The Detroit Tigers are fresh off two wins in M.C. Hammer’s old stomping grounds—Oakland, Cal.

Justin Verlander was dominant Wednesday night against the Athletics, and Miguel Cabrera, who bats .349 against the A.L. West, broke his 0-11 slump with a round tripper Thursday.

So far so good.

Detroit (24-17) finds itself in familiar territory—battling with Joe Mauer and the Minnesota Twins for top billing in the American League Central.

Tiger fans have seen this before, and then waited for the walls to come crashing down.

But is this year different? Is it too early to get excited about contention?

With the way that rookies Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch have been playing lately, it’s within reason to say that Jim Leyland’s club has two legitimate A.L. Rookie of the Year candidates.

Yes, it’s early.

But it’s hard to deny the pair.

Especially Jackson. He’s amongst the league leaders in hits, and is nearly automatic when it comes to getting on base.

And he has the “hustle” quality, unlike a Florida Marlin that has been in the news recently.

Boesch, well, he has to work on his glove above all. He has committed three errors in 17 games, and that has the potential to overshadow his prominence at the plate.

Verlander, Cabrera and Jose Valverde are in the top-five in vital categories that pertain to their respective positions.

Cabrera is tops in Major League baseball with 38 RBIs, and fifth in the A.L. with a .340 batting average.

Verlander is second in the league in wins with five.

Valverde, the animated “Papa Grande” himself, has 11 saves, which is good enough for fourth best in the majors.

Hot players. Hot stats. Hot team?

Yes. Yes. And yes.

We’re just over 40 games into the 162-game season, but it’s not too early to pile the Tigers in the league’s elite category.

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