Detroit Tigers Opening day is a holiday in Detroit. Regardless of the disappointment of the previous year, hope springs eternal. I think of Ernie Harwell and the Voice of the Turtle. The atmosphere around the stadium is like that of a playoff game. Fans, with and without tickets, arrive in downtown early and the beer flows freely. The weather is always the biggest question mark of the day. The fans will have a good time regardless of the weather or the outcome of the game. Opening day optimism says that if the Tigers win they are destined to win the series, and if they lose – well then it is just one game. Opening day is about checking out the new faces and debating how they improve our team. Fans in the stands will openly express happiness at the bum who left or fear that the team will never be the same without the all-star who departed. This year that discussion will focus on the Prince. However, Ian Kinsler’s Spring Training performance, if it translates to the regular season, will allow Tigers’ fans to have short memories.
If the weather report holds, we will have the first warm day in Detroit this spring. A sign that God is a Tigers’ fan too. The weather should pack Hockey Town and Cheli’s early tomorrow through game time. There will be many tailgaters too. In reality, if the weather report called for 30’s tomorrow, I think almost as many people would show up, but just with more layers and more beer.
The Tigers are 4-4 since 2006 in Opening day games and Verlander has started all but two of those games. Verlander’s first opening day start was March 31, 2008 against the Kansas City Royals. The Tigers lost 5-4. The lineup that day looked like this: Renteria 6, Polanco 4, Sheffield DH, Ordonez 9, Cabrera 5, Guillen 3, J. Jones 7, and Inge 8. The Tigers tied the game in the 8th on a C. Gullen home run but lost it in the 11th.
Since the opening day in 2006 Verlander and Cabrera are the only players that remain in this year’s lineup. This years opening day lineup looks like this: Kinsler 4, Hunter 9, Cabrera 3, Martinez DH, Jackson 8, Avila 2, Castellanos 5, A. Gonzalez 6, R. Davis 7.
The theme, storyline, or headline of the spring for the Tigers was injuries. Iglesias, the Tiger’s new shortstop, is lost for a large part of the season due to a shin injury. Bruce Rondon will also miss all of the year and undergo Tommy John Surgery. The only good injury news to come out of Lakeland was that of Annabel Sanchez. An early injury sidelined him for part of the spring, but he appears ready to start the season. In other injury news Cabrera and Verlander both came to camp coming off offseason surgeries. According to their spring performances, both appear ready to go. Verlander did not give up a run in spring training, which is not too bad.
In spring, hope springs eternal. On Opening Day, Tigers’ fans are hopeful. Detroit is a baseball town and opening day is a holiday.