Tigers not built for long run/Paul Peterson

The late and great basketball coach Al McGuire was once asked what he thought about his Marquette University men’s team being ranked in the Top Five in a preseason sportwriter’s poll.

“On paper, they might be right,” McGuire said. “But we don’t play our schedule on paper.”

Such is the case with this year’s edition of the Detroit Tigers – a team just about everyone expected would return to the World Series this season.

Unfortunately, this year’s Tigers don’t appear to be built for a long run in the postseason.

It’s true that Detroit just had six players picked to the All-Star team, including pitcher Max Scherzer, who is the presumptive choice for a Cy Young award.

And Miguel Cabrera is generally conceded to be the top hitter in the major leagues. Tigers’ television color commentator Rod Allen constantly reminds listeners of that fact.

But something strange has happened to this group of highly paid superstars.

For one thing, their reigning pitching ace Justin Verlander has hit the doldrums. Verlander has lost the zip on his once-blazing fastball.

The opposition has learned they can drive up Verlander’s pitch count by fouling off pitches. He’s usually over the “magical” 100-pitch count by the sixth inning.

Verlander also appears to have lost the brimming confidence that made him one of the very best hurlers in baseball the past few years. And just maybe, signing that monster contract may have made him complacent.

Another big problem – and this is my personal opinion – the Tigers play with about as much intensity as a local church league softball team.

They seem to know the Cleveland Indians, like most teams in the mediocre AL Central, will fold their tents by mid-September and meekly hand over the title.

Watch a Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees series, and you don’t see players laughing and joking around with the opposition. Detroit does that on a regular basis.

Lack of speed is another big problem in Motown. Most of the Tigers can be timed with a sun dial and that puts a big burden on the three-run homer philosophy that manager Jim Leyland seems to favor.

Of course, this can all be turned around if general manager Dave Dombrowski: 1. Gets relief help in the bullpen. 2. Decides to bring up hot outfield prospect Nick Castellanos; 3. Finds a catcher somewhere who can hit better than the .175 Alex Avila is managing this year; and 4. Tells Leyland to stop resting his regulars every third day.

If all that happens, our favorites can get back to, and possibly, win the World Series.

But don’t bet the farm on it, there’s one too many ifs involved.