Six teams down, 26 to go. I need to take a quick break from my NFL power rankings to vent about the stupid, worthless, dysfunctional, idiotic Tigers, who are currently 6 games behind the White Sox in the AL Central.
Here's the bottom line: since a 9-3 start, the Tigers are 19-30. That's the worst record in the American League since April 18. The worst. Worse than Minnesota, Seattle and Oakland. Dead worst.
Now, injuries are partially to blame. Austin Jackson missed 21 games; Andy Dirks has missed 17. Both guys are hitting above .300. Doug Fister has missed 5 starts, and the Tigers are 1-4 in those games. Alex Avila is on the 15-day DL right now, and relievers Marte, Dotel and Benoit have all dealt with minor injuries. So that counts for something.
But the team's disarray goes way beyond a few injuries. We haven't had any missed action by the 3 MVP candidates - Cabrera, Fielder, or Verlander - and all three have carried their weight and then some. Injuries aren't a good enough excuse. Without the injuries, we should be 38-23, 4 games above the rest of the division and best in the AL. With the injuries, maybe we should be only 1 or 2 games above Chicago. But I don't care who's been hurt - there's no excuse for the team with the 5th highest payroll in Major League Baseball to have the 22nd best record.
We're lucky to be in the desolate AL Central; if we played in the AL East we'd be in dead last by 3 games.
Injuries have given Jimmy Leyland an excuse and a way to keep his job. But the Tigers 19-30 record over the past two months has been a concoction of terrible managing, erratic starting pitching, a hazardous bullpen, and extremely lazy, undisciplined, and downright stupid hitting. You can either single out the players and say: "You know who needs to play better, ____," and then fill in that blank with Boesch, Avila, Peralta, Young, Santiago, Scherzer, Porcello, Valverde, Worth, Kelly, Coke, or pretty much any player outside of JV, Miggy and Prince, and the 3 key players who've been hurt.
OR, you can look at the top of the hierarchy, and ask "Why is it that every single player on the roster except the 3 superstars has underperformed? Why is it that we lack such plate disciple, we swing at bad pitches, and let pitchers skim through innings on just 5 pitches? Why is it that every single pitcher we face, even some dork I've never heard of with a 5.50 ERA, suddenly look like Cy Young contenders? And why is it that our starting pitching never seems prepared, or confident, or poised, with the exception of JV? And why is it that the bullpen feels like a game of freaking Yahtzee? Just roll the dice randomly and see what happens. Why the heck do crappy guys just off the bus from Toledo get to pitch in close games with runners on base, while solid relievers Below and Benoit just sit there, twiddling their thumbs during another loss.
It's not spring training anymore. 60 games into the season isn't the team to experiment with minor leaguers. It's no longer time to goof around with the lineup card, and try something different every day. It took way too long to get rid of the three worst players in the MLB - Schlereth, Inge and Raburn. It's taken too long to get rid of Delmon Young, who has 1 walk in his last 123 at-bats. It's taken way too long to realize that Valverde should not be the closer, and last year was the flukiest thing that ever happened. Everything takes too long, because our manager lost his mind somewhere around 5 or 10 years ago, and nobody wants to admit it. Leyland himself even admitted a few weeks ago that he doesn't watch game film. He doesn't study opposing pitchers or batters. He doesn't need to. He's got 50 years of experience. He goes on hunches.
How are those damn hunches working out? 6 games behind the White Sox, and the worst record in the AL since April 18. It's beyond ridiculous. Jim Leyland needs to go, and so do his stooges, Lamont and McClendon.
Maybe with some discipline, leadership and accountability, the most talented team in the league might actually be able to win the worst division in baseball.