2008 Detroit Tiger Preview

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- The Detroit Tigers are the hot-stove league champions, claiming a mythical title good for pats on the back and raised exceptions.
Now, they go to work toward living up to the hype.
Detroit's pitchers and catchers were due to report Thursday in Lakeland, Fla., at Tigertown for their first workout Friday morning.
One of Jim Leyland's favorite sayings is, "I'll take talent," and one of the game's best managers has as much as he's ever had.
That might've been true even if the only offseason move Detroit made was acquiring All-Stars Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis in a blockbuster trade.
It's hard to find to find an easy out in the lineup or a glaring hole in the field. The rotation appears to be solid while the bullpen, with Joel Zumaya out for at least half the season, appears to be the only possible problem area.
That's how the facets of the game shape up on paper, but that doesn't guarantee anything.
Something is certain: Leyland will prepare the Tigers to play hard every day, and that will cut down on the possibility of them losing because of a lackadaisical effort or a lack of focus.
Leyland, entering his third season as Detroit's manager, still has the fire to nip issues in the bud and the experience of four decades in the game to know how to handle the ups and downs inevitable over the marathon of a season.
He likes the pressure facing this suddenly successful franchise because that means the Tigers have a good team.
Leyland has been in places, Pittsburgh and Florida, where ownership and the front office couldn't or wouldn't make major moves in the winter to get better.
That's not happening in Detroit.
After the Tigers hit rock bottom by losing an AL-record 119 games in 2003, owner Mike Ilitch was so embarrassed that he didn't care how much it cost to sign free agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez.
Over the next three offseasons, Ilitch allowed team president and general manager Dave Dombrowski to spend his money to keep improving the ballclub.
After going from bad to respectable to good, a series of transactions makes the Tigers potentially great.
Ilitch and Dombrowski decided in early October to exercise the option in Rodriguez's contract in what was the first sign that winning now was a priority.
Then before the first month of the offseason passed, the Tigers took care of their most pressing need by acquiring five-time All-Star shortstop Edgar Renteria from Atlanta for cash and prospects.
That move allowed Detroit to shift Carlos Guillen to first base, making it a better team defensively with Renteria taking Guillen's spot in the field and offensively with Guillen replacing departed free agent Sean Casey.
On the same day in November, the Tigers addressed two more needs by re-signing closer Todd Jones and acquiring left fielder Jacque Jones.
Soon after re-signing starting pitcher Kenny Rogers, the franchise that was a laughingstock not long ago pulled off the first and perhaps biggest deal of the offseason.
Detroit acquired Cabrera to play third base and Willis to be in the rotation by sending prospects, including highly touted ones Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, to Florida in a widely praised deal.
The Tigers capped off baseball's busiest offseason by give multiyear deals to outfielder Curtis Granderson and starting pitcher Nate Robertson.
Acquiring Cabrera and Willis as part of an array of moves generated so many sales that the team stopped selling full-season ticket packages last month. The Tigers insisted they had to do that because if they make the postseason, thousands of seats have to be freed up.
Now that the money is spent and the interest is spiked, it's time for the Tigers to go to work.


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