The Detroit Tigers’ Long Road to a First Central Division Championship

With under 50 games left, and Detroit Tigers fans beginning to hold their breath for every pitch that is hurled towards the plate, Detroit’s baseball fans have officially entered into a phenomenon known as “pennant fever.” Now that the Tigers have opened a little space between themselves and the rest of the AL Central, Tigers fans are already dreaming of what it would be like to win their first division in nearly a quarter-century. Recent (and “ancient”) history would tells us that the next few weeks will be filled with hair-pulling excitement.

Who would have thought when Jim Leyland took the helm over five years ago, that for the third time in his six years we would be in the playoff hunt in September?

For a franchise that was seemingly content in avoiding 100 losses in a season, the month of August usually meant that the Tigers would begin their fall to mathematical elimination. This year has so far been extremely different, and here are some of the reasons why the other AL Central teams have helped the Tigers get to first, and why it may be for good:

Cleveland Indians – The top team in pursuit has had their fair share of good fortunes to even get off to their hot start. For a franchise that looks more promising for what it has in the cupboard for future talent, the fast start surprised many. Manager Manny Acta was not brought in to win immediately and his roster shows it. The Indians are not a good hitting team, and they’ve been able to get by in a pitching-poor AL Central. While they hit .247 as a team, it hasn’t helped that Trevor Crowe, Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore have spent a good portion of their seasons collectively on the DL. This team has a feel of the 2006 Tigers, where their youth and inexperience may be an advantage – thought it hasn’t proven it to this point.

Chicago White Sox – Adam Dunn was supposed to fill the power gap left behind with Jermaine Dye, and Alex Rios was supposed to be the spark plug in an outfield of great speed. With under two months of baseball remaining, they are combined hitting below .200 with only 17 home runs together. Combine that with a streaky Carlos Quentin and an injured Jake Peavy, and the White Sox are barely surviving when they should be running away with this division. This team also seems to have a number of pitchers in the wrong roles, and the recent trade of Edwin Jackson demonstrated that this team is still trying to define who they are – carrying on the personality of their manager.

Minnesota Twins – The Twins’ magic number currently stands at 39, and no Tigers fan will be satisfied until that number hits zero. For the Twins, this season has all been about injuries. Justin Morneau just enjoyed an 0-4 game in the minor leagues, as he’s looking to get back into the lineup. Joe Mauer is now the team’s first baseman of the future, and he is struggling to find power. The Twins have found the combination of bad pitching with a lack of hitting, as they are surviving to stay out of the basement. Twins fans are left wondering whether they made the right move in leaving the friendly confines of the Metrodome.