Horton: Christmas Came Early For Detroit

By Terry Foster
Updated: December 24, 2007

Dontrelle Willis

Dontrelle Willis

DETROIT — Former Tigers slugger Willie Horton wishes his sister, Ruth Roby, were still around. She ran around two years ago telling people the Tigers should get third baseman Miguel Cabrera and pitcher Dontrelle Willis.

Well, Tigers president Dave Dombrowski finally listened and Ruby would have been thrilled to see her dream trade come true. The Tigers got Cabrera and Willis, and they have been the most-talked-about team in the majors this offseason. Unfortunately, Roby was not around to see the trade. She died a month ago

“She would have loved this,” Horton said. “She was a die-hard fan.”

Horton said the Tigers’ offseason has been so outstanding that you cannot mention the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees without mentioning Detroit. The Tigers drew more than 3 million fans last season. The excitement for baseball is at an even higher pitch and they should get even more fans next season.

Oh, yes. That’s right. They also signed a young man named Edgar Renteria, who takes over at shortstop for new first baseman Carlos Guillen.

“This is like Christmas come early,” Horton said. “You can walk on the field and look (the Red Sox and Yankees) in the eye. We can stand up to them now. You got to have the right people and the right chemistry. That is why I feel comfortable with the people we have. I see good things at the end.”

Willis rebound expected

There are concerns about Willis. He has been an outstanding pitcher, but last season’s 10-15 record and 5.17 earned-run average were his worst as a professional. Horton expects a rebound. He said many of Willis’ teammates from the 2005 World Series were traded and it was apparent that the Florida Marlins were saving payroll.

“He still has a real good arm,” Horton said. “It is one of those things about environment. You are on a championship team and then you look around and you don’t have any of those guys around and that means a lot. You can lose interest very fast when the people you are with are gone.”

Eager for Detroit

Willis said he can’t wait to get to Detroit to do community work and also attend a Pistons game. He is a big admirer of Rasheed Wallace and has seen the Pistons play the last year in Oakland and Miami.

“You know, that shows how big the Pistons are in Detroit,” Willis said. “Ever since I said I liked ‘Sheed everybody asks me about them. All those guys are great. Tayshaun Prince and ‘Sheed and Chauncey Billups all came up to say hello. It is great to get respect from those guys. It makes you feel good as a professional athlete. I can’t wait to get up there and check them out.”