Monday, August 6, 2012

With Stars In Their Prime, Tigers Must Win Soon

As Tigers fans, I am not sure we realize exactly what we are witnessing.  The Tigers currently have 3 of the best players in all of baseball on their roster in Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, and Prince Fielder.  What makes it even more special is that all 3 are in the prime of their careers.  Each game we get to watch 3 once-in-a-generation players (every 5th game in JV's case) in the Old English D.  That's just dandy.  However, with such star power comes the pressure to perform and to not only win, but win BIG.  And win big NOW.  And I am not talking about being in a pennant race or even returning to the World Series.  This team must win the whole magilla if not this year, then in the next 2 years while the aforementioned superstars are in their prime and wearing Tiger uniforms.

With yesterday's heroics, Miggy (29 years old) confirmed what we have all suspected which is that he is not human.  He is indeed a cyborg.  He is an RBI machine who hits for average, draws walks, hits in the gaps, and clears the fences no matter what park he plays in.  And above all, he is capable of performing in pressure situations as displayed vs. the Indians on Sunday afternoon.  He once again is putting up MVP-type numbers with a .325 avg., 27 HR, and 91 RBI through 108 games.  He simply rakes.  Not to mention he has been surprisingly good in his transition to 3B this season and is a great teammate.  He is under contract through the 2016 season.  I am sure the Tigers will do everything in their power to ensure he retires a Tiger, but if the team does not win a ring before then, what's to say he won't seek greener pastures if a team like the Yankees comes calling?  It could be another 30 years before we see another player of his ilk playing in Detroit.  He was brought here to build a championship team.  The Tigers must take advantage of having one of the game's greatest hitters on their squad while he is in his prime years.

Justin Verlander might be the closest thing to a guaranteed victory whenever he takes the hill.  For this reason, he was voted as the AL Cy Young winner last year as well as the AL MVP.  If not for some bum luck and a toothless offense early in the year, he would probably be well on his way this year as well.  He currently has a 11-7 record, a 2.63 ERA, and 152 SO.  He is simply amazing.  Like Cabrera, he may very well be the best in the league at his position.  At 29 years of age, he too is in the prime of his career and looks as if he will be a Cy Young contender each and every year for the foreseeable future.  And for good measure, he is dating Kate Upton.  Life is good if you're JV.  The Tigers have him locked up through the 2014 season.  As with Cabrera, Mr. Illitch will throw the bank at him to ensure he stays put.  But if at the age of 31 he is still looking for his 1st ring, teams such as the Boston Red Sox could become appealing to him.  Of course this is pure speculation, but I think it is safe to say it is in the Tigers' best interest to not leave it to chance and get the man his bling before he becomes a free agent.  Just like Cabrera, JV is the type of player we may not see in this town for decades after he is gone.  When you have arguably the best and most-feared hurler in the bigs, you must capitalize on the situation and win at least 1 championship.  It would be heartbreaking to see him showered in champagne in any other uniform.

Prince Fielder is Miggy's partner in crime.  A true cleanup hitter who, at the age of 28, is also in his prime.  Batting behind Cabrera, he helps form the most dangerous duo in the MLB.  The man has the most vicious swing I have ever seen in my life.  He swings angry.  And many times he connects.  Not only does he bring mammoth power, but he hits for average hitting .311.  Some complain that his power numbers are down having only 18 HR.  I say nonsense as he has been an RBI machine plating 79 and also draws walks.  I would take him over let's say an Adam Dunn who despite his 31 HR, has a minuscule .207 avg. and a .356 OBP and strikes out twice as much.  If Dunn isn't hitting HRs he is basically useless.  Prince has a .398 OBP, will hit the gaps, hits doubles in his sleep, and is a true professional hitter.  Yes, chicks dig the long ball, but as long as he is clearing the bases one way or the other, that is all that matters.  By the end of the season he should be right around 30 HR which is plenty.  The Tigers have him under contract for the next 9 years.  We are not sure how long he will be in the role of Robin to Cabrera's Batman.  Many teams don't ever get a chance to have 1 let alone 2 of the game's best hitters.  The Tigers do.  They need to have something to show for it.

The Tigers have not 1, not 2, but 3 players with the supreme ability that many teams will never see.  It's almost like having a fantasy baseball team.  You throw in the likes of Austin Jackson, Doug Fister, and Alex Avila and you have a very impressive core for the next few years.  As fans, we hope the Tigers' front office can keep this core together for many years to come but it is not guaranteed.  We are guaranteed to have 3 of the best players in the game, in the prime of their careers, through 2014.  That means that if they do not win the World Series this year, they are only promised 2 more kicks at the can.  That means they have 2 more seasons to win it all.  It would be borderline embarrassing if they are unable to get the job done with the 3 superstars.  That is why I do not care if they trade top prospects to bring in help.  They must win now.  And Mike Illitch knows it.  He has not been to the MLB mountain top (Has 4 Cups with the Red Wings) and he is not a spring chicken. Some will go berserk if he forces Dombrowski to mortgage the future for immediate success.  If it brings a banner to Comerica Park, I will not be one of them.   Every team has a legitimate window in which they must capitalize.  This is the Tigers' window.  The next few years will be their best opportunity to return to baseball supremacy for the first time since 1984.  If they do not, they will simply be a glorified fantasy baseball team.  Whether it is fair or not, the clock is ticking...tick...tock...tick...tock...

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