Originally written December 14, 2012 on The Detroit Sports Site:
Mike Ilitch (center) celebrated an AL title with manager Jim Leyland (left) and GM Dave Dombrowski. Mike Ilitch wants to win a World Series. That’s it. That is the beginning and the end of this debate over the justification for the five-year, $80 million deal free-agent starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez reportedly accepted Friday to stay in Detroit. Anyone expressing shock over this development or complaining about a 49-53 career pitcher receiving a $16 million-per-year deal has not been paying close enough attention to Ilitch and the Tigers. When Victor Martinez hurt his knee last offseason, Ilitch quickly approved a massive contract for Prince Fielder. When the Tigers fell short in the 2012 World Series, Ilitch gave GM Dave Dombrowski the go-ahead to give Torii Hunter a lucrative offer. And now, Sanchez is another expensive piece to Ilitch’s championship plan. Did the Tigers overpay for Sanchez, who’s coming off a 9-13 season? Maybe. So what? Baseball does not have a salary cap. Spending sprees have long been the status quo for big-market teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and so on. Is it a fair and balanced system? No, absolutely not — small- and mid-market teams have a hell of a time trying to keep up, though plenty have done via smart signing and strong farm systems. How many games will Anibal Sanchez win in 2013? There was a time, not all that long ago, that the Tigers were stuck in that mode. They were downright putrid through much of 1990s on into the early 2000s, culminating with a 43-119 debacle in 2003. The ensuing offseason, they handed Ivan Rodriguez the type of money that he could not get elsewhere, selling him from a mostly-financial perspective on the Tigers organization. Within three seasons the Tigers were in the World Series, and Ilitch discovered the value of spending. But not just spending for spending’s sake — he tried that, when he tried to give guys like Juan Gonzalez and Roger Cedeno unwieldy contract extensions. Spending smartly. You might remember that after a disappointing 2009 season, Ilitch rolled back the payroll, forcing the Tigers to trade Curtis Granderson and let Placido Polanco walk. Title windows in baseball do not last long, though, and through all of Dombrowski’s maneuverings, the Tigers wound up with a roster that included Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Miguel Cabrera, an improving Austin Jackson and several other key pieces. They had a shot to turn from an 81-win team into a World Series contender, almost overnight. So Ilitch went all-in. This Sanchez contract, like the Fielder one last season, is mostly the doing of Detroit’s owner. Without Ilitch opening up his own checkbook and taking a financial hit to produce a winning product, Fielder does not wind up in the Old English D. And Sanchez probably never leaves Miami for Detroit in a trade in July — a more financially-focused team would have kept all its prospects and tried a slow, steady climb. The Tigers are not a Frankenstein of free agency, though. Verlander, Rick Porcello, Alex Avila -- those guys all came up through Detroit's system. Jackson, Scherzer, Doug Fister and others were added on a dime, in shrewd trades by Dombrowski. In other words, this is not Ilitch trying to buy a championship (as some would argue he did with the Red Wings, pre-NHL salary cap) so much as it is him doing whatever's necessary to win. The Tigers, with Ilitch leading the way, muddled through plenty of seasons where free agents wanted nothing to do with them ... and they had no money available to sign anyone of consequence anyway. This moment in the sun won't last forever. When Ilitch, currently 83, no longer runs the show in Detroit, the payroll will drop, probably to a dramatic degree. Then, the Tigers will retake their spot as a mid-market franchise trying to compete in a big-market world. For this season and the next few, at least, the Tigers don't have to worry about that cash-strapped future. Their owner has put his money where his mouth is, personally doing what he can to bring Detroit its first World Series win since 1984. So, what's so wrong with that?
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Rondo hoping for an opening night return from broken hand

Jon Gruden on Raiders job: 'I'm not thinking about coaching'

Tom Brady defends not congratulating Garoppolo on TD

Ohio State student who ran on field loses full scholarship

Report: Carson Palmer's nerve injury 'still lingering'

Adam Dunn to retire after 14-year MLB career

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Ryan Lochte: Phelps made dumb decision, will learn from it

Tiger Woods to open restaurant in Florida next year

Royals beat A's in extras, win first playoff game since '85

Mark Davis: Raiders head coaching job will be 'enticing'

Fan on Craigslist offers Nats playoff tickets for threesome

Brady snubs rookie Garoppolo after touchdown pass

Ranking the NFL coaches already sitting on the hot seat

WATCH: Smith tells Panthers to go home and mow his lawn

The best games on the NFL slate in Week 5

Aaron Rodgers says smoking gesture a tribute to Jay Cutler

What will the A’s look like in 2015?

Major League Baseball's 2014 All-Disappointment Team

Jeter introduces 'The Players Tribune,' 'The Voice of the Game'

Grading each NFL's team's play at quarter-season mark

MLB.com posts wrong story saying A's won game

WATCH: Brett Favre in new nose hair trimmer commercial

WATCH: Michigan students protest, call for AD to be fired

Marlins president: We're not trading Giancarlo Stanton

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

What will the A’s look like in 2015?

All-Disappointment Team in MLB

Ryan Lochte: Phelps made dumb decision

WATCH: Brett Favre in new commercial

Brady snubs rookie after TD pass

FCC: Washington nickname 'inappropriate today'

Could Jon Gruden return to Oakland?

Marlins: We're not trading Stanton

Study: 76 of 79 deceased NFL players had CTE

Heckling fan sues Knicks over ejection

Sparano to step in as Raiders head coach

This weekend in NFL stupid

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.