Red Sox vs. Tigers on Opening Day just became much more intriguing

Not that members of Red Sox Nation needed an extra reason to call in sick from work and settle onto the couch to watch Opening Day, but in case somebody did, they got it today.  With the Detroit Tigers signing Prince Fielder to a 9-year deal worth $214 million, the Tigers now boast one of the best offensive lineups in the American League.  So who better for the Red Sox to open up against than Prince himself and the new look Tigers.

Throw in Justin Verlander who will start for the Tigers and either Josh Beckett or Jon Lester and you’ve not only got a grand Opening Day match up.  It could be billed as one of the most anticipated games during those two early days in April.

The Red Sox have their own headlines and story board that is sure to follow them all season long and will be magnified once again on April 5th.  The September collapse is sure to come up as many times as one can bear to hear on the day that should be a national holiday.

There will also be discrepancies over who should start on Opening Day for the Red Sox, Lester or Beckett.  Bobby Valentine will make his animated debut as the Sox skipper and it will mark Ben Cherington’s first official game as GM.  The NESN camera will surely catch more than a few glimpses of the new looked Red Sox bullpen, most noticeably the absence of Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard.  The team won’t have their captain Jason Varitek behind the plate and 45-year old knuckleballer, Tim Wakefield won’t be in the dugout.

Yes, this team will have many sub plots and interesting stories on April 5th, but none will be bigger than the debut that they will witness of Prince Fielder.

Detroit Rock City will surely be hopping on Thursday, April 5th and it won’t be because the Red Sox are in town.  Prince Fielder will take to the field as the present and future of their beloved Tigers with renewed optimism that this will be the year a World Series comes back to Detroit, the last being in 1984.  Cecil Fielder could never bring another championship to the city, so maybe now his son can turn that trick.

Comerica Park doesn’t compare to the old Tiger Stadium.  It’s newer, looks better and is fan friendly.  But who could forget the sight of a 12-year old Prince hitting home runs during batting practice at Tiger Stadium, only because his papa got him into the cage.  Good things happen when your papa is Cecil Fielder.  Now, after seven seasons in Milwaukee where he helped the Brewers to a NL Central division crown and one other post season appearance, Prince returns to the city where his father was an icon with visions of following in those same footsteps.  It’s safe to say that after the signing, he’s half way there.

Much is already being made about the Tigers lineup with a dynamic duo of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder sandwiched in the number three and four spots.  The reigning Cy Young winner and AL MVP, Justin Verlander will be on the mound some might say we could start writing the headlines now: “Red Sox start 2012 season on losing note. Drop opener to Tigers 9-1.”

Stop the presses!

Let us not forget that Buster Olney of ESPN declared the Red Sox to have the best offensive lineup in baseball.  Granted that was before the trade of Marco Scutaro and long before Prince was ever linked to the Tigers.  Yes, the Tigers could have the best lineup now that Prince has joined them, but don’t discount the Sox.  For argument sake I will still take the Red Sox.    Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Youkilis, Ortiz, Crawford, Ross, Saltalamacchia, Aviles.  That’s pretty damn good.  Is it murderer’s row good? No, but is Detroit’s?  Some might say yes, so for now let’s agree to disagree.

Personally, I think Josh Beckett should get the ball on Opening Day.  Every month of last season except for September, he was the “ace” of the staff and deserves the recognition of the number one guy again.  While that’s an argument for another day, who’s to say that Beckett can’t be on his game and go toe to toe with Verlander?  While Beckett may not have the stamina that Verlander does, he can give you seven innings of three or four hit ball and keep the game well within reach.

Given how well the Red Sox lineup can wear down pitchers and the ability to explode for multiple runs in an inning, Verlander may not be invisible on his first start either. It is, after all, Opening Day and not every player will have their A game.

Opening Day is over 70 days away and a lot can happen over that course.  Hell, we have to get through Spring Training with a healthy roster.  But it is fun to look ahead at what could be.  There will be many headlines surrounding the Red Sox, but Prince will trump them all.  We’re back to this whole underdog thing again and that suits me just fine.

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Tags: Boston Red Sox Cecil Fielder Comerica Park Daniel Bard Detroit Tigers Jason Varitek Jon Lester Jonathan Papelbon Josh Beckett Justin Verlander Marco Scutaro Miguel Cab NESN Prince Fielder Tiger Stadium Tim Wakefield

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