So far, we were duped by Tigers

Rob Parker comments on Detroit Tigers' inconsistent play early on

By Rob Parker - Sports Columnist
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DETROIT - Admit it. You feel duped.

Just 38 games into the 2012 baseball season and the Tigers aren't like anything you expected. In fact, they are far worse.

With a trip to the American League Championship Series under their belt from last season, the addition of high-priced, free-agent slugger Prince Fielder to a lineup that already feature Miguel Cabrera and an AL Central that looked weaker than Popeye without his spinach, most believed the Tigers were on their way to the World Series.

Most believed they'd bash and trash their opponents in the division and finally win their  first championship since 1984.

Instead, as manager Jim Leyland has said like a broken record, the only consistent thing about the Tigers is that they're terribly inconsistent.

On Thursday afternoon, the Tigers, somehow, lost to the Minnesota Twins, 4-3, at Comerica Park. It gave the lowly Twins a sweep of the two-game series. For the Twins, who came to Motown with a 4-12 road record, it was the first time since April 11-12 that they won two games in a row.

Worse, the Tigers  (18-20) haven't won back-to-back-games in nearly a month. That last happened April 17-18 in Kansas City.

 Since then, the Tigers have basically been terrible.

"I'm a little surprised, to say the least,'' Leyland said. "But I certainly don't all of a sudden look up and say we're not as good as I thought we were.

"We are a good team. But you prove that by going out and winning games."

The Tigers just haven't done it. And it's not just one reason why. There are a lot of things not working, especially the bullpen. It has the highest ERA in the league at 5.06

"We still feel good,'' said Cabrera when asked about the mood in the clubhouse. "Things aren't going well, but we know we have enough in here to win more games."

The fielding everybody thought was going to be bad has finally reared its ugly head. The Tigers made a whopping eight errors in the last three games. Fielder, who led all major-league first baseman with 15 errors a year ago, already has five miscues in just 38 games. Yet, Leyland said, ``I'm not concerned about our defense. I said we'd be an average fielding team this year.''

 But most expected more than average when they looked at this squad on paper. Most thought something special was going to take place. There was even talk that the Tigers would score 1,000 runs. But even the hitting has just about been a no-show, too. Coming into Thursday, they were just 10th in the league in runs.

"Given the team we have and the talent we have, it's kind of shocking,'' said centerfielder Austin Jackson, who is listed as day-today with an abdominal strain. "But at the same time, we've been batting this whole year. It's a long season still.''

And yes, we know that Tigers struggled early on had finished strong. It allowed them to win their first division title since 1987. And yes, we know they beat the New York Yankees in the first round and then lost to the Texas Rangers in the ALCS.

Veteran backup catcher Gerald Laird isn't one to panic, though. He saw his team, the St. Louis Cardinals, struggle through the regular season last year. They backed into the playoffs when the Atlanta Braves collapsed and went onto win the World Series.

"The guys are frustrated,'' Laird said. ``Obviously, you can see that.

"I tell some of the guys to just been patient, ride it out. We were in this position last year with the Cardinals. We just battled everyday and it turns around.''

The Tigers host the Pittsburgh Pirates this weekend. The Pirates are the worst-hitting team in the National League. Coming into Thursday, they were hitting .219.  It's the perfect time for the Tigers to get well and start putting a string of wins together.

Laird believes it will just click in and they will play like most expected them to.  "It's going to get better,'' he said. ``It's not going to be like this all year. This team is way too talented.:

That's what most thought before the season started. But Tigers fans haven't seen that team since the opening weekend. No wonder so many feel duped.

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