Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wanna get depressed? Be a Tigers fan


WARNING: This is not a happy story. If you're in a chipper weekend mood, this is not recommended reading.

OK, I'll get right to the bread and butter.

I'm a Detroit Tigers fan.

On the surface, that's not bad, right? I follow a 52-51 team that's still (arguably) in contention for a division. The Tigers have one of baseball's highest payrolls. They have a lot of big-name players. Plenty of offense. Gotta love it, right?

Um, no.

Actually, following the Tigers these days is like jumping off a cliff, only breaking 17 bones, and then doing the exact same thing — and still not dying. Being a Tigers fan is akin to holding down a job that you absolutely detest but continue to get up for at 6:30 every morning.

I only need one number to back up my morbid argument: 17. That's how many one-run losses the 2008 Tigers have sustained. That's right. If my math is correct, they have lost one third of their games by a single @#%&!@# run. Watching one-run losses is more painful than getting an earring shoved into the middle of your lobe (and I have a personal experience to back this up).

I would much rather see the Tigers lose 13-2, 17-3, 29-4. Then, at least, I'd know they're terrible, they're underachievers, they're not gonna come back to win the division. But watching them lose game after game by a single run brings me back to watch the next game ... and the next.

It's called hope, people. The Tigers make you hope. And that is entirely — 118 percent — a bad thing. Only motivational speakers call hope a good thing. And they're getting paid for their words.

Take Saturday night, for instance. When the Tigers fell down 4-1 in the third inning, my man Tick sent me this text: "It's time tr starting thinking about next season" (yes, he struggles with his spelling)." I agreed, replying, "No doubt." Then, of course, the Tigers made me forget about Tick's morbid message. First, they tied the game 4-4. Then after Chicago got to Justin Verlander to make it 7-4, the Tigers battled back to 7-6.

There was hope. Then this happened — and if you're a Tigers fan and this doesn't depress you, well, you're not much of a fan. The Tigers loaded the bases for Carlos Guillen in the seventh inning. He struck out. Magglio Ordonez led off the bottom of the eighth with a double. He ended the inning stuck on second.

At that point, I knew it was all but over, but I continued watching. It would have worked just fine for a 1-2-3 ninth to happen. And the first two batters complied with first-pitch outs. But then Curtis Granderson decided to tease the fans, battling back from an 0-2 count to slice a double down the left-field line. All of a sudden, there was that stupid "H" word — hope.

I sat up in my seat and proceeded to watch Placido Polanco work a full count. Oh, boy! The Comerica Park fans rose to their feet. I could feel the tension from 697 miles away. Palanco is Detroit's best contact hitter. He was having a good night.

Which meant, of course, he was due for a strikeout. I knew it before it happened, but it didn't reduce the pain when he swung and missed. You know things are bad when the inevitable still stings as much as an unexpected bullet. That's what happened to me Saturday night.

As usual, the Tigers had created hope — giving me something to be excited about — only to snatch away from me. Of course I should have known about it, but how can I ignore a man on second with nobody out in a one-run game in the eighth inning?

I, like any other baseball fan, can't, you see. And if the Tigers were a fundamental baseball team, there's no way that tying run would have been stranded at second base. But with Miguel Cabrera and Gary Sheffield coming up, of course there was no bunting, no sacrificing. Instead, there was a strikeout and a popout. And then, just a moment later, the inning was over. The threat was averted. Bobby Jenks was warming up in the bullpen.

The season was all but over for the Tigers. After, of course, Jenks survived a little scare and put us Tigers fans back in our place.

And what a sad story it is. A team that was predicted to do such big things. Players not performing up to expectations, not getting the job done. A depressed culture.

My only cure on this night was Taco Bell. Perhaps that will be corrected in the future. But for now, one-run losses aren't quite as tasty as 89-cent beef burritos.


JenTigers said...

Yes, after Friday's game, I wanted to impale myself. I was shocked, after attending today's (sunday's) game, to hear on the post-game radio talk show that Leyland announced that Rodney is taking over as closer, (after Leyland defended Jones on Friday, saying we had our opportunities offensively and failed to capitalize). However, Jones has been getting hit hard of late as shown by stats like BAA, etc. I felt it was a big series, even tho it's "only" the end of July. We could have injected ourself into the race big-time, and now we're treading water, hanging onto our life preserver. I thought it was silly of leyland to deny its relevance. No, we're not out of it, it wasn't the end, but it was a big missed opportunity, and we have a really small margin for error (given our nightmare of a start). Even the fact that Magglio's climbed into the batting race with his tear since the ASB isn't cheering me up. There's only one October, you know!

Spencer said...

Believe me, you and I are sharing many of the same woes...I'm a Braves fan...

Tyler Hampton said...

A very similar scenario happened just last night for me and my St. Louis Cardinals. After leading 2-1 the horrendous Cardinal bullpen took over to let the Phillies get a 5-2 lead. In the eighth Nick Stavinoah (horrible) grounds out to first, but got a lucky rbi because we had a guy on third. This brings a little hope with the score now being 5-3. Then Troy Glaus hits a solo shot in the ninth and it is now 5-4 with no outs so I get a lot more hope. Then the bases get loaded with only one out and I think we might pull it out until I see Nick Stavinoah coming up to bat again. I cringe at this sight. To nobody's surprise he struck out. Then Joe Mather steps up and if he can do anything at all Albert Pujols is on deck so I get some hope left even with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth. Then Brad Lidge struck him out too and the game was over. I was crushed to see the Cardinals lose 5-4 even when they had the bases loaded with one out. It shouldn't be that hard to get one run off of that.