Ladies and Gentleman, the 2008 World Series Champion Detroit Tigers!
Wait. What? You don't automatically win the World Series for having by far the best off season of any team in the league?
Yes, it is a sad but true concept that must be grasped for Tiger fans these days. And the question continues to be asked, how can a team with so much talent only be 47-47 going into the second half of the season?
Well. It could be worse I guess. Considering they started the season with seven straight losses and an unbelievable 2-10 mark out of the gate.
A team shutout only twice all of last year has been shutout eight times already this year.
Miguel Cabrera couldn't hit.
Dontrelle Willis couldn't throw a baseball down the heart of the plate if he was two-feet from it, and Jeremy Bonderman went on the DL for the remainder of the season.
The Tigers have been without all their stars for extended periods of time throughout the season. Magglio Ordonez, Placido Polanco, Miguel Cabrera, Brandon Inge, Curtis Granderson, and Gary Sheffield have all missed multiple games or have had stints on the DL through the first half.
But that was then. This is now.
For all intensive purposes, at 47-47, the Tigers are at 0-0 in their mind. They are spotting Chicago seven games, but that's what you get when you can't hit, pitch, or play consistent defense.
They have a chance. Because beginning tonight against the Baltimore Orioles, the Tigers will be fully healthy.
Everyone is beginning to hit, most importantly Cabrera. Ordonez is off the DL, Polonco has a hot bat, and Mr. Consistent, Carlos Guillen, is playing as good of defense as he is offense these days after a rocky start at third base.
Call-up Matt Joyce has also contributed nicely for the Tigers, along with Marcus Thames, who has played in only around half the games this year, but leads the team in home runs.
Edgar Renteria and Gary Sheffield are the only big question marks for the Tigers. But, if the Tigers had to choose two players to underperform, these are the two they could live with.
By trade deadline time, one of them could be gone if they continue to under perform. Most likely Renteria who's in the last year of his contract.
Pitching-wise the Tigers are looking better as well.
Justin Verlander is back to All-Star form. Kenny Rogers has pitched surprisingly well after a shaky start. Nate Robertson has given the Tigers solid starts as of late.
And the biggest surprise of all? Rookie of the Year candidate Armando Galarraga, who is tied with Verlander for wins and leads the starters with a 3.27 ERA.
The bullpen has come together nicely. Joe Zumaya is throwing dominantly again after a long stay in the DL, having no problem throwing 100+MPH gas. And Fernando Rodney, after a rocky return, is looking good.
That, along with the emergence of rookie Freddy Dolsi, the Tigers bullpen is strong in the late innings.
The biggest question marks pitching wise are: who will be the number five starter for the Tigers? With Bonderman done for the year, and Dontrelle Willis only making one start in A-ball so far, it will most likely be a rookie from AA Erie.
Also, the Tigers were shopping Robertson earlier in the year, will they continue even though they are without Jeremy Bonderman now?
Many teams also have their eyes peeled on former All-Star Freddy Garcia. Could they make a run after him?
There are questions. But more answers now then there were before.
The Tigers are getting back to winning. The only question now is, is it too little too late?
They have the talent.
But big names don't buy you championships.
The Tigers have learned that the hard way. And tonight they begin with a clean slate.
A second chance, if you will, that is much needed for a team who was already crowned World Series Champions before the season even began.