Back in Time: 2008 is 2005

BallTherapy.jpgIt wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Here we are, approaching the third weekend of August, and the Tigers are mired in third place, nine-and-a-half games out of first place. And, as I’m always reminding myself, only five games out of last place. This was supposed to be like 1984, 1968 or even 1945. It was not supposed to be like – gulp – 2005.

The Tigers record coming into this weekend series against the Orioles is 59-62. Entering play on Aug. 14, 2005, the Tigers were 53-61, 21-and-a-half-games out of first.

While the 2005 club was further back in the standings mathematically on Aug. 14, the current team feels about that far behind the White Sox and Twins. Doesn’t it?

Three years ago, Tigers fans seemed more interested in whether or not Alan Trammell would return as manager, who they’d acquire in the offseason, and what on God’s green earth to do with Carlos Pena?

Today, well, the team has probably more questions than the 2005 team did. One thing we can be assured of is Jim Leyland returning as manager. And that’s a good thing. Of course, some may disagree with that, but I believe there are very few buttons he could’ve pushed this year that would make up almost 10 games in the standings.

Here are 17 questions about the 2009 season rattling around in my head:

  1. Who’s the closer in 2009?
  2. Does Chuck Hernandez return as pitching coach?
  3. Is Nate Robertson a Tiger next season?
  4. Can Dontrelle Willis bounce back?
  5. Can the Tigers deal Carlos Guillen?
  6. If the Tigers can get a catcher, do they — and do they move Brandon Inge back to third?
  7. Does Vance Wilson return at long last?
  8. Who’s the shortstop?
  9. Would they deal Magglio Ordonez as some suggest?
  10. How does Jeremy Bonderman recover?
  11. Is Clete Thomas on the big club to stay?
  12. Who is 2009’s Matt Joyce?
  13. Are the Tigers counting on Freddy Garcia?
  14. Will Brent Clevlen finally break through?
  15. What can the Tigers expect out of Joel Zumaya?
  16. Do they sign Placido Polanco to an extension before the season?
  17. What’s Gary Sheffield‘s role — if any?

Ultimately, the 2005 Tigers finished 20 games under .500. Will this year’s team finish that far off the pace? Some days (i.e., against Tampa Bay) it certainly feels as if they could, but I doubt it.

I’m tending to believe that Doug’s right — 81 and 81 for this year’s club. But the fate of the 2009 team lies in how they address the pressing issues hovering over the organization.

Game 106: Tired Tigers Wake Up

ScorecardXSmall.jpg

The Score: Tigers 8 – Indians 5

The Gist: Armando Galarraga is to the Indians as Paul Byrd is to the Tigers. Well, not quite, but Galarraga beat the Tribe for the third time this year, Tigers hitters were spared batting practice and turned it on, you know, during a game. But back to Galarraga: three runs over 5.1 innings to earn his ninth win of the year — more than Justin Verlander, folks. (For now.) Brandon Inge stroked three hits including a two-run homer and a double. Miguel Cabrera also went yard as he, Placido Polanco, Carlos Guillen and Matt Joyce collected two hits apiece.

The Quote: “We keep winning, we can come in at 6:15 every night for all I care. The guys liked it, so we’ll have a little fun with it and keep them fresh at the same time.” — Jim Leyland on the Tigers skipping BP on Tuesday night.

The Stat: 20. The combined number of balls thrown by Freddy Dolsi and Fernando Rodney — out of a total of 36. Both threw 18 pitches, eight of them strikes. Sigh.

Up Next: Tigers @ Indians

Nate Robertson (6-8, 5.63) vs. Cliff Lee (14-2, 2.29)

Game 90: 41,062 at Comerica Park Play the Role of Lazarus

ESPN highlights not available here.

Photo_070908_003.jpg

The Score: Tigers 8 – Indians 6

The Gist:Of all the games I’ve been to at Comerica Park, admittedly not a lot, this one ranks near the top. The fans were asleep one moment and awoke only long enough to express anger for what appeared to be another shutout-after-blowout loss.

Poor Eddie Bonine couldn’t do anything right, whereas Casey Fossum (six strikeouts in 3.1 IP) cobbled together a terrific outing to keep the Tigers in it. But what about Matt Joyce‘s clutchitude? I enjoyed his homer more than Miguel Cabrera‘s winner only because Joyce’s was a virtual no-doubter. Cabrera’s seemed more likely to punch a hole in the left field wall than clear it.

The Quote: “What do you call that thing you talked about? A corn crib?” — The drunk idiot behind me at the game, trying to remember the phrase “can of corn” used, incorrectly, by his fellow drunk buddy.

The Stat: 0. The number of times the Tigers showed the replay of Cabrera’s homer on the scoreboard.

Up Next: Twins @ Tigers

Kenny Rogers (6-6, 4.60) vs. Kevin Slowey (6-6, 3.78)

Game 47: Seattle Slew

ScorecardXSmall.jpg

The Gist: Hey now! Jeremy Bonderman earns a quality start — and a win — after a six-inning, eight-hit outing against the Mariners. And what do you know? The Tigers beat the Mariners 9-2 to sweep the series. Freddy Dolsi was lights-out over three innings of no-hit relief. The Tigers banged out 13 hits (43 for the series), including three from Gary Sheffield (to raise his average to .202), two from Matt Joyce and a three-run jack from Brandon Inge.

The Quote: “They want me to run on and off the mound. I smoke three packs a day.” — Jim Leyland on MLB’s efforts to accelerate games.

The Stat: .281 – Placido Polanco‘s average, despite an 0 for 4 day on Thursday. Talk about flying under the radar.

Up Next: Twins @ Tigers

  • Friday: Armando Galarraga (3-1, 3.06) vs. Kevin Slowey (0-4, 5.49)
  • Saturday: Nate Robertson (1-5, 6.08) vs. Boof Bonser (2-5, 5.25)
  • Sunday: Justin Verlander (2-7, 5.61) vs. Glen Perkins (1-1, 3.44)

Game 43: Winning Ugly Can Be Beauteous

ScorecardXSmall.jpg

The Gist: Armando Galarraga threw a gem, Matt Joyce went deep and the Tigers eeked out a one-run victory, 3-2 over flame-throwing D’backs rookie Max Scherzer. It wasn’t a lot of offense, but the Tigers got enough and were able to overcome some untimely walks issued from the bullpen. The play of the game, at least from our view from section 112 at Chase Field, was Pudge Rodriguez‘s coaxing the D’backs into a double play with the old “let-the-pop-fly-drop.” Orlando Hudson didn’t run on the pop-up and was likely treated to an earful from Arizona bench coach and baserunning instructor Kirk Gibson.

The Quote: “He actually reminds me a little bit of Jim Northrup.” — Jim Leyland on Joyce.

The Stat: 1. Saturday night’s win was the Tigers’ first in 2008 when they scored fewer than five runs.

Game 39: An E for the Day*

flipacoin.jpg

The Gist: Nate Robertson finally showed up but the offense took the night off (do I hear an echo?) and Edgar Renteria, well, Edgar thought it was a good idea. Let’s put it this way: if it worked, a definite top-five Web Gem. If it didn’t, Esteban German would come around from second to score the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth — and the Tigers would lose 3-2. You know the rest. Matt Joyce hit his second career homer. If only he’d hit his third.

The Quote: “Jose Guillen has had a lot of success against Nate Robertson in his career.” — Royals’ TV announcer Ryan Lefebvre mere seconds before Guillen unloaded a game-tying, two-run double in the third.

The Stat: 4. The number of errors by Renteria in 2008. How many did he have in all of 2007? How about 11?

*Yes, I’ve used this headline before. Not only is it appropriate but it’s also a nod to a goofy sociology teacher fellow Fungo scribe John Milton and I had in ninth grade.