This is kind of painful for me to point out, but did you know that the calendar this year is exactly the same as it was in 2003? The baseball season started on Monday, March 31 in ’03. And the Tigers went out and promptly lost their first nine games, on their way to 119 Ls.

I thought we were done with all that. I thought the horrific, lopsided numbers — comparing the Tigers’ team stats with that of their opponents — were part of an inglorious past that gave you chills even just thinking about it. I thought all that nonsense was buried with the expunging of such fraudulent big league players as Alex Sanchez and Warren Morris and Kevin Witt and Nate Cornejo. Never could it happen, right — with All-Stars named Sheffield, Rodriguez, Cabrera, Ordonez, Polanco, and Verlander?

For Pete’s sakes, this 0-7 start is getting stupid now. The Tigers, for whatever reason, have come out of the gate in a collective trance. They are playing the worst baseball this town has seen since, well, 2003. It’s creepy how bad they’ve been. And then I had to go and look at the calendar and see that chilling comparison.

Now, don’t worry. I’m not saying the Tigers will lose 119 games. But they could indeed go to 0-9, very easily. They have two more games against the defending champion Red Sox, in Boston. Do YOU see an end to the bleeding happening in Beantown?

It’s quite simple. Someone has to go out and just pitch their rear end off. It remains the best way to stop extended losing streaks. You usually don’t snap these things with a 10-8 affair. When the Tigers lost 19 straight in 1975, it took a Ray Bare two-hit shutout to keep the streak from reaching 20. When you don’t give up any runs, it’s impossible to lose, right?

Last Saturday, Dontrelle Willis was asked to be the stopper, with the streak at four. But his wildness caught up to him. Then Justin Verlander was asked to be the stopper the next night, on national TV. A gut-wrenching error by Carlos Guillen opened the floodgates and torpedoed Verlander. Yesterday, the Tigers turned to wily veteran Kenny Rogers. Maybe he could be the stopper. But the Tigers themselves were shutout (refer to the last sentence of the previous paragraph).

Tonight, Jeremy Bonderman is being given the ball, with the expressed charge to keep it simple, stay within himself, and while he’s at it, throw a shutout. It’s the only way to guarantee the Tigers picking up their first victory of 2008.

Someone may yet pay for this slow start, i.e. the rest of the American League. There’s still every chance that once the Tigers get a win or two, and start to relax and have fun again, that someone is going to pay. The Yankees made the league pay last year for their 21-29 start.

Someone has to pitch a kick-ass game. Will it be Bonderman, tonight? The odds are against it, I’m sad to say. But it needs to happen, and quick.