Monday, February 9, 2015

My 25 Favorite Detroit Tigers- Cecil Fielder

I have been a fan of the Detroit Tigers since the Summer of 1984. I am lucky enough to vividly remember my baseball team winning a World Series title. Since every year the team itself asks me who my Tiger is I decided to write about my favorite 25 Tigers since I became a eight years old...This has less to do with performance as it does with whatever intangible qualities Tigers' players have...I mean this is the town that loved Brandon Inge and Don Kelly...and no neither one of those players will make my list...With all of that being said...

#10 First Baseman Cecil Fielder

By the time the clock ran out on the 1989 MLB season the Detroit Tigers needed to be rebuilt, maybe not totally but they had lost a good amount of their power over the final seasons of the 1980's and were coming off a very disappointing 59-103 campaign. Something needed to be done and more power had to be found. For what amounts to the first big foray into free agency GM Bill Lajoie went out into the market to find the pieces that could make his club competitive again. He landed Tony Phillips to play first and Lloyd Moseby to replace Chet Lemon in Center...and then found the power he needed in Cecil Fielder who had played 1989 in Japan.

Cecil would play in Detroit till the trading deadline of the 1996 season when Randy Smith started selling off the parts to lock the team into his his now infamous five year rebuilding plan. In that time he became a very popular player due to his ability to hit balls very very far. In his first season in Detroit he smacked 51 home runs...while 40 home runs as become something of a norm in recent years crossing the 50 tater plateau is still something very special. In fact only two Tigers have ever hit 50 home runs in one season...Of course with all that power and big swings come a lot of strike outs and in 1990 Cecil whiffed 182 the most of a Tigers hitter ever. He would win a silver slugger award and finish second in the MVP vote.

When he was signed it was not a very trumpeted move. The fans did not really know who he was...only true hardcore baseball fans knew Cecil was and that he has played a bench warmer with the Toronto Blue Jays before going to Japan to find a bigger role with a team over there. In two years time that would all change and not only would Cecil be a adopted Detroit son but his 12 year old boy Prince would become famous for hitting a home run at Old Tiger Stadium. The team would also have new ownership and the new owner would fall in love with his big power hitter so much so that he severely over paid for his son in reaction to a Victor Martinez injury, a trend that hopefully does not repeat itself in this off season.

When Cecil came to town the era of the 1980's great Tiger teams was at an end. Many of the stars of that team had moved on and the core of the team was aging. He wasn't a big name signing but given the fact he hit 100 home runs over the next three years and batted in over 120 runs in those seasons he became a Detroit legend. However power alone cannot carry a team and the simple fact here is the Tigers of the 1990's failed to develop new arms or attract quality arms in free agency and the slow slide to irrelevancy had already begun. The Tigers competed for the divisional crown deep in the the 1993 season but that would be the lone bright spot for the entire 90's decade.

The simple fact here is we loved Cecil for his bat...his Tigers teams never won a division...never made the playoffs...they did however win 80 plus games twice...I have to wonder how much we would love this huge man had he helped bring our team back to the post season...However he was a legit superstar, after smacking three home runs in a spring training game, on a team in dire need of some power, star power, and personality. The 1980's Tigers were done and Cecil was the bridge to the next era for our baseball team.

My 25 Favorite Detroit Tigers