We all know that true progress advances slowly.
Take as an example the experience of watching your children grow. It's not until you look at pictures from a couple of months prior that you realize how quickly they are really developing. Since you see them every day, their daily millimeter of growth occurs unnoticed.
The same is true for the Detroit Tigers.
A quick recap for those who are interested – the Tigers were picked this year to handily win the AL Central Division, the American League, and the World Series. It was expected that the combination of amazing pitching and collection of All-Star power-hitters would result in a romp through the American League.
And .. well .. so far .. that hasn't happen.
Instead the Tigers lost their first seven opening games of the season and went on a horrific slide to start the year, reaching at one point 15 games below the level .500 mark. The problems were so numerous that it takes a long list to explain, but in short, the lineup couldn't hit – the starting pitching was weak and only able to last a few innings, and defensively errors were being made at all positions. The disabled list (DL) is perhaps the longest in the majors – with many of the remaining players playing hurt with broken fingers, bad backs, shoulder injuries, and even hemorrhoids.
The team that was supposed to burn up the league instead got burnt to a crisp.
In Detroit, the term "emotional investment" is used quite a lot when discussing fan loyalty to the teams this town supports. If you stop and think about rooting for a team, you can actually track the level of your caring for a team by the emotion that you invest in them. High emotional investment translates to great faith and large expectations for the season. Little to no emotional investment comes when the faith and / or expectations are failed to be realized, or never existed in the first place.
And for many Tiger's fans – the investment was cashed in already – willing to accept their loss and invest elsewhere.
Because the Tigers are quietly getting better.
The Tigers are winning more frequently than losing right now. The starting rotation has taken us seven innings, and giving up four or less runs – quality starts as the sports pundits say. The hitting has come to life a bit more day by day, and rally's to come from behind have started to erupt. Hits with men on base have started to increase. And the small ball play of sacrifice bunts, steals, and hit-and-run plays called by manager Jim Leyland have started netting some rewards.
Slowly but surely they are getting better.
They still sit ten games behind Chicago for the lead of the AL Central. And they still sit ten games below the even mark. And coming into this current series, the White Sox were red hot. But the Tigers put some water on that fire last night with timely hitting, solid pitching, and strong defensive play including a throw from left fielder Brent Clevelan to catcher Pudge Rodriguez for a close out at the plate.
It was a great game.
It was the Tigers baseball we expect.
And we have been seeing a lot more of it lately.
The sparks of life are coming from the farm system in Toledo. Names like Clevelan, Mathew Joyce, Ryan Raburn, Clete Thomas, and Armando Galarraga have provided sparks lacking from the superstars Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis – Willis sent yesterday to Single A Lakeland, Florida.
If the Tigers sweep this series with Chicago, they are only 8 games back, and it is only June. And Chicago can't stay hot forever.
And in recent history several teams have come back from ten or more games behind on June 11 to win their division, and even the World Series.
Stranger things have happened.
And what goes around, comes around.
So I am keeping my emotion invested in the Tigers. It's a long term investment renewed each year, and I don't plan to withdraw until October.