All the interpretations and projections are meaningless. What the Tigers defense is going to look like with Prince Fielder at first base and Miguel Cabrera at third, the speculation of how they’ll be declining by 2015, and the overwrought aghast at Fielder’s 9-year, $214 million contract—all are secondary and below to a simple analysis of the Tigers’ decision to pay Fielder: Owner Mike Ilitch has the money to spend, the Tigers have the need for a bat, Fielder was available and the Tigers purchased him.
Nothing else really matters.
Yes, he was the biggest player—literally and figuratively—left on the market and will create buzz.
Yes, there’s a legacy issue because it was in Detroit that Prince’s father Cecil Fielder returned from Japan and became a star.
Yes, the Tigers took an on-paper leap past the other teams in the AL Central.
Facts, numbers and contract details are not what Tigers fans want to hear now, nor are they of great concern to Ilitch, manager Jim Leyland or the veterans on the roster who want to win.
Fielder does create something of a redundancy with Cabrera. They’ll have to figure out who goes where when Victor Martinez returns either in late 2012 or by 2013.
Prince and Cecil are not on the best of terms, so this wasn’t due to sentimentality—the Tigers paid and Prince signed.
Ilitch and Leyland are not worried about 2015.
While the afterglow and shock are wearing off and the Eric Ortiz lust piece about last season’s Red Sox is edited by Detroit propagandists to insert the word “Tigers” instead of “Red Sox”, remember that dream teams rarely fulfill those expectations and this signing doesn’t automatically hand the Tigers the division title or a playoff spot.
But they’re better. The owner has a lot of money and he spent it.
If and when the predicted doomsday scenario comes to pass, the Tigers will likely have a new manager replacing Leyland; the owner will be extremely old; and Justin Verlander will have three more years of wear on his arm.
This is a now move by an owner who wants a baseball championship sooner rather than later and building for 2016 isn’t going to do him or Leyland much good.
With Martinez out for all or most of the season, the Tigers 2012 was in jeopardy before February. The contract they gave Fielder rectified the situation now. And in its immediate aftermath, no one’s worried about 2015, least of all the 82-year-old owner who realizes that in spite of all his money, he can’t take it with him.
Money is fleeting. A championship lasts forever. That’s what Ilitch wants and he’s willing to pay to get it.
And pay he did.