Detroit — It was to be expected, of course.
The Tigers had all the earmarks this season of a team that might not be the greatest of World Series bets.
Or even a long-shot bid for a playoff ticket.
Expectations, for sure, were less robust than in past years and attendance is now confirming it.
The Tigers are four games from the 41-game midseason point in their home schedule and are the lowest they have been in box-office receipts than in any year since 2005, just before they began a decade-long run as a division winner and regular threat to play deep into October.
It is not a dramatic falloff, but heading into Friday’s game against the Indians at Comerica Park that was eventually postponed due to rain, the Tigers were eighth in the American League in total attendance (1,053,013) and seventh in per-game average (28,460).
The numbers must be viewed in mathematical context.
The Tigers have played only 37 home games, which entering Friday was two fewer games than three of the league’s top-drawing teams, the Blue Jays, Angels, and Red Sox. Houston, ranked fifth in league attendance, had played five more games than the Tigers, while the Rangers and Royals (sixth and seventh) had also played two more games than Detroit.
Average game attendance, however, still places Detroit in seventh place, behind the Astros (29,925) and ahead of the Royals (27,007).
While the order can change positively for the Tigers, their overall eighth-place position — influenced by those fewer dates — is in the vicinity of last year’s overall attendance, when the team was seventh among 15 league teams in tickets sold. The Tigers have not finished lower than seventh since 2005 when the team was 10th in league attendance after drawing 2,024,431 to Comerica Park.
The turnstile temperature was about to climb, in a hurry, beginning in 2006 when the Tigers led the American League Central for nearly the entire season and in October pushed their way to the World Series.
That particular team, which was Jim Leyland’s debut year as manager, saw the Tigers draw nearly 2.6 million. A year later, the Tigers, for the first time in team history, cracked the 3-million mark. They repeated it a year later with the biggest box-office year in Detroit baseball history when the Tigers passed 3.2 million.
Two more 3-million-plus years were to come ahead of a cool off that has corresponded to the team’s last playoff appearance in 2014.
The Tigers arrived Friday at Comerica Park with a 35-43 record and fourth-place seat in the American League Central. It is expected the team will be open to any and all trade conversations during July, which could, conceivably, see some high-profile Tigers playing elsewhere during the season’s final two months.
Up and away
Justin Upton has quite a month going.
Although he hadn’t yet stepped to the plate Friday evening as rain moved through Detroit, Upton, in his last 25 games, has been on base in 23 of those games.
He is batting .305, with six home runs, and a .934 OPS. For the month of June, he is tied for second place among American League hitters in RBIs, with 27, three fewer than Seattle’s Mike Zunino.
Upton also has 52 RBIs for the season.
A year ago after a brutal first half left him and the Tigers shaken, Upton didn’t get his 50th RBI of the year until Aug. 21.
It was three years ago Friday that Rajai Davis pulled quite the final act at Comerica Park.
With the Tigers down, 4-1, Davis, then a Tigers outfielder, tore into a hanging curve from A’s reliever Sean Doolittle and sent it soaring into the left-field seats for a grand slam that gave the Tigers a 5-4 victory and sent Comerica’s sellout crowd into orbit.
Known as a “natural grand slam” — four runs scoring for a one-run walk-off victory — it is the last such time a big-league hitter has pulled off such a perfect-math homer.