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Friday, September 19, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 9/1/2002

Fans want new deal to translate into new Tigers

DETROIT - Detroit Tigers fans aren't acting like they care baseball didn't go on strike.

They haven't shown up in greater numbers in the two games since owners and players settled on a new agreement Friday.

They didn't act like last night's Game 135 against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park mattered more than the 134 games played before it.

Yeah, that good feeling of baseball not going on strike lasted a couple of hours. Then Tigers fans returned to the reality of their hopelessly futile baseball team.

The only thing worse than being criticized is being ignored. Apathy is rampant at Comerica Park, where attendance is down 21 percent (more than 300,000 fans) from last year.

There's no chance of the playoffs coming to Detroit this year. For the ninth consecutive season, there's no chance of a winning season.

As I approached Comerica Park yesterday, I bumped into two Tigers fans from London, Ont., who said they were debating if they should keep their tickets or try to sell them.

They said they'd probably have to use them - or give them away - because the ticket-seller's market at Comerica Park has dried up.

“I'm fed up. Most fans feel they could have settled a month ago and gotten the same deal they got [Friday], and there wouldn't be any hard feelings,” Tom Lewis said. “If I didn't have tickets already, I wouldn't be here. I'm not sure I want to come back next year.”

Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski and players Bobby Higginson and Brandon Inge all acknowledged that they were sympathetic to their fans. They understood a strike would benefit no one.

But the Tigers are missing the point. The level of Detroit fans' anger runs deeper than the negative backlash resulting from baseball nearly going on strike.

The Tigers shouldn't be in last place.

They can't use their payroll as an excuse anymore. Division leaders Oakland and Minnesota both have lower payrolls than the Tigers.

This season shouldn't be remembered as a fire sale and the start of another youth movement in Detroit.

The Tigers still don't have a true base stealer to spark their offense. Comerica Park is conducive to playing small ball. It would be easier to score runs if the Tigers could get more runners in scoring position at the top of their lineup. Then, players like Robert Fick, Randall Simon and Higginson might see better pitches.

Increased revenue sharing is great, but it won't make the Tigers a better baseball team unless owner Mike Ilitch puts most of the extra money he'll receive from the new labor deal into player development and allows Dombrowski to build from the ground up.

Dombrowski has to build the Tigers the same way Billy Beane built the A's as a so-called small-market team.

Tigers fans need to have faith that once Ilitch balances his budget - which will be difficult to do right away, considering the decline in attendance - that he'll make a greater commitment to team payroll.

That's a lot of faith to have.

Having faith that Ilitch will do the right thing is the only way to survive the lean years.

Baseball's new deal can help the Tigers - but only if the Tigers help themselves.



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