What we talk about when we talk about ball

Something special is happening right now.

Alex Avila is flirting with. 300, the first Tigers catcher to hit so well since Lance Parrish. In fact, he took a turn at third base just to keep his offense in the lineup during interleague play.

If life were fair, he’d be the undeniable starting catcher for the American League at the All-Star Game. But life isn’t fair, and ignorant asshole Yankee fans are voting half their geriatric lineup into the game.

Obviously, some things never change.

Except for the things that do.

For once, the Twins and White Sox aren’t dominating the AL Central. For once, Ozzie Guillen’s brand of managerial jackassery isn’t paying dividends as his team hovers in the middle of the pack. For once, Joe Mauer isn’t the Tom Brady of baseball, wooing sportscasters with his impeccable hair and fundamentally, aesthetically perfect swing. He’s a catcher who’s already started to break down.

Leg weakness, the mystery injury that landed him on the DL for so much of the first half, might be an apt metaphor for what’s happened to the Twins and the Sox this season: something at the base is failing.

But the opposite is happening in Detroit.

Finally, the base is strong. Finally, Cabrera has protection in front of and behind him. Finally, the bottom of the lineup isn’t a three man barren wasteland of strikeouts and wasted at-bats. Finally, the Tigers aren’t just about one man, one bat.

There’s one man, however, who seems to personify the tigers this season: Justin Verlander. JV, like Steve Yzerman before him, adjusted his game to make his team better. Obviously, he can still mow ’em down, but by pitching to contact he can go deeper into games — with multiple complete games already in the books this season, giving a thin bullpen adequate rest.

More than anything else, he is showing the team how to win: by putting the team ahead of your own stats; and in his case, that approach is netting a very special season.

So while the Tigers flirt with first, and Verlander winks at no-hitters every outing, and every man on the bench seems to have finally gotten it, it might feel a little bit like we’re living in bizarro world.

But we’re not, fans. This is a brave new world, a world where the Tigers at the top is exactly how things are supposed to be.

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