Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Home Is Where The Heartburn Is For The Tigers

If you look closely, you can see the
complimentary mint in the visitors' dugout

Whenever the topic of Comerica Park comes up, it is invariably asked how much the fans have embraced the ballpark, now in its sixth season of operation, believe it or not. The curiosity is understandable, considering the Tigers played at Michigan and Trumbull for over 80 years.

Have the fans, it is asked, finally accepted CoPa as the Tigers' new home?

Hey, have the Tigers themselves?

The Tigers have not, truly, established any sort of home field advantage since moving into Comerica for the start of the 2000 season. Granted, they've fielded some awful teams lately, but there has never really been any sort of notion that the Tigers have figured out a way to put their ballpark into proper use. We've heard over and over, ad nauseum, about CoPa's ridiculously large environs, and how it punished hitters, except those who spray the ball and like to hit into the gaps. Then where are all the spray hitters who like to hit into the gaps?

This season the Tigers, as usual, are below .500 at Comerica, 10-14. They are 13-12 away from home.

It's always the visiting team, it seems, that manages to figure out how to play in Comerica, and that's odd, considering most clubs only come here once a season. Last night the Texas Rangers came into town and trampled all over the good guys, 8-2, and they made it look so easy. Of course, the Rangers have been victimizing everyone lately; they have a nine-game winning streak. But after a stirring three-game sweep in Baltimore over the weekend, punctuated by Sunday's come from behind 8-6 win, you thought the Tigers would have some momentum and would be eager to try to get something going at home. Instead, they went meekly.

Okay, okay, the Rangers starter was Kenny Rogers, who is 7-0 with an ERA that looks like the price of a candy bar -- 0.87 -- in his last seven starts. Rogers clearly has been doing it to others, too. But so what? You're at home! You just came off a sweep of the AL East leaders, right on the heels of being swept in Yankee Stadium! What about staring Rogers and the Rangers' winning streak in the face and causing the other team to blink for once?

In fairness, I've always thought baseball to have the least effective home field advantage of all the four majors, but having said that, the teams that win pennants and World Series usually have a sparkling record at home. They figure out how to play to their parks' nuances. They find a way to make it uncomfortable for the visitors. The Tigers will never take that next step to contention if teams can waltz into Comerica and feel like guests at the Ritz -- which they are, in Dearborn, off the field, but you know what I mean.

As soon as the Tigers can stop leaving mints on their opponents' pillows at CoPa, then maybe we can start talking about the team making some noise in the AL Central.

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