Thursday, January 26, 2012

Spinning a Royal Yarn

The Tiger's press conference announcing his highness Prince Fielder awaited me after I finished work. A whole lot of nothing gets said at these things, but it's fun to listen and watch for goofy moments, if you can avoid getting mesmerized by Mike Ilitch's hair/rug/whatever.

Here are a few items of which I took note.

Jim Leyland didn't look like he fancied the dress up duds much. You may say, how incredibly blunt, I wouldn't need to watch the presser to tell you that. He didn't visibly squirm or tug at his tie, but you know, the vibe was there. Jim had to tell us that he believes Miguel will do just fine at third, despite a deficit in athleticism, and he has the proverbial great hands and a stellar arm. I mean, there is some truth there, he played short once upon a time, so he must be able to throw. And of course, we were reminded that the bit lost on defense, is gained and then some on the other side of the ball. Yesindeedbecausedontmakemebringupbrandoningesnumbersdontyoumakemedoit.

Scott Boras is still a mighty smug guy, who holds the rabble at a fair distance, the better to cordon himself off in his self-edifying, lofty air. Unfortunately, Mike Ilitch bought into this with whatever's left of his fortune, and made Boras out to have Baseball-Reference-d the whole of the Tiger organization, right down to our last utility man. Sigh.

The Princely one himself is not especially fond of holding forth and analyzing a thing to death like we are. He's got a very comfortable way about him. I guess you would be comfortable when you can just flat out play, when you know you've got the goods, when there is just no question about your ability. Asked about the pressure of living up to the old "expectations" of a sizable contract, he appeared genuinely unfazed, and matter of factly stated he would go out and play hard and expected that all that stuff would take care of itself. He wasn't going to try to change his approach to the ball to hit the gaps at Comerica. He will go out there and hit the ball hard (meaning shred the cover off that orb) and try to hit line drives. He doesn't know AL pitchers that well, but then in the minors you don't know the pitchers either, and it all works out. This is a man who isn't going to get his jock strap in a twist over perceptions. And it's a good thing, too, as Lynn Henning straight up called him pudgy and asked Scott Boras if there was a weight clause in that there contract. I don't mind people asking the tough questions, because who wants a whole bunch of "how does it feel to be back in Detroit" swill," but Henning was just flatly rude.

Dave Dombrowski didn't wear a striped polo shirt, but suited up with the rest of the bunch in solemn acknowledgement of the coronation. He helped Prince into the home white jersey, and the awkward photo-op developed just as you'd expect, with Mike Ilitch crowing, "A Tiger!" It was adorable. As the GM, Dave has to become a veritable cardboard cutout cliché. He simply has to go down the line and thank the principal players, be deferent and executive all at once. Poor Dave. Ha.

Mike Ilitch was really the presser's show stopper, and it was hilarious and touching and quite appropriate. He spoke like a proud grandfather about Prince and hearing about him from Cecil, following his career, just missing him in the draft. He was a sweet old husband, calling his wife out to stand and look around at the crowd of media members who'd gathered to hear the tale of how Prince Fielder came to Detroit. He handed Chanel Fielder a bouquet of flowers in a courtly display of manners. He didn't come across as a pompous, fake, or heavy-handed. He looked happy, really thrilled to have this whole thing come together. A great moment of satisfaction. I must say that my own immediate reaction on Tuesday was just to be agog at this man's willingness to initiate such deals as this and the Cabrera trade.

I wish I could recreate for you my absolute frenzied astonishment on Tuesday as the news broke. It was incredulity, followed by a high brought on by being hammered from behind with the most joyous news. The wake we'd been holding for Victor was swept away, and a grand, raucous party broke out in its place. Sure, we'll come down eventually, and deal with a few realities. But for now, we dance!

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