The Tigers are hoping veteran, but struggling closer Jim Johnson can help sometime in the near future. (Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)
Time is ticking, Tom Gage and Lynn Henning. Then again, when doesnít it?
But weíre into the second half of August already ó and before you know it, youíll need a jacket to go out at night. In fact, you probably needed one Thursday night, right?
Gage: Letís get right to some baseball questions, though. For instance, do you think the Tigers will be able to make any kind of August upgrade to their batting order?
I was going to say bullpen, too, but it looks like Jim Johnson will be the attempted upgrade in the bullpen.
Henning: Theyíll make a serious bid to get the Cuban defector and outfielder, Rusney Castillo. Thereís your answer in center field, not only during Septemberís stretch and possible playoffs, but for the next few years as they wait for Derek Hill or others. Otherwise, not a great chance that a difference-making player, with a sane contract, would ever get to them on waivers. So, I think itís Castillo or (essentially) bust.
Gage: Miguel Cabrera isnít showing the kind of summer power heís shown in the past. I mean, thatís just fact. This is the time of year when the ball usually flies a mile off his bat.
But itís just not carrying for him the way it has. Since July 1, for instance, Cabrera has hit just three home runs.
In the last two years, covering the same amount of time (July 1-Aug. 14), he hit 26 home runs. Think itís the core surgery or just a quirky season for him?
Henning: This is mystifying. Iíve been assured by those who know (not Cabrera) that his lesser power, lower batting average, and occasionally bad swings have nothing to do his physical condition. So what else explains why a hitter so great, at age 31, would have taken such a noticeable dip in 2014? It would help if Cabrera would talk. But he wonít, so weíre left to guess. My question remains: How can it not be physical?
Gage: What convinces me that the Tigers will still win the American League Central is that K.C. has had to be sizzling just to get a nose ahead in the division, and thereís just no way the Royals can stay that hot. But I probably should say ďdonít listen to me when the subject is K.C.Ē because Iíve buried them at least twice this season.
Is this the time they donít disappear, though?
Henning: No. Donít see it. Their pitching has been good, their defense and speed are excellent, and some hitters (hello, Billy Butler) have awakened. They have a far easier schedule than Detroitís. I think theyíre in it and may win it.
Gage: You know, I should mention this about Cabreraís power. He hit one a long way the other night at Comerica Park and it didnít leave the yard in right-center. But it would have been a home run in many, maybe even most other ballparks. So I havenít baited the trap lately for you to rail against the size of Comerica, but Iím baiting it now.
The floor is yours, sir.
Henning: Just ridiculous. Absurdly ridiculous, and has been since the day the stadium design was presented. That the distances were extreme was acknowledged, but only partially addressed, when they pulled in the left-field fence. It still left a crazy left-center (427), center (420) and deep right-center (430), which punishes the well-hit baseball and rewards a bad pitch. You can have one of those areas in a good ballpark, no problem. But when more than half your outfield is in a different area code, itís overly punitive. Which it was intended to be. But thatís not baseball ó itís the Tower of London. And I wish they would fix it.
Gage: I was in Pittsburgh last Monday during the great monsoon, but have been trying to dry out my basement since returning. I guess you had quite an adventure. Consider this the non-baseball topic of the week, my flooded friend.
Tell us what happened.
Henning: Got off the train in Windsor after covering the Blue Jays series. Got through the tunnel just as Noahís Ark launched. Took me 3Ĺ hours to go from the RenCen to Woodward and 10 Mile. Woodward still was clogged, so I decided to cut through Vinsetta to Crooks Road. Bad turn. The car (Buick LaCrosse, 3,000 miles) swamped and stalled. Itís probably totaled because too much stuff got wet. No one got hurt. Iíll count my blessings. Some had far worse fates.