OPINION: Tigers' open May with whimper, no roar

Anyone else want to move on and forget the last week of Tiger baseball never happened?

Yeah, you know, the week where our beloved baseball team was swept by the dreadful Cleveland Indians and the Bobby Wilson and Cole Hamels (insert sarcasm) led Texas Rangers.

Let me think, what is a good way to describe the past week of Detroit baseball? Pathetic, disappointing, maybe surprised? In one short word and this is me being polite, the past week was a letdown, it really was.

You can blame the pitching, or maybe the hitting, maybe even the coaching, but one thing you can’t dispute is that when you score only 16 runs over 6 games (just a little over 2 per game for those who have the same level of expertise in math that I do), it is really hard to win in Major League Baseball. Heck, my Hazel Park little league team put up more runs a game than this team has so far. 

I warned all of you in last week’s column not to get caught up in the victories against the teams the Tigers are supposed to defeat, i.e. the Athletics and the Twins. I also said that playing a higher caliber type of team like the Rangers or even (and I hate admitting this) the Indians is where we will see what this team is made of.

I guess we found out.

Whether it was the meltdown of the bullpen on Sunday versus the Rangers, or the sputtering offense all week in Cleveland, I am having trouble pinpointing where the problem truly lies.

The Tigers have the American League’s top pitcher and hitter at the moment (Jordan Zimmerman and Nick Castellanos) and are still well behind the pace in the AL Central.

So, how can the Tigers fix the problem?

Is it the pitching? I can’t say the pitching is fully to blame but as far as bad goes, this past week was exceptionally bad. It didn’t matter who it was, a starter or reliever, no one was getting the job done.
And when someone did have a decent outing, then the offense was non-existent. That is a true lose-lose situation. 

Even the upstart rookie Michael Fulmer got brought back to Earth in his second career start, getting roughed up by the Indians on Thursday. 

For those who couldn’t follow all week – because of other obligations or you couldn’t stomach it – you needn’t look any further than Sunday’s game against the Rangers to know how bad it was. Newly engaged Justin Verlander throws his best outing in a LONG time, only to see the bullpen implode when Mark Lowe gave up a grand-slam to former Tiger Bobby Wilson in the 8th. 

That’s a moment I want to forget and I hope it doesn’t end up being a reoccurring theme for the Tigers this year. See, I could understand if the Tigers were playing well and losing, there’s something to be said for that. However, when your pitching is not keeping you in ball games and the hitting is atrocious, well my friends, that is a recipe for disaster.

The bats were silent and ice cold this week, more ice cold than a Vanilla Ice song from the late 80’s (See what I did there). The legend of J.D. Martinez has caught up with himself and it seems Manager Brad Ausmus is having a hard time placing him in a successful spot in the lineup. Same thing goes for Mr. Strikeout - Justin Upton – who, besides not being very valuable so far at the plate, is also proving to be a liability in the outfield as well. Am I the only one who holds their breath every time he runs down a fly ball in left field?

Another decision Ausmus needs to address is catcher. Fan favorite James McCann returned to the diamond this week but didn’t look good and didn’t produce. In my opinion, even though Jarrod Saltalamacchia is not an everyday catcher, he has been a valid asset to the Tigers lineup this year when he has played. I would like to think that seeing more Salty, even if it is at DH, will be a good thing.

And for the love of God and my blood pressure, can the Tigers give us something more tangible for reserve players other than Mike Aviles and Andrew Romine? Both of them are not hitting and, let’s be honest, after this week I think we all saw what the Tigers need: hitters.

There are many men in Toledo and Erie looking to get a shot. Why not give a guy like Steven Moya or Wynton Bernard a chance to come in and make a difference? What could it really hurt at this point in the season when it is obvious that this team has failed to establish its identity yet?

I am no Nostradamus but if the Tigers are going to be successful and make it to the Post Season, they need to figure out who they are and do it quickly.

And what about the managing? How much of the blame does Ausmus deserve? A lot.  Any manager that walks into a team loaded with talent and can’t win shouldn’t be in MLB, simple as that.

When you have and have had some of the best talents around, there are no excuses as to why you are not hanging banners at Comerica every April.

I, like every other fan of your team, Mr. Ausmus, challenge you to prove to us that you deserve to be at the helm of the Tigers. Make some changes and try something – anything! It cannot hurt and, heck, it may even save your job if it isn’t already too late.

As for the week ahead, the Tigers need to hunker down and turn things around this week before things get U-G-L-Y. That will be no easy task as Detroit has a week full of the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles.

It should be an interesting week.

Until next time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Who am I? I’m just a guy who loves the game of baseball that has opinions and thoughts just like you. Like what you see? Don't like what you see? Let me have it. Email me at john.shull@foxtv.com or follow me on twitter, handle is @the_real_shull

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