Tigers hope to not follow similar road taken by Indians
Forgive Jim Leyland and his Detroit Tigers if they choose not to fraternize with the Cleveland Indians this week at Comerica Park. The Indians' pain has to hit close to home for a Tigers team swimming upstream in the American League Central.Entering the season, many expected Cleveland and Detroit to be playoff teams. But the two-game series that started Tuesday night found them far behind the surprising Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins. It's been that kind of a season. White is black, up is down and everyone is chasing the Tampa Bay Rays. "Parity, parity, parity," is the way Cubs manager Lou Piniella put it over the weekend. "Every team out there can beat you. There isn't what you would call an invincible team, unless Tampa Bay's that team. There is some real competitive balance." This week's Cleveland-Detroit series provides a grim reminder of how fleeting success can be.
How do they compare in '08?
DET CLE Overall record 45-44 37-52 Home 26-17 22-22 Road 19-27 15-30 Vs. Central 12-21 13-23 Batting DET CLE Runs 424 389 HR 97 84 SB 31 46 BA .272 .244 RISP .270 .260 Pitching DET CLE ERA 4.39 4.36 BAA .265 .272 CG 1 6 BS 11 14 QS 41 56
This team has heart. Whether we're in first place or last place, we play hard. That's one of the marks of the Cleveland Indians.
--Indians RHP Paul Byrd
The Indians' decision to target Double-A outfielder Matt LaPorta in the Sabathia trade reveals the team's disappointment in corner outfielders David Dellucci, Franklin Gutierrez, Ben Francisco and Shin-Soo Choo.Sabathia and Fausto Carmona combined to win 38 games last season before flaming out at the end of Cleveland's seven-game American League Championship Series against the Red Sox. But Carmona has joined third starter Jake Westbrook (Tommy John surgery) on the sidelines since May 24 with a strained hip. Carmona has resumed throwing and could be close to beginning a rehabilitation assignment, but the Sabathia trade signals that general manager Mark Shapiro believes there's no hurry to rush him back. Pitching carried Detroit to a seemingly ahead-of-schedule pennant in 2006, only three years after it had gone 43-119. But the Tigers haven't been able to recapture that ability to consistently neutralize opposing lineups. With Jeremy Bonderman out for the season after problems with blood clots, Willis bedeviled by control problems and ace Justin Verlander an uncharacteristic 6-9, the Tigers have a 4.39 staff ERA, which ranks 11th in the AL. Cleveland's is 4.36, which ranks 10th. Before trading Sabathia, the Indians essentially released closer Joe Borowski, who had saved 45 games in 2007. Opponents were hitting .333 against him this season, and his ineffectiveness weighed on his fellow relievers. Cleveland's bullpen is last in the AL with a 5.16 ERA. The Indians have lost nine in a row and 12 of their past 14. Before leaving on a trip to Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit on June 30, manager Eric Wedge put his players on notice. "This is going to tell everyone what they want to know about us, one way or another," Wedge said. Paul Byrd, the journeyman starter who won 15 games a year ago, insisted the Indians weren't going to roll over. "This team has heart," Byrd said. "Whether we're in first place or last place, we play hard. That's one of the marks of the Cleveland Indians. That's why I love being here. That said, things are not going our way this year. The ball is not bouncing our way. But that's the way it is." Kansas City climbed past Cleveland in the AL Central standings on June 30, putting the Indians into last place this late in a season for the first time since 1993. Back-to-back 10-inning losses to the White Sox on July 1 and 2 forced Shapiro to concede that the season was lost. Dombrowski could soon find himself facing baseball's most sobering decision. The Tigers finish the first half with a four-game series against Minnesota and are due a visit from the White Sox July 25-27. Their play in those series, and their situation as the month draws to a close, should determine whether Dombrowski invests even more heavily in the hope of salvaging the season or decides it's time to get younger and, yes, cheaper. The jury is out, but for how much longer? Phil Rogers is the national baseball writer for the Chicago Tribune, which has its Web site at www.chicagosports.com. His book, "Say It's So," a story about the 2005 White Sox, is available in bookstores, through Amazon.com and by direct order from Triumph Books (800-222-4657).