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Archive for Wednesday, May 7, 2003

Bad News Tigers relish win streak

May 7, 2003

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— Break up the Tigers! They have a winning streak for the first time since August.

OK, so the team won a grand total of three straight, and with just six victories through 31 games this season, Detroit is threatening to break records for futility around since the 1800s.

Yet these Tigers might just be the happiest losers around. When their clubhouse doors swung open Monday, 31¼2 hours before a game against Baltimore, seven Detroit players stood in a circle, bouncing a small ball off their feet and thighs, a drill more common on soccer pitches than among baseball pitchers.

Their clubhouse was as boisterous as a frat house -- you'd think they were bounding toward the playoffs.

"It would be very easy for us to listen to everybody and say, 'We're no good and can't play,"' first-year manager Alan Trammell said. "But we're still competing."

Barely. And while Detroit sports fans prefer to root for the NBA's Pistons, who are in the second round of the playoffs, most of the attention the Tigers are getting is in jest.

"Tonight" show host Jay Leno said the Tigers weren't worried about the SARS virus when they played in Toronto ... because they can't catch anything (rim shot!).

After the Tigers began the season with a loss, Detroit Free Press columnist Drew Sharp wrote: "At least the first game went by quickly. Now if the next 161 are equally a blur, that's the best anyone can hope for from this latest reincarnation of the Tigers.

"Opening Day in Detroit also doubles as Closing Day."

Fans stay away in droves. With an average attendance of 15,388 -- more than 5,000 fewer than the Pistons -- the Tigers rank 27th of 30 major league teams.

Trammell was around during better days. A six-time All-Star, he was the starting shortstop in 1984, when the Tigers started the season 35-5 and won the World Series, about the only bright spot for the team in the last 20 years. The Tigers' media guide, which features his face on the cover, proclaims he is "Restoring the Roar."

Even after most losses, Trammell strides into the clubhouse upbeat, with a big smile, trying to set a positive tone for a team that's among the most inexperienced and lowly paid in the majors.

The Tigers had the second-worst 30-game start in modern major league history (the 1988 Orioles were 4-26) -- and they barely avoided the worst 29-game start ever, a mark around since 1882. They have a shot at eclipsing the record of 134 losses set by the Cleveland Spiders back in 1899.

And that's even after beating Tampa Bay Sunday and Baltimore Monday and Tuesday, giving Detroit its first winning streak since Aug. 18-20. The 64-game gap between consecutive victories was the longest in the majors since 1980, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

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