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As mentioned before, the tiger is the most patient of hunters, spending hours stalking and calculating before delivering the killer blow.
While others danced around in the public eye this past offseason, throwing around names like Adam Dunn, Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford. Dave Dombrowski told Mike Ilitch to keep his 6,000 lb. wallet in his master safe until the right player came along.
Dombrowski got things started early, immediately taking the bigger names out of deliberation, by signing the veteran C/DH/1B Victor Martinez to a 4-year, $50-million contract. While Boston, Washington, and rival White Sox spent bigger, and on younger assets, it was Martinez, 32, who proved to be the gold standard of offseason signings.
In his first season with the Tigers, Martinez batted .330 with 10 HRs and 103 RBI. Martinez also put up the leagues best numbers with two strikes, and with runners in scoring position. Most impressively, the ex-Red Sox catcher finally gave the Tigers a feared bat behind 2011 batting champ Miguel Cabrera. Though no hitter can truly protect the best bat in baseball, Martinez's presence discouraged intentional walks by batting nearly .400 during such occurrences when he batted after an IBB to Cabby.
Then, the July 31st trading deadline rolled around. Through 108 games, the Tigers held a 2.5 game lead but were far from comfortable.
Much like the previous offseason the trade deadline had some big names being bantered about: Ubaldo Jimenez, James Shields, Hiroki Kuroda, and everyone from GM to A-ball players from the Mets were all in high-demand. Instead, Dombrowksi secured the services of an underappreciated 3-12 pitcher from Seattle. Let's put this move in perspective:
Since the All-Star break, one Detroit pitcher posted an ERA of 1.80, an 8-1 record and walked only 5 batters in 70 and 1/3 innings. Who was this? That's right, it was the newly-acquired Doug Fister. Not Justin Verlander.
Not the Justin Verlander who is the hands-down, runaway, CY Young favorite, if not the MVP favorite. Since the All-Star break, in many aspects of the game, Justin Verlander was the second best pitcher on his own staff.
Doug Fister has been such a revelation since joining the Tigers. He almost single-handedly makes Tigers fans feel far more comfortable in a World Series matchup against the Pitching Pantheon that is the Philadelphia Phillies.
And if you think Dombrowski was done then, you are wrong. I won't even bore you with the addition of Wilson Betemit, who lengthened the Tigers lineup after Brandon Inge once again proved his ineptitude at the plate, by providing a much-needed switch hitter once lefty Brennan Boesch departed due to a season-ending injury.
No, it was the addition of a 25-year-old cast-off, and former number-one overall pick, Delmon Young that may prove to be the best move of the year.
The day the trade happened, I got a text from a buddy of mine simply saying: Delmon. I was confused at first. Then the possibilities ran through my head.
Did the Tigers somehow just land a guy who had 20+ HRs last season and drive in over 100 RBIs? Who on Earth did we have to give up for this guy? Are the Minnesota Twins the new Cleveland Naps?
Now I'm not saying Delmon will be the next "Shoeless" Joe, but how could a team give up on a guy who is 25 yet already accomplished so much? Now, placed neatly before Cabrera and Martinez in the heart of the Tiger lineup, Young is seeing a lot of fastballs and making pitchers pay.
The best part of this deal, Dombrowski managed to get Young from a Division rival, and pay pennies on the dollar by way of two A-ball prospects. Since his arrival, Young went deep in his first-at-bat and hasn't stopped since, belting three longballs against the Yankees en route to sparking Detroit's ALDS victory.
All these moves added up to 95 wins and a 15 game runaway victory in the AL Central. Dombrowski may not have brought the biggest names to Detroit, but through calculation, preparation, and patience, the GM of the Tigers built himself a formidable pack capable of taking down even Lions.