Thursday, November 18, 2004

Tigers on the prowl

I apologize for the trite title, but it seems to fit so well. Baseball season just ended, but it's exciting to see my Detroit Tigers not waste any time in signing top-tier free agents to bolster their team and give themselves a chance to win. They aggressively acquired pitcher Troy Percival, an outstanding reliever who liked Detroit so much he cancelled his visits to three other teams, including the Cubs and Indians (both of whom had better records in 2004 and might've offered more money). Percival is older (35) but experience has brought him skill to go along with his athletic ability, and he was among the top five relievers in the American League last season with the Anaheim Angels.

The Tigers' new approach started last season with the inexplicable signings of catcher Pudge Rodriguez and pitcher Ugueth Urbina, two players who won the World Series in 2003 with the Florida Marlins and were arguably among the best at their respective positions. This served notice - not only to Detroit but the other teams in Major League Baseball - that the team's previous penny-pinching ways were over.

Now the Tigers have possibly one of the best bullpens in baseball, with two top-tier pitchers who can shut down the other team at the end of a game. (Though Urbina will probably be traded now that he won't be "the man" in the 9th inning.) And Percival might persuade his buddy and former teammate, third baseman Troy Glaus - who led the American League in home runs in 2000 - to sign with the Tigers, as well.

No, Detroit probably won't win the World Series in 2005. But they could make the playoffs. And considering they finished 2003 with a historically bad record (119 losses!), this is an exciting turnaround.