June 13, 2014 at 1:00 am

Fair or Foul: Joe Nathan is first fix if Tigers are to reclaim swagger

True to tradition when these guys are on the road at the same time, there was a rainout in Chicago this week, postponing one of the games Lynn Henning was there to write about.

It brought back an ancient memory, Tom Gage said.

Gage: Remember the trip we took to Cleveland, Lynn ó at the old ballpark, no less ó that was totally rained out?

All we could do was count the mice running into the media food room there.

Anyway, the Chicago series (before and after you left) didnít go the Tigersí way, so the American League Central has bunched up.

What do you consider the No. 1 priority on the Tigers to get straightened out right now? Justin Verlanderís control?

Henning: Looking elsewhere: Joe Nathan. Until they can trust their only serious ninth-inning option, no game will be safe. Thatís a potentially ruinous weak link for a supposed contender.

Gage: Good game for Max Scherzer on Thursday night, though. Will we see him winning games for the Tigers next year? Or for someone else?

Henning: Still believe the Tigers, rather surprisingly, made him their optimum offer. They canít expect to out-bid the Yankees or Dodgers in November. Nor should they. Long contracts, for any pitcher, are likely to be trouble.

Gage: That Monday night game was the one in which J.D. Martinez had a lot of trouble in left, but heís actually played better than expected out there.

You know, as we go through June, speculation will increase about whoíll eventually be the one making room for Andy Dirks, whenever Dirks is ready to play (probably after the All-Star break).

Thereís not a ready-made spot for him, is there?

Henning: No, oh, sage Gage. Martinez is an interesting player ó exactly the kind of man you want on the bench. But heís squeezed, definitely, when Dirks returns. Canít see any realistic option.

Gage: Now that weíre 60-something games into the season, how are you liking the replay-challenge system?

I like it and I find the fans have quickly accepted it. But any review that takes nearly five minutes, like the one Thursday night about the pitch that may or may not have hit Victor Martinez, canít be allowed to happen. Agree?

Henning: Sure. And theyíll soon refine it to make it faster. But I always wanted replay. Have never seen an instance where it didnít make any sport better. Baseball, happily, has joined the club.

Gage: I know you like Chicago as a city, so hereís a travel question for you. Rate íem 1-2-3: Chicago, San Francisco, New York. Bet we disagree.

My 1-2-3 are San Francisco, New York, Chicago, with New York being closer to San Francisco than Chicago to New York.

Henning: Great question. Have always said, pound for pound (meaning, take ocean coast out of the equation), Chicago is the best town in America. San Francisco is probably No. 2 here, then New York, Seattle, Boston.

Put it this way: Will take any of them any time.

Gage: Thought you might sneak Viera, Fla. into the top three, actually.

You know, if thereís anything that fans like to talk about, think about and speculate about, itís a baseball trade.

And while the football draft gets talked about a lot more than baseballís, the July 31 trade deadline in baseball has it all over the deadline in football.

I imagine youíre already thinking the Tigers are going to be busy next month, right?

Henning: Yes. Just not sure what Dave Dombrowski will want most: A back-end reliever (probably). A power bat for one of the OF corners (yes).

Does he have the trade chips? Yes, because the Tigers have very good pitching at Lakeland and West Michigan, enough to swing a deal.

Gage: Do you have much interest in the World Cup ó you old striker, you? I like soccer, although my Fulham team got relegated, but I enjoy the World Cup because of the international passion for it.

Donít you just love watching the games at an Irish pub while drinking a microbrew?

Henning: Very funny. Love the Irish, but not their pubs. Have an affinity for ale, but not for microbrews that are a lasting testament to fruit juice.

But love the World Cup soccer voltage, which includes watching the Tigers players glued to it on the clubhouse TV.

Gage: So just like that, weíre done. And neither one of us mentioned Eric Cantor.

Henning: And we thought, Mr. Leader, all the epic upsets happened in sports.


Joe Nathan walked two batters and hit another while giving up an unearned run in the Tigers' 2-0 loss to the Twins Friday. / Robin Buckson / Detroit News