The Detroit Tigers sit in a place, at least in my mind, of cosmic duality. At the same time I find them to be distasteful miscreants with no class or fashion sense, but also they satisfy a primal desire I have of, well, baseballing. There’s few teams in the majors that baseball quite like the Tigers do, and the Indians have the pleasure, or misery based on how you look at it, of facing this Janus of Major League Baseball. I bet you’re wondering, what is it that drives me to be so divided on what, at its face, is simply a division rival and the biggest obstacle between the Indians and October. Well, I’ll tell you.
Why the Tigers are Miscreants, ill-fit to even raise a puppy
I’d say it all starts with Miguel Cabrera, as it always must when talking Detroit. How can you be a role model when all you do is abuse baseballs like you do, Miguel. WHether to left, right or center, the amount of crunch you deliver to the rawhide is near-unseamly. Not only that, but he does it so well, he rarely, if ever, breaks a bat. Do you think your average baseball, whose life is already full of getting tossed about, hit with sticks and perhaps surreptitiously spit on, wants to see the same piece of lumber hurtling at them four times a game? That’s the stuff of nightmares. Also, did you know he’s not reached base only twice all year? Yes, April 7th and May 15th. A classic overcompensator.
Further, Justin Verlander’s repeated aborted attempts to seemingly grow a fine moustache. As a scholar and gentleman, I am quite off-put by the scraggly pseudo-goatee that Verlander has every now and then. Does he not know proper grooming, to let the whiskers flow out, parallel with the lips, perhaps with an aesthetically pleasing curl at the end. Someone should school this man, perhaps Mr. Rollie Fingers should make a call to the Motor City. His is the finest stache on the market. I’d rather not see an Eckersley-type caterpillar on his lip, that belongs in one place, and that’s the 1980’s. And for the love of Christmas, sir, find a barber before every game – that stubble you sport is just unseemly. We’re trying to impress people here.
The Tigers repeated use of Jhonny Peralta, a man with the strangest spelling of a first name ever (with apologies to the Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade) simply gives me fits. Nevermind that he’s having a stupendous offensive season and supplements that with some subpar at best shortstop play, his first name makes no sense. If you try to pronounce it phonetically you end up sounding like there’s a loogie in your throat, or else as if you’re a smoker with 80 years and 2 million packs under his belt. Perhaps that’s why Leyland likes him.
Why I find the Detroit Tigers to be True Gentlemen, Paragons of Great Baseball
Look no further than the hat. What other team has a proper Olde Englishe letter as their symbol. It makes me think the incomparable Mr. Ilitch has the Tigers clubhouse wood-paneled with a well-appointed library, snuff boxes all around, daily salons, and perhaps brandy snifters filled upon command. You’d be hard pressed to find a better logo. And yet, they have not one, but TWO different D’s they use! Simply wonderful.
As far as their beautiful baseballing, it begins with the pitching, didn’t you know? Though I haven’t noticed it, perhaps my eye isn’t as fine-tuned as I’d like to think, but the Tigers’ rotation is on pace to be the best ever, at least according to Fangraphs and xFIP. While I don’t agree with that, these men work the strikeout like a minstrel works the lute, and absent my rooting interests it’s simply amazing. Aside from Rick Porcello, whom we’ll discuss no further, only Doug Fister is striking out less than 10.7 batters per nine innings. Fister is another story, a beautiful throwback to before FIP became the de rigueur and pitchers utilized their defense because it’s there
Working off of that, Justin Verlander is a marvel. I’ll take any chance I can to discuss this man, he’s simply amazing. Joe Posnanski remarked a year ago that while Verlander might not be the best pitcher in the game, he’s certainly the most exciting. Whether it’s his mechanical delivery that produces velocities unheard of in the seventh inning, his ability to buckle knees with his curve AND his smile, or the quiet fury he works with, Verl, were that his nickname, is stupendous. While his numbers suggest that not he, but Max Scherzer is the ace of the staff, let it be known there’s one Boss Hog in Detroit, and it’s not Calvin Johnson.
Following the pitching, their patchwork defense is a thing to behold. Whether it’s Cabrera’s “so ugly it’s beautiful” defense at third base, Torii Hunter still being a thing to behold in right, or Omar Infante doing Omar Infante things, they have a remarkable defense. Once Austin Jackson returns to form, it will be a factory of Web Gems, finally bringing that industrial base back to Detroit, which needs it so much. Not to say their defense great, and that’s why all the K’s are so helpful. Things that are beautiful are not always fascinating, and things that are fascinating are not always beautiful. It’s why I like garbage dumps and hate many museums for field trips. You just never know what might pop up when the Tigers are in the field, and that’s just fine with me.
I’ve held off long enough, let’s get to the crux of what makes the Tigers so great – the offense. To wit, it’s tremendous potential. With the near-fetishizing of potential baseball analysts and prospect gurus in particular participate in, you’d think they’d be all over the Tigers offense. And they are, truth be told, the word explosive is an understatement with this collective force of nature. Do you feel it’d be best to walk Miguel Cabrera? Fine, here’s Prince Fielder, another perennial MVP candidate. Austin Jackson is hurt? That’s alright, Torri Hunter is having one of the best offensive years of his career. While it’s a bit top-heavy with guys like Andy Dirks, Don Kelly and Alex Avila getting extended playing time, that top can crush you faster than a molasses silo with poor strut work.
Truly, this is what I like about baseball. Though they’re a bit station to station with those basepath cloggers in Cabrera, Fielder and Martinez (oh Victor, you cherub-faced lost love, how we miss you in Cleveland!) there’s such thunder in those bats that it doesn’t matter. They’re the anti-Rays in many ways, and that’s just fine. The universe needs balance, duality, and the Tigers do their job with aplomb.