Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, here with Torii Hunter during the press conference announcing the outfielder's two-year, $26 million deal with the team in November, did not take part in the team photo last week. (John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)
Detroit — Mike Ilitch stood at the podium nearly a year ago, being held up by Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski, unable to hoist the American League Championship trophy.
Ilitch looked weak and frail.
It wasn’t a sight to remember.
Last week, the Tigers gathered for the annual team photo. And Ilitch, who turned 84 this summer, wasn’t there.
So obviously, there is a concern.
And with that in mind, several players have mentioned that the mission is not just about themselves — it’s about winning a World Series for Ilitch.
“That is the main focus,” infielder Ramon Santiago said. “With this team, it is making the playoffs. That is the first step. Beyond that I think we want to get a championship so badly for Mr. Ilitch. He has been so unbelievable and he has served this team so much.”
Fielder must do more
Hopefully that message gets to first baseman Prince Fielder.
Ilitch made Fielder one of the richest men in baseball history with an over-the-top, nine-year, $214 million contract.
It’s cool when Fielder drops his bat and admires his handiwork after sending a shot into the right-field bleachers.
But he must do more of that during the postseason. During last year’s playoffs, Fielder hit .173 with one home run and three RBIs. He is a career .183 postseason hitter.
That’s not good enough.
“He gave me an opportunity to be on a winning team,” Fielder said. “Like I said, he wants to win and he really doesn’t mess around, and that is all you can ask for.”
So much for Detroit
But there’s so much more Ilitch can ask for — and deserves.
He’s left his mark all around Detroit — Comerica Park, the Fox Theater area, and a hockey arena in the works.
He’s put thousands of kids through hockey and baseball programs.
He’s won four Stanley Cups with the Red Wings, and now there’s just one more prize.
A World Series.
“One of his biggest dreams has been to have a World Series championship along with the rest of the guys in here and the fans in Detroit,” utility player Don Kelly said. “That is one of our goals, to win a World Championship and bring it back and present it to him.”