July 18, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Fair or Foul: Tigers buckled in driver's seat as second half revs up

Jim Leyland watches batting practice with Gene Lamont Friday at Comerica Park. (Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News)

Ready for the second half of the season, Lynn? No need to answer. We know you are.

And to usher it in with the first Tigers trip after the All-Star break, you get to fry next week in Phoenix, where the last time we looked, the temperature will be a tolerable 88 degrees ó at 4 a.m.

But it will be a dry heat.

Actually, weíre well past the halfway point of the season, and the Tigers have a big lead in the American League Central.

So big, in fact, can anybody catch them?

Henning: I thought either the Indians or Royals would put some heat (dry or wet) on the Tigers, and for about 48 hours in June the Royals were on first-place fire. But neither of those teams can match the Tigers starting pitching or, on so many days, their offense. So, itís Detroitís division to lose ó and probably win.

Gage: Thatís what I thought youíd say. Actually, I had no idea what you would say, but I knew it would be said eloquently.

I know you are going to see Kirk Gibson in Arizona, and heís having a tough season out there this season as manager. Think heíll keep his job?

Henning: Yes. Now that Tony La Russa is in charge in Phoenix, an easy guess is that he will tread carefully during a season that has hardly been Gibsonís fault. At the end of the year, Tony probably brings in his own people ó as general manager and manager. There was a reason La Russa was brought aboard, and it wasnít to oversee the status quo.

Gage: Gotta ask you about the All-Star format. That Home Run Derby is still pretty boring isnít it?

Henning: So boring I watched not a nanosecond of it. And felt as if I didnít miss a thing. Hate to sound jaded, but once the Home Run Derby novelty wore off, and once it required three hours of tedium to determine a winner, I opted for an ON DEMAND movie (ĒNixon,Ē the Oliver Stone production, speaking of three-hour ordeals) and bypassed The Derby. Even if Nixon wasnít Stoneís best work, it was a good trade.

Gage: Hereís my suggestion for a format.

Make it a nine-inning game between three American League hitters and three National League hitters.

Each hitter will bat in three innings (1-4-7, 2-5-8, 3-6-9), and they get to make five outs per inning, meaning anything that isnít a home run is an out. It wonít overtax the player; it wonít drone on for the fans, but it could contain some suspense.

The home run totals accumulate inning by inning like the score of a regular game. At the end of nine innings, one of the leagues has won, the other has lost.

But also at the end of nine innings, the top two HR hitters from the team competition square off with 10 swings each to decide an individual winner.

With that format, you have a league winner and an individual champion.

The point is you donít want to bore the viewer another year with too many home runs. But another major overhaul is definitely needed, donít you agree?

The number of home runs this year was down, but still a tedious 78 ó after 103 in 2013.

Henning: Mr. Commissioner ó youíre on this yearís writerís ballot for the Hall of Fame, so commissioner canít be far behind ó I think you just sold us. Plus, itís too complicated of a scheme for me to satisfactorily challenge. Congratulations.

Gage: Last question ó is the British Open the greatest tournament of them all or what? Every time itís played, I expect those runners from ďChariots of FireĒ to go splashing by.

Where does it rank with you?

Henning: Yes, itís heavy among a small group of will-not-miss events. Love the fact you can wake up, pour a cup of coffee, and melt into the sofa as tensions and tough shots amass. Love the courses, the galleries, and particularly those holes, when the gorse and sand and wind can devastate a leader board. Great sports theater, especially when itís other guys coping with golfís miseries. I love Schadenfreude.

Gage: Schadenfreude bogeyed the final hole. He missed the cut.