You stand at the airport, waving them good-bye, like parents sending their kids off to college.
“GOOD LUCK!” you yell to the Tigers as they head off on a long and crucial trip. “KNOCK ‘EM DEAD, BOYS!”
“What do you think?” your spouse whispers. “Are they gonna knock ’em dead?”
“Not a clue,” you mumble. “GOOD LUCK! DON’T STAY OUT TOO LATE!”
A clue? Who has a clue? Our local baseball team has been as two-faced as the Phantom of the Opera. The Tigers spent last week losing three straight one-run games to the Kansas City Royals, a team that has no prayer of finishing over .500. They came home trailing the White Sox by three games in the American League Central.
Sixteen runs and three victories later, they were tied for first place, and the White Sox were crawling back to Chicago, wondering when Comerica Park turned into a steel cage match. The Tigers looked unbeatable.
“HAVE FUN ON THE COAST!” you yell as the Detroit players board the plane. “STAY FOCUSED!”
“Can they stay focused?” your spouse asks.
“Beats me,” you mumble. “…SAFE TRAVELS!”
After the White Sox left, the lowly Indians came to town. “What luck!” pundits said. This is why they are called pundits. If they knew what they were talking about, they would be called a name we understood.
When you’re hot, you’re hot …
The Indians were luck, all right. The bad kind. Two games and two 3-2 losses, the first to a pitcher who had never won a major league decision, the second while managing only four hits.
And they were nearly as tepid Wednesday night until the eighth inning, when they exploded for five runs in a 7-1 victory.
“BRING IT HOME, PRINCE!” you yell. “BRING IT HOME, DELMON!”
“Can they bring it home?” your spouse asks.
“Let’s just hope they don’t come back mathematically eliminated,” you whisper. “YOU GOT IT, BOYS! NO SURRENDER!”
Can they bring it home? How can anybody say? The Tigers begin a 10-game trip tonight against Los Angeles, Chicago and Cleveland. They could return Sept.17 with a solid division lead, or they could be all but out of the wild-card race. How can anybody say?
Just look at Delmon Young. For much of the season, he was the biggest disappointment in the lineup. In the past few weeks, he’s a walking highlight reel. Look at Prince Fielder. He’s having an All-Star season. But in the 12 games before Wednesday’s victory, he had one home run and four RBIs.
“Maybe I’m not managing good enough,” Jim Leyland opined to the media Tuesday night. Wait. Could that be it? Is it the manager’s fault? But how did they win all those games if Leyland was doing a bad job?
“IT’S IN YOUR HANDS!” you yell as the plane taxis down the runway.
“Is it in their hands?” your spouse asks.
“Theirs and everybody else’s,” you mumble. “LET’S GO, TIGERS! YOU ROCK!”
Whodathunkit about O’s and A’s …
Just look at everybody else. You will see this schizophrenia is contagious in the major leagues. In mid-July, there was no more mortal lock on the playoffs than the Yankees. A 10-game division lead. A clobbering lineup.
Now look. The Yankees, on Tuesday night, had been caught by the Orioles. Baltimore had not seen first place in September since the Clinton administration. Suddenly, the Orioles could take the AL East, and the Yankees could miss the playoffs.
It’s an epidemic of irregularity. The Oakland Athletics were not supposed to be a powerhouse, but they recently won nine straight, and chewed on the carcass of the Boston Red Sox, who were supposed to be contenders, but now look more like closing time at Filene’s Basement.
Wasn’t Derek Jeter supposed to be washed up? Whoever heard of Mike Trout last year? How is anybody supposed to predict anything in baseball?
“THE ROAD IS YOUR FRIEND,” you holler as the plane lifts off. “SEIZE YOUR DESTINY.”
You see the lights get smaller. You watch the team head for the coast. You wonder if you set your DVR.
“Can we talk about something a little less uncertain?” your spouse asks.
“Sure,” you say. You sigh. You scratch your head. “How do you think the Lions are gonna do this year?”
Contact Mitch Albom: 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org.