Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 4/2/12
The thrill ride of a baseball team in championship contention is on the bucket list of experiences not to be missed for sports fans who revel in the emotional test of rocketing through a seasons ups and downs. Football is Americas favorite sport because of the raw power and violence it combines with athletic grace. Baseball is different. It welcomes you in with its history and the eternal hope it offers each year and keeps you in its grip with its pace of play and 162-game season that offers a daily opportunity for redemption or validation. Baseball is your friend a companion from the start of spring through summer and fall. Football is a warrior sport our guy sent to do battle with their guy. The Tigers already have us in their grip, with a wrap-around drama that paused but did not end when a loss to the Rangers in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series kept them from advancing to the World Series for the second time since 2006. From Opening Day on Thursday against the Red Sox at Comerica Park until the last out whenever that occurs the 2012 season stands to be as full of drama and bombast as any in Tigers history. This is a very good Tigers team, one that should take its fans through more peaks than valleys. Winning the AL Central for a second straight season is merely a stepping-stone goal. The objective is to get to the World Series and win. I like the Tigers to get to the World Series, where their pitching depth will handle any team from an inferior National League. The Tigers have a roster stocked with headline acts. Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Jose Valverde all can stand in the spotlight on center stage. The supporting cast has its share of star power - in the field, at the plate, and on the mound. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta and catcher Alex Avila were All-Stars last season. Brennan Boesch is a young thoroughbred just hitting his stride in right field. Austin Jackson is a magician in center field who makes doubles and triples disappear into his glove. And Delmon Young provides more power in left. Doug Fister 8-1 as a starter in August and September after being acquired in a trade with Seattle last year Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello provide depth and production in the starting staff behind Verlander. The setup men in the bullpen can protect leads and turn the game over to Valderde in the ninth inning. Valverde wasnt perfect in every way last season, but his save record didnt have a blemish. He was 49-0, and he did it with a flourish. Its a great package, with the promise of a compelling season. Game day has made downtown Detroit an entertainment destination, and it will be even moreso this year. That doesnt mean there wont be down moments and bad stretches, and times when manager Jim Leylands strategy can be second-guessed. All of that is part of baseballs allure, and the questions started for the Tigers long before spring training began. Can Cabrera be efficient enough in the field to justify the shift from first base to third when Fielder was signed? Both hit so well, with so much power, that they can erase any fielding issues. Will Ryan Raburn hit enough and early enough in the season to compensate for any fielding deficiencies as the primary second baseman? Two errors in a week would be certain to turn up the heat. Will Peralta (.299) and Avila (.295) come close to hitting at the same level as last season? Can Verlander duplicate last season, when he was 24-5 and won the MVP and Cy Young Awards in the American League? Its not likely, but would you settle for 21-9? Of course you would. In his first full season with the Tigers, can Fister start the way he finished a year ago? If hes 5-4 or 6-3 in mid-June, is it time to panic on the No. 2 starter? No, not if you recall that Verlander won on June 3 last year to make his record 6-3. Will the utility players and middle relief pitchers Don Kelly, Ramon Santiago, Gerald Laird, Phil Coke, Octavio Dotel and others fulfill their roles? Wait and see. Will Brandon Inge be a talking point, no matter what, all season? Of course even if he isnt on the roster. But thats baseballs appeal, and it should be embraced. Make sure to plan for a victory parade in downtown Detroit.
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