YOSHONIS: Tiger fans should stick around and watch their team rebuild

Detroit Tigers shortstop Niko Goodrum beats the tag of Oakland Athletics catcher Jonathan Lucroy to score from second on James McCann's single during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 26, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Detroit Tigers shortstop Niko Goodrum beats the tag of Oakland Athletics catcher Jonathan Lucroy to score from second on James McCann’s single during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 26, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

As I write this, the Detroit Tigers are on a six-game losing streak, which immediately followed a five-game wining streak, and fans are left scratching their heads.

Which team are they, the good one or the bad one?

The answer, of course, is both. They went into the season as, for the most part, a young team with not a great deal of veteran leadership, but that seems to be slowly changing. Nicholas Castellanos is emerging as a clubhouse leader, and he’s backing it up on the field.

That’s one good sign, among many, for fans who have a little patience. This is, after all, a major teardown-and-rebuild.

Gone are the days when a benevolent owner in Mike Ilitch would open up his checkbook to build or maintain a championship contender, or astute GM Dave Dombrowski could dig down into the farm system to pull off a blockbuster trade.

Now, with Ilitch gone, the Tigers are back to acting like what they are, a small-market team. They have to do things the old-fashioned way, by identifying young talent and developing it for the big club, instead of as trade bait.

And fans will have to endure the type of roller-coaster ride that characterize small-market teams in modern baseball, bringing along players who will contend for a year or two, and eventually leave for teams that can offer more money, causing the club to then go back to square one.

That’s just the way it is, and will be for the foreseeable future.

One player that Dombrowski continually kept off-limits to trades was Castellanos, and that has paid big dividends for the present club.

Going into Tuesday night’s game, Castellanos leads the team in batting (.304), slugging (.498), RBI (44) and total bases (154). With Miguel Cabera out for the season and Victor Martinez obviously on his last legs (to the point of making the prospect of eating his enormous $18 million salary and opening up a roster spot a little less unthinkable), Castellanos is no less than the face of the franchise at the moment.

But he isn’t the only bright spot on the team.

Shortstop Jose Iglesias, a potential Gold Glover in the field but formerly a liability at the plate, is batting a more-than-respectable .274 at the moment, after getting off to a horrendous start to the season.

Jaimer Candelario has been something of a revelation this year. The 24-year-old leads the team in home runs (11), and has driven in 31 runs.

After playing on three different teams in the last three years, Leonys Martin has settled in nicely in centerfield at Comerica Park, and has come up with a .257 average, and several clutch home runs, in 66 games played for the Tigers.

But the point is, this team is all about the future not the present. All of the above players aside from Martin are still in their 20’s, and Martin just turned 30.

Recent top draft choice Casey Mize is as close to a can’t-miss pitching prospect as there can be, and Michael Fulmer, despite his occasional struggles this season, has already shown to be a solid foundation for a young pitching staff.

And Joe Jimenez, at 23, is shaping up to be something that the Tigers haven’t had in what seems like generations: A reliable closer.

While it may be hard to do, Tiger fans need to almost completely disregard this season’s results and just enjoy seeing the future core of a solid team mature.

Heck, the team is still doing better than I expected this season. I figured that 100 losses was a decent bet. They may still get there, but I wouldn’t bet on it now.

Remember, the class of players that formed the core of the 1984 championship team took their lumps as youngsters also, enduring six seasons of right-around-.500 ball before breaking out as a contender in 1983. That year, the Tigers finished in second place in the American League East division, and went on to win 35 of their first 40 games in 1984.

More recently, the Tigers lost 90 or more games for five straight seasons in the early 2000’s, including the humiliating 119-loss campaign in 2003, before taking a young team to the World Series in 2006, and winning four straight division titles from 2011-14.

Things may look dire now, Tiger fans, but help is on the way.

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Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

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