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 Bottom line: $$

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laprimamirala
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PostSubject: Bottom line: $$   Fri Apr 04, 2008 6:48 am

Only time will tell if Ilitch's extreme investment pays off
Lynn Henning / The Detroit News

Only a few years ago they were baseball's worst team, carrying a modest payroll that, if anything, made the Tigers appear overpaid.

The 2008 Tigers have undergone a pauper-to-prince makeover since a charter big league franchise bottomed out in 2003. They are expected to contend for this autumn's World Series. They are an elite team with superstar cachet, despite this week's rough start.

The Tigers' salaries for 2008 smack of their new status: $138.7 million, making them second only to the Yankees in money paid by a team to its major league stable of players. Not even the Red Sox or Mets, a pair of traditional high-rollers, are today paying their teams as much as owner Mike Ilitch is spending on the Tigers.

"Mr. Ilitch always said he would put a competitive team out there when we got close (to a championship)," said Todd Jones, the closer who this year will draw a salary of $7 million. "Those lean years, we weren't close. You couldn't expect payroll to rise when there was no light at the end of the tunnel."

A year ago, the Tigers were 12th in payroll among the 30 teams, doling out $98.5 million. It was a lofty sum for a franchise that is considered "middle market" on baseball's economic spectrum.

But the Tigers had invested heavily in talent following their 2003 embarrassment (43-119 record) and, coupled with fresh blood from the farm system, Detroit became baseball's big surprise in 2006, ending a string of 12 consecutive losing seasons and landing a spot in the World Series against the Cardinals.

The Tigers payroll has been on a rocket ride since. Soaring alongside it has been attendance, which last year hit the 3 million mark for the first time in Detroit baseball history. Amazingly, the figure is expected to be topped in 2008 by at least 200,000 because of enormous preseason sales of season-ticket and single-game seats, all for the right to see what has become the hottest game and team in Detroit.

The payroll got its latest boost in December, when a dramatic trade with the Marlins brought two high-powered, high-salaried stars to the Tigers -- Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.

Cabrera, who will make $11.3 million this year, last week became the highest-paid pro athlete in Detroit history when he signed a seven-year extension for $152.3 million.

The Tigers' place on the salary scale behind the Yankees ($209.1 million), and just ahead of the Mets ($138.3 million) and Red Sox ($133.4 million) has represented a stunning foray into baseball's big-bucks world, which generally is the province of rich East Coast teams. The spending sprees in places like New York, Boston and Detroit, are made possible by baseball's niche as the only major pro sport operating minus a salary cap.

World Series or bust


Ilitch has been the architect and the authorizer in reshaping the Tigers. Just as he helped turn the Red Wings, which he also owns, into a mini-dynasty with the help of generous contracts offered to elite NHL talent in the league's pre-salary cap days, he has allowed his front-office CEO at the Tigers, president and general manager Dave Dombrowski, to spend what has been necessary to restore the Tigers.

"I think it's very high on his personal life list to have his own World Series ring," said Lou Beer, chairman of First Public Corp., a Clarkston-based consulting firm. "He wants to win a World Series."

Beer is among those who believe part of Ilitch's motivation to spend stems from his and his family's ventures within the Ilitch Holdings, Inc., galaxy.

They include the Little Caesars pizza empire, as well as Motor City Casino, which is headed by Ilitch's wife, Marian.

"Little Caesars has done better in the last few years," Beer said. "And the casino business is good. The Red Wings don't sell out as they did before, but because of the salary cap (adopted by the NHL in 2005), they're probably as profitable as they ever have been."

Still, it's business at the box office that analysts most credit for spurring Ilitch to write checks for players he and his front office believe make sense, even in an explosive and volatile market for superstar talent.

"One of the real success stories of the past 3-4 years is what happened after the Tigers got to the World Series in '06," said Vince Gennaro, a consultant, former Pepsico division president, and author of the book "Diamond Dollars." "I believe they went into the World Series that year with 9,500 FSEs (the number of full and partial season-ticket packages totaling a full season ticket) and came out with 19,500 to start '07.

"I can't remember too many situations where some team has added nearly 10,000 FSEs. I was really impressed with how the organization was able to translate success into revenue for the following season.

"I think Ilitch is clearly investment spending. I think they're really going for (a world title). It's hard to justify dollar for dollar that he's going to get all of it back, but for now, the fact the fan base helped them to double season tickets (in 2007, and nearly tripling to about 25,000 in 2008), must have given him a lot of energy."

Targeting white-collar bucks


Ilitch Holdings, as a private company, is not obligated to report financial numbers, nor did the company respond to News inquiries about revenues, expenses, etc., with respect to the Tigers.

Last year, Forbes Magazine had the Tigers 19th among baseball teams in net franchise value and 14th in annual revenues. The rankings are based upon 2006 revenue-cost estimates, which imply that last year's box-office boom and ancillary rise in revenues (the Tigers are No. 2 in baseball national merchandise sales) are sure to have boosted the team significantly when Forbes reveals 2007 rankings this month.

The irony of Metro Detroit's economic challenges existing alongside the Tigers' boon has not been lost on analysts. But it is, they say, plausible.

"I'm not saying the economy won't affect the Tigers, but one of the trends that has been noted is that, while we tend to think of sports as a blue-collar activity, it's no longer the case," said J.C. Bradbury, an associate professor and economist at Kennesaw (Ga.) State University. "What you see at a smaller stadium like Comerica Park (10,000 fewer seats than the Tiger Stadium) is that rather than serving more people, you're serving a wealthier clientele. You're offering people a bit of higher-end service."

Beer, whose firm works as a liaison between businesses and communities, said southeast Michigan's economy tends to make room for sports/entertainment.

"Maybe people who won't take a week's vacation in the Bahamas this winter now have a little money left over to go to a ballgame," he said. "If 7 percent of the people locally are unemployed, it still means 93 percent are employed. It's not enough of a factor to discourage the average wage-earner from going to a ballgame."

Who'll ultimately pay?


The box-office surge begets a natural question: Will ticket prices increase significantly in 2009 should the Tigers and their playoff hopes flourish in 2008?

"When fans know there's no excess capacity, they want to buy tickets," said Gennaro, referring to the potential for regular sellout crowds at Comerica Park in 2008. "One of the weapons (the Tigers) have in their arsenal is ticket-pricing. That could end up being the big balancer there."

Gennaro believes Ilitch and the Tigers have invested shrewdly rather than recklessly in paying players. He cites their determination to pay premier draft picks money well above the "slotting" recommended by commissioner Bud Selig's office.

Jones, enjoying his second stint as a Tigers reliever, agrees.

"This is not just money spent," he said, referring to the Tigers payroll. "This is talent that can be justified by every dollar. They're not just throwing money at a problem."

Tigers manager Jim Leyland intends to honor Ilitch's investment. He understands the owner wants what an entire organization is shooting for: a World Series banner.

"This is not some owner who talks," Leyland said. "He puts it up there.

"There are no excuses here," he said, speaking of the Tigers and their obligation to get to the playoffs. "The main man has done everything you can do."
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VegasTigersFan
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PostSubject: Re: Bottom line: $$   Fri Apr 04, 2008 1:27 pm

Time to get some payback on that investment...let's start with a win today!!!!!!!!!
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laprimamirala
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PostSubject: Re: Bottom line: $$   Fri Apr 04, 2008 1:39 pm

Hi, Vegas!
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PostSubject: Re: Bottom line: $$   Fri Apr 04, 2008 6:04 pm

Bottom line, they need a paycut until they start wnning, money talks!


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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laprimamirala
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PostSubject: Re: Bottom line: $$   Fri Apr 04, 2008 8:22 pm

that might help get things rolling a little!
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PostSubject: Re: Bottom line: $$   Fri Apr 04, 2008 8:25 pm

Everyone will get paid no matter the outcome. So there's no goal, no passion to try hard this year. Thomas is the only one doing good because his job is in jeopardy once Granderson comes back. Take away their money and see how hard they work...


bow Z. Miner
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laprimamirala
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PostSubject: Re: Bottom line: $$   Fri Apr 04, 2008 8:26 pm

really wonder what it will take to get Ilitch down there to talk to all of them!
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PostSubject: Re: Bottom line: $$   Fri Apr 04, 2008 9:14 pm

With the money he is shelling out, I am sure he has already been chewing out Leland.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: Bottom line: $$   Fri Apr 04, 2008 9:20 pm

I like C. Thomas


Keep him on the team and ship :grilli: to Toledo
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PostSubject: Re: Bottom line: $$   Fri Apr 04, 2008 9:24 pm

gs78 wrote:
I like C. Thomas


Keep him on the team and ship :grilli: to Toledo

AMEN!!!!


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
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gs78
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PostSubject: Re: Bottom line: $$   Fri Apr 04, 2008 9:25 pm

How about doing it? J. Leyland
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laprimamirala
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PostSubject: Re: Bottom line: $$   Fri Apr 04, 2008 9:36 pm

Bring up Rick Porcello!
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PostSubject: Re: Bottom line: $$   Sun Apr 06, 2008 6:43 pm

gs78 wrote:
I like C. Thomas


Keep him on the team and ship :grilli: to Toledo

SCREW Toledo!! Just DUMP his ASS!!
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laprimamirala
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PostSubject: Re: Bottom line: $$   Sun Apr 06, 2008 6:44 pm

hi, saint!
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PostSubject: Re: Bottom line: $$   Sun Apr 06, 2008 8:33 pm

tigersaint wrote:
gs78 wrote:
I like C. Thomas


Keep him on the team and ship :grilli: to Toledo

SCREW Toledo!! Just DUMP his ASS!!

bow Nod


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: Bottom line: $$   Sun Apr 06, 2008 8:37 pm

tigersaint wrote:
gs78 wrote:
I like C. Thomas


Keep him on the team and ship :grilli: to Toledo

SCREW Toledo!! Just DUMP his ASS!!

Nod LMAO
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laprimamirala
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PostSubject: Re: Bottom line: $$   Sun Apr 06, 2008 9:08 pm

We sure did it to Byrdak quickly!
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PostSubject: Re: Bottom line: $$   Sun Apr 06, 2008 11:16 pm

laprimamirala wrote:
We sure did it to Byrdak quickly!

So what's the hold-up to these other ones? :shrug:


bow Z. Miner
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laprimamirala
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PostSubject: Re: Bottom line: $$   Mon Apr 07, 2008 6:43 am

politics?
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PostSubject: Re: Bottom line: $$   Tue Apr 08, 2008 12:16 pm

laprimamirala wrote:
hi, saint!

Hi lap, I'm feeling "foul" these days.
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PostSubject: Re: Bottom line: $$   Tue Apr 08, 2008 12:40 pm

we all are....
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