I, for one, am relieved that the All-Star Game is over. After all, the Detroit Tigers entered the All-Star break in first place. Who wants a break in the action when your team has been at the top of its division for the past two months?
Last year at this time, the Tigers’ season was pretty much over. In fact, the 2008 campaign never really got off the ground. By mid-July, focus had already shifted off of the Tigers and onto the college football season and Michigan’s new head coach, Rich Rodriguez. Talk of the Detroit Lions (if we only knew!) had already begun in earnest. Expectations of a Stanley Cup repeat by the Detroit Red Wings dominated the sports talk airwaves. It seemed like the last months of the Tigers season didn’t mean much to Detroit sports fans. It’s never fun to see your team finish in last place. It’s even worse when it’s a team people were predicting would win the World Series just six months earlier.
But 2009 is shaping up to be what everyone hoped 2008 would become: a fun-filled season with thrilling victories and outstanding individual efforts. The Tigers have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs for the first time since 2006 when the barely squeeked in and won the Wild Card slot on the last day of the season. Not because they won, remember. But because another team lost. Hardly an inspiring finish.
So on the 25th anniversary of their last World Series championship, the Detroit Tigers will enter the second half of the season as serious pennant contenders. This Friday in New York, the Tigers’ 2009 pennant race will officially begin. Will they be able to maintain their dominance in the American League Central? Will Dave Dombrowski make a brilliant trade that will help shore things up? Will the Tigers actually clinch a playoff birth before the season ends? These are all questions that will be answered within the next few months.
Rejoice, Detroit Tigers fans. There’s plenty to be excited about as this baseball season’s second half begins. Our team is in an all-too-rare pennant race — and they’re in the lead.