By: Jeff Riger

It’s always nice to get a gage on what the average Detroit sports fan has going through their head on a given day.  I, like many people have their routines and since I mostly work in the evening, during the afternoon is where I do most of my running around.  From restaurants to drug stores to the local Wal-Mart, fans are talking and all you have to do is ask to find out what is on their mind.

Thursday afternoon I was out and about and I did just that, I was getting lunch and one of my favorite restaurants when I heard one of the chefs talking about Felix Hernandez’s new contract extension with the Mariners.  This chef of course was contemplating what the “King’s” contract would mean for Justin Verlander?  Felix got a 5 year extension worth $135.5 million however it was first reported to be a 175 million dollar deal over 7 seasons.

It’s no secret that Verlander wants to remain a Tiger and he has said on several different occasions that he wants to retire and go to the Hall of Fame wearing the old English D as well.  For this to happen Verlander will have to become not only the highest paid pitcher in baseball but the highest paid of all time.

And, of course he is worth it!

However, this chef wasn’t so sure…

He gave me the ole “nobody is worth that kind of money” where I then argued “you are if somebody is willing to pay you that much.”  However it really wasn’t the Verlander contract he was upset about, instead it was the entire payroll of the Tigers and how Mike Ilitch continues to spend and spend and spend to the extent of what some call “irresponsible.”

I have to admit that I was caught off guard by this attitude because everyone else seems to love the idea of the Tigers paying whatever it takes to get their man.  It started with Pudge Rodriguez in 2004 only to be followed up by Magglio Ordonez in 2005 and it has not stopped since.  Detroit has not only paid a lot of money for their players but they have overpaid as well.  Dontrelle Willis got an unnecessary contract extension and so did Gary Sheffield while Detroit was the top bidder for Prince Fielder and definitely gave Anibal Sanchez too much as well.  You can even make the argument that they overpaid for Torii Hunter.

Now don’t get me wrong, because for the most part the moves have worked out.  Ordonez and Pudge were integral to turning around the organization while Prince worked out great last season.  Sure Willis and Sheffield were disasters but I guess you win some and you lose some.

There are many ways to win in the big’s these days and Detroit has decided to use their pocket book while other organizations try to win within.  I don’t hold that against the Tigers but this chef did.

He didn’t like the massive amounts of dollars that Ilitch has shelled out over the last 7 or 8 seasons.  He compared the Tigers to the Yankees and claimed that he could be proud of a loser that tried to do it the right way instead of a winner that essentially buys themselves a title.  I was actually floored!  I have heard of people comparing the Tigers to the Yankees but I have never met anybody that was turned off by that way of business.  I know I’m fine with it!

So I decided to tell him mine and everybody else’s side preaching that we should enjoy this while it lasts and that the window for winning is right now.  Of course he rebutted with teams like the Rays, A’s and Giants who have had success and won with payrolls that are much less.  He then went on talking about how much more proud Giants fans should be because they didn’t spend what the Yankees and Red Sox did for their championships.

We went back and forth…

I figured he wasn’t around in the days where the Tigers were losing over 100 games a season and refused to spend any money.  He said he was around then and while he admitted that those times were brutal, he claimed better management would have done better with what the organization had to work with.

There was no winning this argument; he would not budge so we agreed to disagree.

I love the spending!  It’s not my money, the Tigers are selling tickets and merchandise and they are this close they can’t stop now.  He hates it all!

I decided to write this blog to find out what the general Tigers fan thinks?  Are there more people like this chef that are borderline embarrassed with the way the Tigers do business these days?  I wouldn’t think there would be, but to be honest I never thought I would meet one person that thought this way.

So I ask you?

Will a title mean less because Detroit had to spend so much to get it?  I don’t think it meant any less to Wings fans when Detroit paid a lot for those Stanley Cups.  I always figured we should celebrate a guy like Ilitch who is willing to drop a ton of cash even against his family’s wishes to bring this town a title.  But my good friend the chef thinks that is despicable behavior.

What do you think?

As for Verlander, at least the Chef and I agree that he is worth every penny he will get.



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