Excitement High on Opening Day

Baseball is back in Detroit. Walk around town, and you see excited fans proudly sporting caps with the olde English ‘D'. Everyone appears ready to converge on Comerica Park for Opening Day. The buzz circulating around town is that the Tigers have a real shot at competing in an open AL Central. Competitive baseball in Detroit? That sentence hasn't been uttered since the Reagan era. But, the time is here, spring is upon us, and it's time for baseball.

No one anticipated the offseason the Tigers had. It started off and ended with a bang. They kicked off the period by adding closer Troy Percival. They closed it with the addition of outfielder Magglio Ordonez. In between were three months of anticipation with no signings, as players spurned the Tigers' offers for other clubs.

But once Ordonez came into the fold, the optimism returned. The second big free agent signing in as many years. Fans interest was piquing in the team, and in baseball in general. The All Star game was even coming to town in July.

The Tigers now owned a pair of perennial all stars, and strong hitters all throughout the lineup. Youngsters like Brandon Inge and Carlos Pena were finally starting to fulfill their potential. Everyone under the sun was raving about future ace Jeremy Bonderman.

The excitement is there. The Tigers projected lineup doesn't have a single weak spot. Unlike past years, there aren't players that the Tigers ‘hope can step up', or ‘will make up for their offense with their strong defense'. Instead, the three lesser members of the lineup combined to hit 47 home runs and all had OPS's over .750.

Of course, that doesn't mean the team is without questions.

Is Jeremy Bonderman ready to take the role as the team's ace at just 22 years of age?

Will the other members of the rotation, like the inconsistent Jason Johnson and the inexperienced Wilfredo Ledezma be able to hold up over the course of a season?

Will the rebuilt bullpen be able to close out the games when the starters hand them over, and not lead the league in blown saves?

Can the big hitters in the lineup (Carlos Guillen, Ivan Rodriguez, Ordonez and Dmitri Young) all avoid the injury bug, something that each has been prone to catch in the past, or simply has the symptoms of a potential breakdown?

If the Tigers hope to challenge the Minnesota Twins for the division crown, the answer to all of those questions has to be yes.

And there's no guarantee that it will be. Sports Illustrated projects the Tigers to finish 4th in the division, even behind the revamped Chicago White Sox.

But as the saying goes, "that's why they play the games." Projections are nice, but Opening Day is here, and it's time for baseball!

There's no telling where the Detroit Tigers' 2005 season will take us. But wherever it does, this time around, the fans will be along for the ride.


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