Henning: Give Tigers time before rendering judgment
Detroit— One reason people love baseball is because it reboots every day or so. A bad game 24 hours later can seem about as relevant as last season.
The reverse also can apply, which Tigers Nation understands a week into the 2016 season.
Detroit started neatly by sweeping the Marlins in Miami and by socking it to the Yankees on Opening Day. Presto, the Tigers were 3-0 and an old baseball town was loving its seemingly charmed 2016 team.
But now the Tigers have been popped in back-to-back games, the latest of which came Monday at Comerica Park when the Pirates beat them and Justin Verlander, 7-4.
“There’s always little stutter steps before you get into the ebb and flow of a season,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who was talking about Verlander’s choppy game Monday but who might as well have been waxing on big league baseball’s realities, in April or any other month.
■ Weather: The Tigers and Yankees would have needed wet suits to play baseball Sunday night on ESPN. They finally gave up, which is what Saturday’s home fans might have preferred as snow dusted the air and as the Yankees dusted Mike Pelfrey in an 8-4 loss.
Cold, wet days and nights aren’t great times to get a bead on your team. Everyone tends to be in survival mode. Performances are compromised. Teams play hard, but there’s almost a subconscious urge to get the games in and get off the field.
Better that something approaching baseball weather arrives ahead of serious hitting and pitching critiques. Pelfrey, to name one Tigers player, likely agrees.
■ Injuries: Never does a team go deeply into April, it seems, before someone important is lost. James McCann was Monday’s casualty.
He sprained an ankle in the fifth inning when he tripped over first baseman John Jaso at the end of a terrific play by second baseman Josh Harrison. X-rays were negative, but MRI results were incomplete, and Ausmus wasn’t banking on good news.
“There could be an issue,” Ausmus said, explaining that the potential “degree” of ankle sprain hadn’t been determined.
McCann threw out two Pirates who had ideas Monday of stealing second base. Even at 25 and a big league sophomore, he is an up-the-middle necessity. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a professional, but McCann and his skills are vital.
The Tigers could be dealing at catcher with a lineup mini-crisis seven days into a new season.
■ Schedule: Two of baseball’s better teams are the Astros and Pirates. If the Tigers are serious about reclaiming an October playoff ticket, April might be a helpful time to show you can beat those clubs.
But this will be a rugged 10 days. The trip begins Wednesday at Pittsburgh with two games against the Pirates not many hours after they will have wrapped up a two-game set in Detroit (schedule-makers reserve the right to do weird things).
The Tigers then fly to Houston for weekend games against the Astros, who have so much talent they could afford two years ago to donate J.D. Martinez to Detroit.
After tussling with the Astros, the Tigers have the high honor and distinct privilege of jetting to Kansas City for three games with the Royals, who happen to have won last year’s World Series.
You can see, potentially — this is but a scenario — how an early road trip this stiff, for a team missing a few people, can turn into a reality check on that 3-0 record the Tigers were brandishing after their Opening Day conking of the Yankees.
It also could ignite critics who perhaps won’t be happy with how things have gone after those first three games. In that event, a loud crowd, blood dripping from lips, will of course scream for a new manager.
But this isn’t about dark or dreamy scenarios. It’s about remembering that surprises — plus or minus — tend to be part of April, a month particularly jostled by baseball’s variables.