Earlier today, the Detroit Free Press tipped the new Sports Illustrated cover, pictured above, reporting that “it’s . . . thought to be the first time a pair of Tigers have been on the cover of SI since Al Kaline and Denny McLain made it in September 1968.” (Such thorough and confident reporting by the Freep is in line with their recent work on even more important issues.) For anyone who collected baseball cards in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the headline is immediately evocative of an earlier pair of mashers. The caption dubs Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder “Baseball’s 21st-Century Version of Mantle and Maris,” explaining to the Free Press in greater detail:
Ruth and Gehrig. Mays and McCovey. Ortiz and Ramirez. To the list of great hitting duos in baseball history we can now add one more: Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers. Both were established stars long before coming to Detroit but since joining forces prior to last season, Fielder and Cabrera have become baseball’s best 1-2 punch, which makes it only fitting that the sluggers appear together on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated.
Wait, what? I thought…. Hang on. For perspective, we turn to Google.gov for evaluation of these claims. Ruth and Gehrig: 0. Mays and McCovey (who?): 0. Ortiz and Ramirez (really?): -1.
I have no problem with SI calling Cabrera and Fielder “bash brothers,” but the nominal reference is to one and only one prior pair of plate protectors: Canseco and McGwire. This Angelfire site should be all the proof you need. As always is the case, glaring omissions only draw more attention to the omitted subject, meaning that readers will spend more time wondering why the magazine is trying to scrub Canseco and McGwire from our memories than celebrating Cabrera and Fielder. Then again, slighting the Motor City is nothing new for the national sports media.
The Tigers players like Detroit just fine, though, and maybe even a little too much. Well, not that, exactly, but I wouldn’t mind if they took to playing on the road a little more. Despite their recent successes, the Tigers had a losing road record in three of their last four seasons, and they’re on track to do the same thing again this year:
The Tigers score on average a run less per game on the road than they do at home. (This year it’s ballooned to about 1.5 runs.) The defense (pitchers+fielders) does not see as strong a dropoff, but it’s a few tenths of a run worse off in most seasons. Score less, allow more, lose more.
Is the geometry of their home park to blame? Who knows, but this will remain a trend to watch for this team.
Speaking of trendy, Max Scherzer won last night in K.C., becoming the first Tiger pitcher since 1938 to begin his season with a 9-0 record. Scherzer, who’s been highlighted in this series before, probably is my favorite member of this Detroit team. The real question, though, is who is Max Scherzer’s favorite? According to an interview last month, it just might be Taylor Swift:
Taylor Swift. I don’t know why, but when she’s on the radio, I keep it on. I don’t know why, but I keep finding myself listening to Taylor Swift.
Max has nothing to be embarrassed about, though, especially since he’s almost unhittable right now.
It’s a little too early to start worrying about other teams, but it is nice to take a peek at the standings and see that the Tigers have a comfortable 5.5 game lead on the rest of the division. More concerning, though, is that their 36-27 record would only be good for about third place in most other divisions. If anything, of course, the baseball season is long, and this is a team that has yet to really put all the pieces together. If two things, the baseball season is long and comprised of two halves, and that means that these Tigers really could kick it into high gear after the all-star break, especially if Justin Verlander isn’t named the starting pitcher for that game.
Tigers beat Braves 7-4 as part of series sweep of visiting Atlanta – 5/7
April in the D – 4/26
Jet Set (Sigh?) – 4/23
Run distribution, science, and the likelihood of a Detroit comeback – 4/15
WSJ throws a wet newspaper on the Tigers’ 2013 chances – 4/3
A Tiger is a Tiger is a Tiger – 3/29
The Departed – 3/14