By Ross Newhan
Who would have believed that Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder would have both jumped to the American League, ending up with the Angels and Detroit Tigers?
Owner Arte Moreno has acknowledged that a billion dollar plus television contract beginning in 2016 permitted him to sign Pujols at $264 million over 10 years, while Detroit owner Mike Ilitch suddenly recognized that necessity can also be the mother of intervention. I mean,.if Fielder was at all close to a deal with the Washington Nationals, Ilitch and his Tiger president, Dave Dombrowski, blew them out with a nine year, $214 million offer after Dombrowski kept saying that his club already had a pair of $20 million a year players in pitcher Justin Verlander and first baseman Miguel Cabrera and couldn't afford a third in Fielder.
I don't believe the classy Dombrowski was laying down a smokescreen. I just think a lot of his rhetoric came before Victor Martinez, who hit .330 with 103 runs batted in last year, tore his ACL and was lost for 2012, unless he can come back in September or October, and with Fielder and Cabrera in the middle of the lineup--along with a deep array of other contributors--the Tigers now have a revived chance to be playing in October.
Fielder, Cabrera and Martinez in the middle of the lineup is a menacing thought.
Of course, Cabrera, who had 48 doubles, 30 homers and 105 RBI, will have to get himself back into third base shape since Fielder, with his 37 homer, 106 RBI per season average, is going to play nowhere but first.
There is no way to know what the 27 year old Fielder's body will look like in six or so more years, but the advantage that Pujols, at 32, and Fielder have in being American Leaguers is that they can slip into the designated hitter role if need be.
Fielder's father, Cecil, was once a home run behemoth in Detroit. Comerica Park may not be quite the long ball haven that Tiger Stadium was--or that Prince's former home in Milwaukee was--but as a left-handed hitter his power will still be good enough in Comerica. With Fielder's signing, Detroit has suddenly become a clear favorite in the American League Central, a Motown revival to rival Ford and General Motors, and plenty of people there are thanking Obama and Ilitch for their stimulus packages.
And thanks, too, Tiger fans are probably willing to add, for agent Scott Boras, who in classic form patiently played out the calendar with Fielder, caught a break with the Martinez injury, and secured the length and dollars that neither the Nationals or Texas Rangers were willing to offer, and the Angels, as well, are breathing easier since they won't have to face Fielder in that Texas lineup 18 or 19 times a year.