Sunday, August 13, 2006

No Tigers Panic Here. Yet.

It's here somewhere.

Not in the desk. Not under the bed. Not in the kitchen.

Did I put it in the basement? No, it has to be up here somewhere.

Where did I put the stinkin' thing?

Oh, hello. Sorry, about that, but I didn't see you there. I've been spending that last several hours looking for my Detroit Tigers panic button. Now, Big Al, don't get upset, pal. I'm not pushing it yet.

No, even with the Chicago White Sox dispatching our hometown nine seemingly with great ease, Chicago's American League entry is still looking up at the Tigers. A sweep and the southsiders are still five and half games back of the Tigers. Now, I'm not happy about the Tigers performance and the World Champions looked like World Champions this weekend, which doesn't give me the warm fuzzies, either. Yet, digging out the panic button and actually using the thing are two entirely different propositions.

Sure, it's easy to push the ol' panic button right about now. Pitching--which as been the Tigers biggest asset in 2006--is starting to look a bit shaky. Justin Verlander's Windy City outing, coming off an injury rest, could lead one to worry. As could Kenny Rogers pre-programmed second half swoon. Jeremy Bonderman hasn't exactly been a great second half hurler, either. Todd Jones still scares us all to the point of smoking more than Jim Leyland. Then there's that terrible reliance on the homerun.

Combine all that with Chicago's experience, their record against the Tigers and their just completed sweep of Detroit and you've got, well, you've got what every single one of us would have wished for on Opening Day--an honest to goodness pennant race with the Tigers right smack in the heart of it.

Yes, there is reason for concern. The pitching, especially the starters, need to rebound if the Tigers playoff hopes are going to become something more than hopes. Yet, let's not get too carried away. Slumps in a season of 162 games are inevitable. The Tigers are in one. This is their longest of the season and where are they? In first place with the best record in baseball. That's right, boys and girls, in the midst of their worst skid of '06 and the Tigers are still atop all of MLB.

This race for the American League Central crown could get tighter. In fact, I suspect it will get much, much tighter. I'm confident that the White Sox are going to make us all even more uncomfortable between now and the end of the regular season. However, if at all possible, try to embrace the tension of actually having playoff dreams. Remember, if this were April 1st and I told you the Tigers were only five and half game behind the White Sox for first place and were in the thick of wild card chase come August, you would have been thrilled.

Don't push the panic button, yet, Tigertown. Things, in the big picture, are going well above our expectations. However, if you have some nervous energy to burn off, you can help me look for my panic button. Just in case.

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