Give me some credit.
I forced myself to wait until the Detroit Tigers made a full turn through their rotation before I expressed my excitement in written form. Sure, I started this column just an hour after the Tigers topped the Rangers 7-0, just long enough to add Justin Verlander on a couple fantasy teams, but it proved impossible to wait any longer. This is the most exciting thing to happen to Tiger baseball since Jessica Alba showed up at Comerica a couple summers ago...
The stinking Detroit Tigers are 5-0 for the first time since 1985!!!
Not only are they winning, they're doing it in style. The Tigers lead the AL in batting average and ERA. They just set the major league record for homers by a team in its first 5 games with 17, after setting the records for homers through 3 and 4 games as well. And they've done it all on the road. Even while writing the overly cheery "An Optimist's Look at the Detroit Tigers," I wasn't crazy enough to believe this was possible.
Chris Shelton is a lock to win AL Player of the Week honors after batting .700 (14 for 20) with 5 homers, 9 RBI, 2 triples, and 2 doubles through Saturday. Since he was a Rule 5 pick by the Tigers in 2004, my dad has been referring to him as "The Sheletor," which plays off the name of He-Man's arch nemesis and is a much better nickname than the completely uncreative "Big Red." Well, the Sheletor's definitely living up to the moniker as he is just KILLING the ball. Does anyone miss the Carlos Pena era? Didn't think so.
Verlander was also pretty darn impressive while earning his first major league victory in Texas. He went 7 innings while giving up no runs and just 2 hits. His fastball clocked in as high as 99 mph and he had great command of his curveball and changeup. Through DirecTV's MLB Extra Innings package, I picked up the Rangers broadcast. Play-by-play man Josh Lewin (former Tiger broadcaster and partner of Kirk Gibson) and color guy Tom Grieve were quite impressed with Verlander and never really seemed hopeful that their team had a chance to get something going against him. As the right hander from Old Dominion went back to work in the fourth inning, Lewin even did his damndest to jinx the no-hitter he had going. It worked, but still didn't help the Rangers much. Working extremely quickly, Verlander never let the Rangers get any momentum.
Of course, Shelton and Verlander aren't the only Tigers impressing fans. Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco, Magglio Ordonez, Jeremy Bonderman, Marcus Thames, Kenny Rogers, Carlos Guillen, Joely Zumaya, and even Brandon Inge have looked sharp thus far. Basically, that's everyone but Craig Monroe (.100) and Dmitri Young (.125). Don't worry though, the versatile and underrated Monroe and the professional hitter known as Da Meat Hook will come around before too long.
Predictably, a lot of media hype has been given the Tigers after their improbable start. Baseball Tonight has discussed their hot start at length and it was probably inevitable, but according to Lewin, Jim Leyland now has drawn some comparisons to Sparky Anderson. Let's not get too far ahead of things, but already it's clear that this team has taken to their new manager. Gruff and straight forward, perhaps Leyland is the perfect manager for Motown, but 5 games is surely too small a sample size. Let's withhold judgement on the coaching staff for a bit, at least until they've trailed in a game or two. We shouldn't have to wait long: the Tigs will be tested by their division rivals from Chicago and Cleveland next week (I'll be travelling to CoPa for the Cleveland game next Friday).
Of the 5-0 start, Leyland said "I don't (put) much stock in it. I put stock in the fact that these games give us confidence and help us feel better about ourselves. We still have a long hill to climb." Couldn't have said it better myself. It's more than a bit early to tell if the team is for real, but certainly the momentum can't be a bad thing.
They're not exactly the Bless You Boys of '84 yet, but finally the Tigers might be a relevant major league franchise again.