The city of Detroit occupies a special place in American lore. The town that’s been to ‘hell and back’ has a baseball club that just got better by signing Prince Fielder. One of the great things about the Motor City is that it has baseball fans that ignore an excuse like the economy and show up at the ballpark regularly.
Of course, it helps that the city is blessed with an owner that gives them plenty of reasons to show up.
An owner that simply wants to win.
Of course, that owner is Mike Ilitch. Some have speculated that it was Ilitch who engineered the deal for Prince Fielder without giving his management team much of a hint at what was brewing. That speculation isn’t curtailed when even Jim Leyland didn’t have a comment on the acquisition of Fielder.
Quite a few people think Boras robbed Ilitch blind today. But look, Fielder has shown large production – maybe not so much outside Milwaukee – but c’mon, are you really talking about his weight? When we look at Fielder we see a player that’s only missed 13 games since 2006. How many games has your favorite player missed recently?
Of course, players should be paid for projected future production not their past production, so it’s hard to say whether Ilitch has buyer’s remorse or not. We don’t know if that’s even possible for men of his wealth.
What we do know is that Fielder’s agent Scott Boras is either a dirtbag, or Scott Boras is a genius. It just depends on who you talk to. We prefer to think he’s a genius.
We think Boras is a genius for one reason: He has to deal with – but he never bows to – the guys who really can’t write the BIG checks. He will go over your head quicker than a baseball exec can even say, “Did you just go over my head?”
Boras does it for a reason. When you have products to sell that cost a little bit more, the ultimate decision maker is the person that matters. The only person that really matters. Why bother selling your product to the wrong person? Do you really think everyone in Detroit knew what was going on with Fielder? Just look at what the Tigers GM said recently: ‘Fielder doesn’t fit.’
Obviously, the man who autographs the checks for the Tigers didn’t agree.
Sure, the receptionist is important. Absolutely. Sure, the VP is important. Sure, the GM is vital; the team President is an important person, too. But ultimately it comes down to being able to have a relationship with the person behind the team. The person whose balls are on the line, the person who wrote the check to buy the damn ball club.
Boras gets that, and that is why Boras gets paid more than anyone else in the business. He has relationships with decision makers. People with egos. People with a passion, and people that could be a bit vulnerable while watching their competitors load up in the off-season.
Mike Ilitch wrote an $82 million dollar check back in 1992 to buy the Detroit Tigers. That’s a shit load of Pizza! Pizza!
But Ilitch is a different breed of owner than we are accustomed to as baseball fans in Pittsburgh. We think it’s safe to say the Bucs won’t be that ‘mystery team’ – like the Tigers were today – on any major impact free agents in the near future. But we understand it.
We would just find it cool if a Buccos player would ever have an interesting story to tell about their ball club’s owner. A story like we heard first hand from a Tigers player about Ilitch recently:
The Tigers were assembling for pictures at Spring Training last year, and apparently this is typically quite the cluster-fu##. Ilitch was on the field (With a fresh haircut, no doubt) and he was utterly impressed that the entire team, including every Tom, Dick, and Harry who needs to be in the picture, was on time.
Ilitch stood in front of everyone and thanked the team for being on time. He appreciated the effort so much that he told everyone they would each receive a $1000 bonus.
The player who told me this story said for some players a grand might not have been that big of a deal, but to him it was a surprise and a story he will never forget. Especially when the check actually showed up.
It makes us think that there are quite a few Tigers fans that are happy Ilitch was up to his old tricks yesterday.
[Yahoo! Sports and CBSSports.com were the first to break the news of Fielder's signing.]