In first place, but Detroit Tigers still not clicking yet

By Rob Parker - Sports Columnist
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DETROIT - Yes, the Tigers are in first place.

On Thursday, they beat the Chicago White Sox, 7-4, at Comerica Park to earn a split in the four-series.

Still, it's hard to imagine that winning the American League Central will be a foregone conclusion as it basically has been the last three seasons.

Not only is the division much better, the Tigers aren't as good as they were a year ago - at least, on paper.

Nonetheless, the Tigers should be better than their 11-8 record after 19 games, especially when you look at the starting pitching they are getting this far.

Before Max Scherzer allowed just two earned runs in six innings of work to earn the victory over Chicago, the starters had an impressive 2.96 ERA - but a lousy 6-6 record.

"That's a nice feeling knowing we haven't played our best ball," said leftfielder Rajai Davis, who had a solo homer and three RBI on the day. "Yet, we're in a good position.

"I have a feeling we're going to make a run, we're going to be tough as the season goes on and we're going to get better."

That improvement needs to start with the bullpen that entered the game with a bloated 5.60 ERA. In three innings of relief Thursday, the pen gave up two runs on four hits.

The hitting has been very inconsistent, scoring two or less runs in eight of their first 16 games. In fact, coming into Thursday, they had the fourth-fewest RBI in the league.

And the fielding has been shoddy at times, too. They committed another error Thursday for their 15th of the season. Detroit is fifth-worst in catching the ball.

"That's baseball sometimes, especially at this level," Scherzer said. "You have to realize we're facing some good teams.

"There are just going to be times we're going to be inconsistent as a whole, different parts of the game, all three phases."

The Tigers' upcoming road trip might tell us a little bit more about this team. They head to Minnesota, Chicago and Kansas City for an eight-game road trip against all division rivals.

"It's going to be tough," centerfielder Austin Jackson said. "We've had a target on our backs for some years now.

"Every time, we're playing somebody in our division, it's going to be a tough game."

Open Letter to NBA Players

To: NBA Players

From: Rob Parker

Re: Increasing age limit

New NBA commissioner Adam Silver must be stopped.

His idea to increase the age for draft eligibility is just plain wrong.

Currently, a player must be 19 or one year removed from his high school graduating class to enter the draft.

Now, Silver wants to raise the age limit to 20.

In no other field would you stop a prodigy. Kids have played Carnegie Hall, graduated college at 10 and become a medical doctor at 17.

Yet, the NBA wants to stump the growth of talented young men. Shame on Silver.

Sadly, the players and its union sold out new players when they agreed to the 19 year old rule.

Now, Silver wants you to put another knife in the backs of NBA hopeful. Worse, for no legitimate reason.

Honestly, it's hard to look at the rules with age limits in the NBA and NFL and not think race has something to do with it.

In all other sports, they celebrate a prodigy, a young person who is good enough to play at a high level at a young age.

Read and learn.

The youngest MLB player was Joe Nuxhall. He pitched for the Cincinnati Reds at age 15 in 1944.

NHL goalie Dominik Hasek turned pro at age 16 in his native Czechoslovakia. Many break into the NHL at the ripe age of 18.

In tennis, Michael Chang was the youngest male player to win a Grand Slam singles title. He was 17 when he won the French Open in 1989.

Just two years ago, Andy Zhang, at 14, became the youngest golfer to compete in the U.S. Open.

So stop the noise about age in sports. It's about ability. Period.

Moses Malone, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James all excelled in the pros without playing a minute of college basketball.

Have some high-schoolers or one-and-done college players failed? Sure.

Still, the onus is on the owners and team general managers, not the underclassmen.

If they are not ready for the league, don't draft them.

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