On Thursday July 31st, the Detroit Tigers roster looked invincible. They had just acquired Tampa Bay’s ace David Price and were easily in control of the American League Central. Experts were pegging them as serious World Series contenders with a pitching staff made of three aces (Price, Max Scherzer, and Justin Verlander) and a batting order fueled by right and left handed power.
July 31st, though, was 18 days ago, and a lot happened in those 18 days. The Tigers fell out of first place in the AL Central, losing the top spot to none other than the once woeful Kansas City Royals. They also fell half a game out of the second wild card slot.
Translation: if the season ended today, the might Detroit Tigers would miss the playoffs all together. That’s not exactly something Tiger fans want to hear, especially after dismal performances in recent playoff years.
There could be paragraphs on paragraphs written about the Tigers struggles, but in the month of August, the real problem for the Tigers has been that the Royals have just been the better team. Before the weekend, Kansas City had won 19 of the 23 games in August, closing the gap on Detroit and eventually fully taking command of the division. The Royals have quite literally been unbeatable in August while the Tigers have been as vulnerable as a bunny rabbit in a field of rattle snakes.
The most impressive thing about Kansas City is that they are not going away, proven this week by their series against the Oakland Athletics. The A’s have been considered one of the best teams in baseball throughout the entire year and have a pitching staff that is widely considered as one of the top two staves in baseball (second sometimes only to the Tigers). The A’s were supposed to show that the Royals were not a legitimate playoff threat. Their early August surge wasn’t something that could last.
It’s not just an early August surge. The Royals are a legitimate playoff threat and could very well win the AL
Central if Detroit continues to fumble its way through the rest of the season. Like their football teams of yesteryear, the Tigers practically had the AL Central wrapped, tied in a box, and handed to them. Now, there is a very likely reason they could lose it to the Royals.
As for the rest of the division, it’s not quite like the early 2000s. Other than Detroit and Kansas City, the rest of the teams are simply struggled to get and stay above .500. The Cleveland Indians have final obtained a 62-61 record and have also been playing better baseball in the month of August. In the past week, the Indians have gone 3-2 and the starting pitchers performed beyond expectations in the past week. However, if the Tigers continue slumping and the Indians play more consistently, it is very possible for the Indians to make the playoffs. There are a lot of things that need to happen, but the Indians are not out of the race, at least, not yet.
As for Chicago and Minnesota, it’s clearly still rebuilding years. For White Sox fans, the rebuilding may end sooner. The White Sox have a strong farm system and a team that is filled with young talent that just needs a little time to bloom. For Twins fans, well, it might just be time to settle in for a long few seasons.
Patience will be key for both these teams, who not that many years ago were the cream of the crop in the Central and the League in general. For now, Twins fans and White Sox fans need to give the Tigers and Royals their due. In a few short years, they will be joining them in the hunt for the playoffs too.