Last week I went on vacation. Because I got to stay at a hotel for six nights, I embraced the fact that I had cable again. Back at home, I have been cable-less for the past nine months. It was worthwhile to do it, but I still missed waking up in the morning and getting my top stories delivered to me on my high-definition TV. On my vacation, as soon as I was awake, the TV was on.
I was in an area where the ABC family of networks dominated the TV channel lineup. (If you know who owns ABC, you'll know where I was.) And one of these channels was ESPN. Because it was the only sports channel I got, I was obligated to get my sports news from SportsCenter. So I watched it.
As I was on vacation, the Detroit Tigers were on a hot streak. Between May 30 and June 7, the Tigers won 7 of 8, taking series against Minnesota, Chicago, and the reigning AL champion Texas. And because Detroit was playing against higher profile teams, their highlights made it on to SportsCenter amids the 50 minutes they devoted to the NBA Finals and the Ohio State scandal. And when the Tigers were being shown, the anchor or analyst would say, "It looks like the Tigers are on the rise" or "Watch out for the Tigers" or "The team to beat in the Central is Detroit."
To which I wanted to say, "SHUT UP!"
To be the frontrunner in a division is something I fear. I would much rather be the surprise underdog that no one believes will do anything spectacular in a season. But with Minnesota performing an early season swan-dive, Cleveland fading from their strong start, and Chicago being dominated by Ozzie Guillen rants, Detroit seems to be the most stable team in the Central right now. That means the sports anchors are setting their targets on Detroit to win it.
When Detroit has had a strong start to their season, they always manage to fade out in the second half. Just look back to last year: at the All-Star break, they were ten games over .500 and 1/2 a game out. But then they proceeded to blow up in losses against New York and Minnesota and suffered so many injuries that it was a whole different team by August.
When Cleveland started hot this season, it was great. That meant Detroit could just lurk right behind them and overtake them late in the summer. But if Cleveland keeps losing, the target will head north up Lake Erie and be focused squarely on the Tigers. That is not good. I'm not sure that Detroit, even with their strong veteran core, could keep from collapsing under the pressure of fans and the media.
I won't guarantee that the Tigers will win anything until at least three weeks after the All-Star break. From where I see it, if the Tigers are able to put together a strong post-break string of victories (they start at home against Chicago and Oakland), they'll be able to make a push for the Central. Then I'll be able to see if they're in it for the long haul.
But for now, keep the hype down, please?