We’re in the thick of baseball’s Hot Stove League right now, and I must say, I love the Tigers’ chances in 2010.

Yes sir, I think they’ll do just fine. All they have to do is have every starter pitch a complete game every outing and oh yeah, hold the other guys to no more than two runs per pop.

That’s all.

Since the curtain closed on their end-of-the-season pratfall, the Tigers have lost their starting second baseman and No. 2 hitter, their starting center fielder and leadoff hitter, their set-up man in the bullpen, and their closer. And I hear Paws is in talks to sign with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Two years ago the Tigers were supposed to win 110 games and score ten times that many runs. Their batting order was the only one in baseball with an Upper Division and Lower Division Murderers’ Row. They were going to make a mess of the Central Division and laugh at the rest of the league.

Then they started playing the games and after an 0-7 start the team was practically eliminated from contention.

The reverse is true for 2010. The Tigers would appear to be lucky to score half of 1,000 runs, with their lineup that rivals Swiss cheese in the holes department.

The Tigers apparently mean to start a rookie in CF (newly-acquired Austin Jackson), a rookie at 2B (soon-to-be-promoted Scott Sizemore), and a bunch of .230 hitters. And Miguel Cabrera.

One look at the Tigers’ offense and it’s the fans who should be driven to drink, not the cleanup hitter.

I don’t play the stock market, but I might want a piece of Marlboro stock. Manager Jim Leyland, all by himself, will keep that company in business.

But here’s the rub. The Central Division, save for the Minnesota Twins, is filled with teams who bob up and down more than a buoy during a water skiing show.

Except for the Twins, who always seem to contend despite their warts, the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, and the Tigers take turns confounding the experts. If they’re supposed to be good, they stink. And vice-versa. Only the lovable Kansas City Royals can you chisel in for a bad season.

It looks bad for the Tigers now, I realize that. They have a bona fide superstar in Cabrera batting fourth, only he won’t seem to have much to clean up. He might lead the majors in 2010 in 400-foot solo home runs.

There’s an aging Magglio Ordonez, who you just pray didn’t use up what was left in him during the final couple months of 2009. There’s Carlos Guillen, who ends up on the disabled list more than eggs on a grocery list. There’s Brandon Inge, God bless him, who is a gamer and is gutsy and a great guy and when the dust settles he’s hit .230 again.

There’s Adam Everett, who is a throwback to the days of the good field, no hit shortstop. Too bad he’s not a throwback to the days of the good field, good hit shortstop era that came just after that.

There’s Ramon Santiago, who the Tigers have been treating like the 14-year-old kid who just can’t be trusted to stay home alone for any length of time.

There’s Gerald Laird at catcher, who has a great arm but a limp noodle as a bat. He’s another of those nice .230 guys.

“Spahn and Sain and pray for rain,” used to be the mantra for the old Boston Braves teams when it came to their starting rotation.

How about this for the 2010 Tigers?

“JV and Rick and we’re in trouble if it doesn’t rain a lick.”

OK, so it’s not as eloquent, but you get the idea.

And my apologies to new Tiger Max Scherzer, who might be a good third man in the rotation, if the team’s luck holds out.

Ahh, luck. That fickle lady.

There might be hope for the Tigers, after all. The Twins aren’t playing in the Metrodome in 2010, for starters.

Hey, it’s better than nothing.

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