In 2004 George Bush won re-election, I left for (what was supposed to be) 2 years in Africa and the Tigers had just completed a valiant attempt at setting a new record for baseball futility. Now, here we are 4 years later and GWB is on his way out (Yes We Can!), the government is sending me back overseas and the Tigers have one of the fearsome lineups in baseball. What happened?
It’s pretty simple, actually. Dave Dombrowski took over at GM at the end of 2002, a few guys came of age in that tragic 2003 season (for instance, Jeremy Bonderman) and owner Mike Illitch sprang for some veterans who could pull the team together. Finally, in 2005, Dombrowski tipped Jim Leyland as his new manager and here we are.
Anyone who follows baseball knows that the Tigers had a monster offseason, picking up a shortstop (Renteria), another outfielder in Jacque Jones and the big move which netted former Marlins Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera. Even my friends who are Red Sox fans admit they’re a little worried when they look at that lineup.
However, the one thing I’ve learned is not to count my chickens before they hatch. Yeah, this looks like the team to beat this year but Leyland has his work cut out for him in trying to put this jigsaw puzzle together. Would Willis accept being a #3 starter? Where does Cabrera bat in the lineup? Will former starters like Brandon Inge find a way to contribute? How will Renteria handle the switch back to the AL while Guillen switches from Short to First? Can Zumaya get healthy? And, most importantly, how am I going to score tickets to a game when I have no idea where the government will be sending me and when it’s going to happen? I guess the answer to all of these questions is, "Just wait and see." Luckily, when you’re a fan of a team that averaged a hundred losses a season between 2001 and 2005, patience is a virtue you have in spades.