It’s not the two-out, two-run, top-of-the-eighth home run Michael Fulmer gave up that effectively ended the Detroit Tigers‘ game against Oakland Thursday afternoon. It’s not that the A’s — who had one of the worst records in baseball before they met up with the Tigers — just took four of five at Comerica Park.
It’s not the crawl of hitless at-bats, slowly turning into scoreless innings (although that’s torturous enough). It’s not even the shutouts.
It’s the belief. The optimism. The hope.
It’s that these Tigers — your Detroit Tigers — were supposed to lead the charge back to respectability in this city. And they’ve done the opposite. And now you’re wondering what the heck you’re supposed to do with the low-key optimism that’s slowly developing around the Detroit Lions.
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Admit it. You have hope. Or at least you did until the trauma of, oh, I don’t know, the Tigers not scoring for 28 consecutive innings?
Because at that point you couldn’t tell yourself the Tigers’ awful start was simply the schedule, or injuries, or chilled bats waiting for a May warmth that … just … wouldn’t … come.
But it did this week. It’s warm. The schedule softened, as an Oakland squad that traded most of its talent and had lost nine straight before hitting Detroit arrived.
And the Tigers lost 9-0 Wednesday to a pitcher with 6⅓ previous big-league innings.
So, yeah, hope. It’s risky. You had it for the Tigers. You have it for the Lions.
The question is: What to do with it?
What to do with the feeling that bubbles inside when you read yet another story quoting an analyst or an NFL scout or a former exec about how well the Lions drafted last month?
What to do with the thought of them finally trotting out a healthy offensive line with three first-round picks? Nestled in among promising receivers, an electric running back and a potentially solid quarterback?
What to do with the hype videos that keep showing how much players love head coach Dan Campbell? Or the decent play his team showed down the stretch last season?
Should you trust it?
Do you have a choice?
Nope. You’re a Lions fan. It’s what you do. You can’t turn away. Or stop filling Ford Field. And that’s grand. It sets you and your fellow fans of misery apart.
But I’m worried. Concerned, if you will. That this atrocious display on the grass across the street from your turf-filled home of unrequited love will dent your spirit.
It’s understandable. The Tigers aren’t just bad — they’re the worst team in the American League. Oakland just made sure of that. And it’s not just a record dragged down by a few fluky losses. They have the worst offense, by far, in most of the key categories.
Which means once a few runs are on the board, they have no chance. Just as they didn’t Thursday afternoon, when Seth Brown lifted the ball into the left-field seats to give Oakland a 5-3 lead in the top of the eighth. That Brown entered the game hitting .169 only added to the pain.
Losing 3-0 or 4-1 — or even 5-3 — all the time is worse, psychologically, than losing 7-5 or 8-6. If the Tigers couldn’t pitch but could hit, you’d at least look forward to the bottom of the inning.
But knowing that hits and runs simply aren’t coming? That’s almost Biblical — a test of Job (or at least A.J. Hinch) as it were — in its frustration.
It’s also numbing. For there is bad, and then there is futile; futile is the enemy of enjoyment. So are unmet expectations.
They make you feel foolish for ever believing. Not that you thought these Tigers were headed to the World Series. You did, however, think they had a plan, that they were on a trajectory, and if the arc of that trajectory flattened out here and there, well, those are the ebbs and flows of loving something that’s growing.
It’s easy to stick your heart out for that. You know the risks.
But it had been a while since the Red Wings, Pistons, Lions or Tigers grabbed you the way these Tigers did. And that stings.
So it’s natural to second-guess the (relatively) good vibes starting to surround these Lions. Because, they’re the Lions — it already usually takes eight months to ready yourself for another season.
You were getting there. Now this. Now this start, this futility. This barrage of nothingness. This parade of one batter after another walking back to the dugout from home plate.
And it’s making you wonder: Can my heart withstand more false hope?
Yes, it can. Because the Lions are not the Tigers. I can’t believe I’m typing those words, but it’s true.
Not because the Lions have shown they can win the last six decades. But because logic tells us that one poor start doesn’t mean another when two things aren’t related, even if they feel related in your heart.
That’s that old trauma talking to you. Flush it. Flush the Tigers if you must. (Or not — maybe they’ll find a way to score some runs before the summer is over.)
But don’t let these past six weeks at Comerica Park ruin whatever (cautious) optimism you are feeling for what might happen at Ford Field this fall.
History would forgive you. Would you forgive yourself?
Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.