'It's not OK to lose': Tigers' dreary record drains psyche, not pride

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — You don't spend 10 years in the majors leagues as primarly a backup player if you don't have a sense of pride.

And, boy, Bobby Wilson has pride in bulk.

Entering play Friday, Miguel Cabrera was in a 3-for-40 skid since the All-Star break. He’s got one extra-base hit, a double, with nine punch-outs.

That's why all this losing, well, quite frankly, it sucks.

"We all want to win. You play to win the game, that's what we're here for," Wilson said following the Tigers' 4-0 loss to the Phillies on Wednesday.

"We're not here just to collect checks. There's a lot of pride. Obviously, you're playing for the City of Detroit, but also you don't want to embarrass the name on the back of your jersey."

The Tigers knew there would be a lot of losing this season, but even coming off back-to-back 98-loss seasons, they didn't expect this.

With Wednesday's loss, they're on pace to lose 112 games — and that's before the July 31 trade deadline. They're likely to lose some of their best players.

Still, that can't be an excuse, said Wilson, in his second go-around as the Tigers' secondary catcher.

"It's not OK to lose," Wilson said. "We lose, every night, I go home sick to my stomach. I hate losing more than I like winning, that's just the way I was groomed.

"When you win, your food tastes better, your family members aren't as big of a pain in the butt, everything's sweeter. I hate (losing). It does stick with you at night. If it wasn't sticking with me at night, then I'd take my ball and go home.

"The beer's colder when you win, too. That's what we're here to do."

Ratings lag

Tigers' television ratings, not long ago, were so scorching hot, that Fox Sports Detroit got the ballclub to keep inching back its first-pitch times just so it could cram in some more ads.

Those days are gone.

Shortly after the All-Star break earlier this month, FSD cut back its pregame show from one hour to a half-hour, in a budgetary decision made prior to the season — as the network knew it was facing another brutal season in the win-loss column, plus a ballooning staff budget for such analysts as Kirk Gibson, Jack Morris, Dan Petry and Craig Monroe. The move to a half-hour coincided with the start of the fiscal budget year.

The half-hour pregame is more in line with the network's other two teams, the Pistons and Red Wings, two other rebuilding teams struggling in the standings and ratings.

In 2013, the Tigers had the best local TV ratings in all of baseball, averaging nearly a 10 rating. Last year, the Tigers' second consecutive 98-loss season, it was down to 2.64.

This summer, as the Tigers appear bound for a 100-loss season, the Tigers are averaging 2.87, according to Sports Business Daily, in the bottom half of MLB teams.

VerHagen gets nod

The mystery wasn't a mystery for very long. Following Wednesday's game, Thursday's TBA was revealed: Drew VerHagen will make his first start for the Tigers this season.

The right-hander has been getting stretched out for several months in Toledo, and while the numbers haven't been great (4.42 ERA, including eight earned runs allowed two starts ago), manager Ron Gardenhire said the reports are positive.

"He feels great, he's throwing the ball good, he came in here bouncing today. He's excited to do this," Gardnehire said. "We're happy to have him.

"He's been throwing great."

VerHagen, a fourth-round pick by the Tigers in 2012, has been mostly a reliever at the major-league level, though the Tigers long have toyed with making him a starter. He starts Game 1 of the four-game series in Seattle.

To make room on the roster, lefty Daniel Stumpf was optioned to Toledo, to no fault of his own. Somebody had to go down. Gardenhire said the time in Toledo will allow Stumpf to see more innings, face more lefties, and sharpen his slider.

Around the horn

Reliever Buck Farmer might finally be putting things together.  The right-hander had a two-strikeout outing in Tuesday night's 15-inning loss and hasn't allowed a run in 11 of his last 13 appearances, reportedly putting him on some teams' trade radar.

... The Tigers are heading to their house of horrors, T-Mobile Park in Seattle (formerly known as Safeco Field). The last three years, the Tigers are 1-10 in Seattle, including sweeps in 2017 and 2016. Each of the last three years in Seattle, the Mariners have dropped a walk-off on the Tigers.

... Before Wednesday's game, the Tigers placed right-handed reliever Victor Alcantar on the injured list with a right middle-finger contusion, and recalled right-hander Jose Cisnero. Also, catcher Grayson Greiner (back) was moved to the 60-day IL.

... Miguel Cabrera's 11th annual Keeping Kids in the Game event Monday at Comerica Park raised more than $200,000, proceeds going toward children's health and youth baseball initiatives.

On deck: Mariners

Series: Four games, Thursday-Sunday, T-Mobile Park, Seattle

First pitch: Thursday-Friday, 10:10 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 4:10 p.m.

TV/radio: All four games on FSD/97.1

Series probables: Thursday — RHP Drew VerHagen (1-0, 15.00) vs. TBA; Friday — LHP Daniel Norris (2-8, 5.02) vs. LHP Yusei Kikuchi (4-7, 5.37); Saturday — LHP Tyler Alexander (0-0, 2.25) vs. LHP Marco Gonzales (11-8, 4.37); Sunday — LHP Matt Boyd (6-8, 4.07) vs. TBA


VerHagen, Tigers: He has a 4.42 ERA in 11 starts this season at Toledo, but the Tigers insist they're getting positive reports about his arsenal. This will be his first start at Detroit this season; he's made three relief appearances.


Twitter: @tonypaul1984