitchng and timely hits. Mike Maroth, who lost 21 games in a single season is 5-2. Jeremy Bonderman, the projected savior of the team, is pitching well, also 5-2. Even Justin Verlander, the Rookie who throws the ball in the high 90s, but is smart enough to get hitters out on 78 mph pitches, is surpassing expectations with his start.

37 games into this season, one quarter of the done, and the Tigers, the joke of the American League for the past decade, have the second best record in all of baseball. Better than the Red Sox. The Yankees. The Cardinals. Behind only division-rival Chicago by half a game.

Yes, their schedule will get tougher in the next month, when they play NY, Boston, Chicago and St Louis, but this time, when peole go to the ballpark or turn on their TVs and radios, they'll be expecting a close game, where the Tigers are competing and winning against the league's best teams.

I don't know if the Tigers can maintain their winning ways all season long. I don't know if they will be another joke come September. But I know this. I am enjoying every Tigers Game, its a refreshing blast of the kind of baseball i grew up with. It's good to be back in the Major Leagues again.


Anonymous Keglavithcher Rav said...

Sounds like the Leafs, is there still hope for the boys in blue?

May 15, 2006 5:23 PM  
Blogger Noahdaddy said...

When I looked at the CNNSI.COM weekly power rankings and saw the Detroit Tigers at No.3, behind only the Cardinals and the White Sox, I admit that I almost weeped with joy.

May 15, 2006 5:48 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Um, I root for the Indians. And the Cavs. And the Browns. And I was born into a sports-obsessed family in 1983.

Talk about a tormented childhood.

May 15, 2006 6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


May 16, 2006 4:43 AM  
Blogger Olah Chadasha said...

Yeah, Ez, I feel very bad for you. Rav, the only way the Leafs are going to have hope is if they admit keeping Balfour on is a mistake, and they allow Paul Maurice to institute his method of coaching that proved so successful with Carolina.

May 16, 2006 9:13 AM  
Blogger Gebrec said...

Air - Great post! saw you have a date - you will be missed!
There is a picture in my cube here that has a Tiger Stadium night game being played on a cloudy night and through the clouds comes the moonlight and it meets up with the lights of the stadium and gives the impression that the baseball gods are shinning down on the old ballpark, perhaps this year the baseball gods will once again grace us with their presence!

May 16, 2006 9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a totally anonymous reader, I am just curious as to why when you listed the "proud franchises"- you included the Yankees, the Red Sox and the Dodgers and glaringly omitted the St. Louis Cardinals?

Again, I only ask, as a totally anonymoyus reader

May 16, 2006 5:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Super color scheme, I like it! Good job. Go on.

May 16, 2006 11:49 PM  
Blogger Air Time said...

The Cards were left off the list because I wrote this off the top of my head without a staff of slackies who could remind me to include St. Louis.

Everyone knows that St. Louis is one of the best,if not the best, baseball towns in America.

May 17, 2006 7:16 AM  
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