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 Baseball Perspectives: The favorite - Tigers

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PostSubject: Baseball Perspectives: The favorite - Tigers   Wed Feb 13, 2008 1:02 am


Baseball Perspectives
Tom Singer

02/05/2008 10:00 AM ET
Tigers aim to be class of deep field
New stars have Leyland's crew poised to challenge Tribe

An old, widely accepted principle in baseball -- really, in all sports -- holds that jobs can't be lost on the disabled list, only on the field. The same should apply to championships and negotiating tables.

As it is, the 2008 American League Central title, if not bigger prey, has been virtually conceded to the Detroit Tigers after their auspicious offseason. General manager Dave Dombrowski did go about it quite imperially, loading up with a new infield (third baseman Miguel Cabrera and shortstop Edgar Renteria) and a rotation stud (Dontrelle Willis).

But, right now, Cleveland still has the flag Detroit covets. The Indians will show up. Compared to the Tigers' hustling, the Tribe essentially stood pat, but they count on considerable in-house improvement from a full season of Asdrubal Cabrera, Franklin Gutierrez and David Dellucci.

The Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox, the division's prior two champs, also will make their presences felt. The Twins, in spite of two conspicuous cutbacks (Johan Santana and Torii Hunter), are hardly left with a bare cupboard -- they're regrouping, not rebuilding. And the Pale Hose plugged some holes (shortstop Orlando Cabrera, relievers Octavio Dotel and Scott Linebrink) which sprung an 18-game leak from 90 wins in 2006.

Even the Royals, who kept adding pieces to further their gradual revival, have legitimate expectations of improvement. It's tough to dispute the observation of Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro that the AL Central "is going to be the most fun to watch in baseball."

With three consecutive different champs, it has also been the most wide open. Therein lies a valuable reminder for those making concessions to the Tigers: Keep an open mind.
--------------------------------------------------------------------
The favorite

Tigers



Detroit hasn't been this excited since the first Mustangs rolled off the assembly line. Two seasons removed from averaging crowds of 24,992 at Comerica Park, the Tigers are preparing to cut off season-ticket sales at 25,000 to remain accessible to the city's working-force fans. Nothing like spiking an already solid team with a trio of All-Stars -- Cabrera, Willis and Renteria have 10 selections among them -- to whip folks into a frenzy. A potentially frightening team.

Projected regular-season finish:
AL Central champions

Biggest ST challenge:
Chilling in the face of superlatives that will be thrown at them all spring. Walking on eggshells around Brandon Inge, a terrific -- and outspoken -- teammate who is understandably moping over having been trumped by Cabrera.

Best position battles: Keeping Joel Zumaya's hot seat warm, so to speak. After suffering a right shoulder injury while helping his dad salvage stuff during the California wildfires, Zumaya may be throwing by the time camp opens, but his return isn't expected until midseason. Flame-throwing Denny Bautista, Aquilino Lopez and Matt Mantei are some of the familiar names who'll get a crack at the important role. How important? Who's to say how critical to the Tigers' regress from '06 to '07 were Zumaya's 34 fewer appearances due to a finger injury?

Wild card: The bullpen, which can be an albatross around even the best teams' necks. Zumaya's injury messed up the master plan, because he was expected to put out other kinds of fires this season. There is even speculation the Tigers grew serious about re-signing Todd Jones only after Zumaya's mishap. But now the setup crew still makes everyone a little nervous.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

The challenger
Indians


Baby steps? Coming within a 3-to-1 ALCS lead of the World Series did more to energize the Indians than crush them. They seem poised to build on that success, fully aware that the road now cuts through the heart of Motown. Those who consider Boston-New York the AL's only juicy feud should know that this Central skirmish has the makings of another great one: The last two seasons, the Tigers lead 19-18, with the Indians holding a 178-174 edge in scoring.

Projected regular-season finish: Second place

Biggest ST challenge: The C.C. Sabathia maelstrom. The media vultures will be all over him about the stalled talks on his contract extension. The Indians may dislocate a knee kicking themselves in the rear for not getting it done before Santana's deal with the Mets. Such are the diversions when a reigning Cy Young Award winner approaches his "walk" season. And this lefty would reach free agency 16 months younger and currently has seven more wins than Santana.

Best position battles: Right field -- it's as close as a set lineup comes to an open position. Gutierrez has the inside track on replacing Trot Nixon, but he still has to show he rates over Ben Francisco, the International League batting champ. Rotation -- Cliff Lee's contract gets him a wide berth, but he's got to defend his turf against worthy contenders, led by Aaron Laffey.

Wild card: Is there enough antacid for another season of Joe Borowski? The biggest difference between the disappointing Indians of 2006 and the '07 champs were his league-leading 45 saves. But the accompanying 5.07 ERA was the highest by someone with 45-plus saves (topping Antonio Alfonseca's 4.24 with the 2000 Marlins). Can he keep picking his spots for meltdowns?

For the rest of the division see:
Spoiler:
 


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: Baseball Perspectives: The favorite - Tigers   Wed Feb 13, 2008 11:40 am

love tiger Love 2
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PostSubject: Re: Baseball Perspectives: The favorite - Tigers   Thu Feb 14, 2008 2:22 pm

I don't care who finishes WHERE in the AL Cental, as long as our Motown Boys finish in 1st Place!!
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PostSubject: Re: Baseball Perspectives: The favorite - Tigers   Thu Feb 14, 2008 2:24 pm

go Motown Boys! Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Baseball Perspectives: The favorite - Tigers   Thu Feb 14, 2008 3:20 pm

In 2008, Motown is Gotown!!
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PostSubject: Re: Baseball Perspectives: The favorite - Tigers   Thu Feb 14, 2008 4:48 pm

Division Title or Wildcard! Just get to the postseason!
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PostSubject: Re: Baseball Perspectives: The favorite - Tigers   Thu Feb 14, 2008 4:49 pm

Then win it all!


GO TIGERS GO!
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PostSubject: Re: Baseball Perspectives: The favorite - Tigers   Thu Feb 14, 2008 5:21 pm

TIGS--GO GET 'EM, BOYS!!
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