October is here, which means scores of TV viewers who spent the summer watching “Big Brother” and “Duck Dynasty” will be tuning in to another reality show: Tiger baseball. For those of you fair-weather fans who only perk up during the playoffs: Meet your 2013 Detroit Tigers, featuring Miggy, Iggy and the Prince.
No, Brandon Inge isn’t still on the team.
Die-hard Tiger enthusiasts who watch every game sneer at fans who only notice the team on Opening Day and during the playoffs. But the late, legendary broadcaster Ernie Harwell embraced the casual fans, equating them to churchgoers who only show up on Easter Sunday.
Katherine Johnson of Detroit said she rarely watches the Tigers during the season but tunes in when the playoffs start so she can get up to speed on the hot topic around her office at Wayne State University. “It’s what everyone’s talking about, so I watch so I can know what’s going on,” said Johnson, 46.
So if you stopped paying attention to the Tigers after their humiliating World Series sweep by the San Francisco Giants last year, hop back on the bandwagon. Some things haven’t changed. Three strikes are still an out. Cecil Fielder’s son (Prince Fielder) is still manning first base, Assistant General Manager Al Avila’s son (Alex Avila) is still the team’s No. 1 catcher. Manager Jim Leyland still smokes Marlboros and cries during champagne celebrations.
Here are some terms you’ll need to know with these Tigers before the postseason starts Friday:
■Groin: It felt like a kick there when Miguel Cabrera struck out to end the World Series last year. This season, he’s been hampered by a sore groin that’s sapped his power, although he hit enough singles in the final month to win his third-consecutive batting title, the first Tiger to do so since Ty Cobb, who turned the trick from 1917-19.
■JV: Those initials don’t mean what they once did. The main JV — Justin Verlander — is no longer the team’s best pitcher; that honor goes to Max Scherzer, the winningest pitcher in baseball, or Anibal Sanchez, the American League’s earned run average champion. The JV in the bullpen — Jose Valverde — has been replaced by another JV, Jose Veres.
■Shutdown: No, not the government — the Tiger bats. Although the team was second in the major leagues with 796 runs scored, the bats often seem to disappear — just like they did during last year’s World Series. The Tigers scored only three runs in the last three games this season, including being no-hit in the final game of the 2013 regular season.
■Heterochromia: Scherzer’s condition of having eyes of different colors — brown and blue. He’s eying the Cy Young Award.
■Jhonny: The “H” is in an unfamiliar spot, and so is Jhonny Peralta. The former shortstop was suspended 50 games for using steroids, and is now being tried out in left field. During his three-game tryout, he managed to avoid spiking himself.
■Whipping boy: Valverde wore the target on his back during last year’s playoffs, while Phil Coke stepped up as the Tigers’ best relief pitcher. But if you haven’t paid attention since then, Coke’s no longer the real thing. He became a favorite whipping boy for fans during the regular season, and his poor performance has likely cost him a roster spot for this year’s postseason.
Everyone’s former favorite whipping boy, Inge, was released from the team before last year’s playoffs. Fans looking to complain this season honed in on utility man Don Kelly, who, like Inge, wears his socks high and his batting average low.
■Downtrodden: Every time the Tigers have done well recently, national pundits invariably weighed in with stories about how the team has helped uplift downtrodden Detroit. With the city filing for bankruptcy earlier this year, count on more such stories in the national media.
■New faces: Torii Hunter, whose two “i’s” are always smiling; Matt Tuiasosopo, who sports flowing locks that harken back to Magglio Ordonez, now retired and running for political office in his native Venezuela; and Iggy — Jose Iglesias — the Tigers’ best defensive shortstop since Alan Trammell.
Oakland at Detroit
First pitch:9:37 p.m., Friday at O.co Coliseum