Sharp: Mediocre Tigers embarrassed by Tribe; time to trade off assets?

The math isn’t fuzzy. The equation is pretty straightforward. The results are damning.

You can’t catch something you can’t beat.

Cleveland is pulling away from Detroit, waving good-bye in the rearview mirror as the season approaches the midway point. There are no justifications for an 0-9 season record against an opponent. No excuses. No what-ifs. The Indians simply are a much better team than the Tigers. The aggregate of prior competitive angst and front-office foresight in selling veteran assets at the right time have the Indians confidently pointing toward an American League Central Division title while the Tigers keep spinning in circles, the penance of the mediocre.

“I’m glad it’s still June,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.

But it won’t be June much longer.

This was as embarrassing of a Comerica Park weekend as we’ve seen in quite some time, considering how well the Tigers played coming into the series and the importance of making a statement against the Tribe. The Tigers were outscored, 22-8, in these three games. Entering the series four games out of the division lead, they now trail Cleveland by seven games.

“They own us right now,” Ausmus added, “but it’s still early.”

Keep kidding yourself, Brad. Time’s quickly running out.

The weekend’s frustration tinged the manager’s comments afterward when asked in various ways if he held a brief team meeting following the loss.

“What did I just say?” he snapped at the last question. “It’s between me and the team.”

The Tigers are 38-38 following Sunday’s 9-3 series-ending loss. In 76 games, they’ve been .500 13 times. As a comparison, during the 2012-13 seasons, the Tigers were at .500 only a combined 15 times in those two seasons.

Call it what it is. The Tigers remain average, at best.

The only fireable offense would be if ownership and the front office think adding more to an already obesely bloated payroll is the answer. There are no further farm system-compromising panaceas out there in the trade market.

The Indians went through what the Tigers are desperately attempting to avoid — a stretch of competitive irrelevance that turns the fan base against them, leading to regularly half-empty home games.

But the Indians didn’t blink, and they’re now the best team in the division because they’ve got the best starting pitching. It’s a rotation forged mostly from various trading deadline sell-offs, moving overvalued veterans for young arms that required patience, persistence and a fair amount of good luck.

Sunday’s winning starter, Josh Tomlin, was the only member of the current rotation the Indians drafted. They got Carlos Carrasco in the deal that sent Cliff Lee to the Phillies. They got Trevor Bauer in a deal that cost them Shin-Soo Choo, who was headed to free agency following that season. Pitcher Jake Westbrook was the biggest piece in a 2010 trading deadline deal that landed Cleveland Corey Kluber, who won the AL Cy Young Award in 2014. Danny Salazar was an international free agent when the Indians signed him at 16.

Ausmus set up his rotation appreciating the importance of sending a message to the Indians. But Justin Verlander and Jordan Zimmerman got hammered. Verlander has pitched well this season — except against the Indians. After Sunday’s loss, he’s 0-3 against the Tribe with an ERA far north of nine.

There’s no single flaw to pinpoint with the Tigers. They must pitch better, and the offense too often and too quickly flows hot and cold.

It’s not a lack of effort. There’s no insubordination against the manager. It’s not a lack of urgency. It’s just increasingly apparent that the Tigers have squeezed as much as they could out of a star-driven core. Just admit it. Take a bow for what they’ve accomplished over the past five seasons specifically (and it has been plenty), but understand the reality that if the Tigers do anything at the July 31 nonwaiver trading deadline, they should sell off certain veteran assets.

Find another Michael Fulmer. That should be the objective. And this embarrassing weekend only further validates that fact.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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