After the 2007 MLB season, the Detroit Tigers went on a spending spree that would have made Ivana Trump blush.
The Tigers seemed flush with cash — and hellbent to spend every penny of it. Coming off a season with three million fans attending 81 home games at Comerica Park, the Tigers were believed to be just a few pieces short of completing a World Series Championship puzzle.
Unfortunately, all the money they threw at players backfired. The addition of Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis and Edgar Renteria actually subtracted from the win column — and the Tigers ended up a dead-last national embarrassment.
This year, fans appear to be panic-stricken because Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski isn’t spending like a drunken sailor. I say relax. The fact that Dombrowski doesn’t have a pocket full of blank checks should give us all hope that 2009 will be a vast improvement over the dismal 2008 season.
It’s no secret that Tigers owner Mike Ilitch was the driving force behind the Cabrera/Willis deal that sent Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller to the Florida Marlins. Ilitch’s desperation to win a World Series before he leaves this earth forced the otherwise-in-charge Dombrowski to make a deal he probably would not have made on his own.
What the Tigers were left with was a team soft on pitching and defense — the two ingredients any baseball authority will tell you are the keys to success. The Tigers’ strategy seemed to be to load the lineup with so much power that they were simply going to overcome their shortcomings by scoring a ridiculous amount of runs.
With hindsight, doesn’t that seem like a silly idea? Remember, though, it wasn’t just Ilitch who thought it was brilliant. ESPN and Sports Illustrated both picked the Tigers to win it all.
Here is my prediction: The Tigers will be a vastly better team in 2009. Sure, there will be holes and they may not win the division, but I believe Dombrowski will get them to the level of respectability. They will be at or near the .500 mark when all is said and done — and the embarrassment of 2008 will be long forgotten.
Ironically, it is the very fact that things are tightening up financially for the Tigers that will lead to their better performance. Dombrowski’s true talent lies in landing yet-to-be-discovered talent and getting them for a song. That’s how he built the 2006 squad that won the American League pennant.