With the Detroit Tigers coming off of their first American League Central title in 2011, expectations in Motown were high going into 2012, to say the very least.
Then, there was the injury. Folks in Michigan don't even have to say the player's name—it's just "the injury." That is, the torn ACL of designated hitter/catcher Victor Martinez, who played a substantial role in Detroit's 2011 campaign.
With Martinez saying goodbye to baseball for most of (if not all of) the 2012 season, the Tigers were left with a gaping hole in their lineup and little notion of who would fill it.
Members of Michigan's sports media said that the idea of Detroit signing first baseman Prince Fielder was, at best, highly unlikely. One journalist even went as far as to say that former Tiger Cecil Fielder was more likely to play for the Tigers again than his son, Prince, was.
It stands to reason that the unlikely connection between Prince and the Detroit organization makes it all the more surprising that Fielder has inked a nine-year deal with the Tigers—a deal that was reportedly made on Tuesday.
For most of this year's free-agency period, the Prince sweepstakes was thought to be a two-horse race, with Washington and Texas holding a huge lead in the race for one of the most sought-after free agents in recent memory.
Though it's almost impossible to replace Martinez from a consistency standpoint, the Tigers have taken a monumental leap forward in terms of explosiveness in the lineup.
For a team that won its division by 15 games a season ago, it looks as though the Central could be a race for second place very quickly, as the Tigers may have an even firmer hold on the division than they did just a year ago.
While the calling card of the Tigers is still the excellent rotation led by American MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, the team has something that it may not have had before: an offense that can score runs at will.
So, what's the forecast for the Tigers this season? It'd be foolish to go the "dream team" route (enter: Vince Young), but it's fair to say that the Tigers are certainly the favorite to win the American League Central.
While there are still a few glaring concerns on Detroit's roster—center fielder Austin Jackson will still probably be leading off despite his high rate of strikeouts, as well as the insecurities on the back end of the rotation—the signing of Fielder does a lot to move the Tigers forward.
By sabermetric standards, the Tigers get three more wins with the addition of Prince while taking into account the absence of Martinez. Moving forward even further, 2013 could be a record year for Detroit, especially if Martinez returns with the same luster and the rest of the team stays together.
All in all, Detroit's fanbase may have a lot to look forward to. The new Prince of Motown is ready to take his throne at Comerica Park, and it seems as though the city is ready to accommodate.
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