20 THOUGHTS FOR THE WINTER MEETINGS

By:  Kurt Snyder

Since I am a week or so late on November thoughts, how good would they have been anyway? So let’s take them to another level. I am sure we all have our thoughts and suspicions about what might happen at the Winter Meetings. Even some on what has already happened.

Let’s see if any of my thoughts jive with yours. I welcome your feedback.


1. How fun must it be for the Cubs to work on filling “holes” for another run at a title? It’s a pretty envious position.

2. Seeing how the Tigers reportedly are asking a lot for their top talent is encouraging. It’s important that they don’t undervalue what they have just for the sake of shedding salary.

3. It may be that the Tigers are indeed realizing what we have all been talking about. July would be the better time to deal, if they must. Please tell me they thought about it before us.

4. My grade for ending the All Star Game – World Series fiasco?  A+++

5. I wonder how the rest of the league views the prospects of Stephen Moya. I really could see him included in a trade.

6. Dave Dombrowski is back at it. Acquiring Chris Sale may be one of his shrewdest deals yet. Sure prospects walked out the door once again, but they have Sale for 3 more seasons and may never have to pay him the big money.

7. Imagine for a moment that the Tigers stand pat and fill centerfield from within. Heading into spring training, where does the energy come from? Didn’t Maybin take it with him to the Angels?

8. If the Tigers do indeed decide to delay any deals until the trade deadline, what should they do in the interim to contend and compete with the Indians?

9. Franchises annually try to the copy the championship formula of the latest World Series champions. In 2015, speed, athleticism and a strong bullpen helped bring a title to Kansas City. Now the Royals are looking to dial things back and regroup. I guess it’s just not sexy enough to emulate that formula.

10. How much conversation is there between teams about something other than players during the winter meetings? Do teams benchmark other cultures? Do teams share how they are built behind the scenes?

11. As you contemplate whether Justin Verlander could be someone the Tigers could move for young talent, and you take all the emotions out of it, how could he help us the most in the next 2 seasons that look to be years in transition? (Carryover from October Thoughts)

12. Outside of a deal to acquire a centerfielder, I would be happy with a nice boring off-season.  I would be happy with the team taking baby steps in their new direction. Are you as curious as I am about one more shot with this group, at least through July?

13. Who do you think Al Avila has talked to more about potential roster moves, Brad Ausmus or Jim Leyland? Sorry, I think I’d choose Jimmy.

14. What do you think the odds are that the Tigers will find a trade partner interested in taking on Victor Martinez? I would accept a salary dump here. Getting something in return is not nearly as important in this case; purely addition by subtraction.

15. How long will Anthony Gose remain in the Tiger organization? If he thinks the Maybin deal gave him an opening for a return to centerfield, he is sadly mistaken.

16. The AL Central looks to be heading from one of the best divisions in baseball to one of the worst. Knowing that, has it affected the Tigers timeline for restructuring?

17. Here is a radical move I hope the commissioner makes someday. Dump the unbalanced schedule! If it means the end of interleague play to accomplish it, so be it.

18. David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria really made the Tigers better. Even more now that they are gone. (Carry over from August AND September AND October)

19. I know the Red Sox are getting all the attention so far this off-season, but quietly the Yankees are smartly building and building.

20. Are there any managers we can trade for? How about a manager to be named later?

TOPIC FOR TUESDAY

It’s Tuesday folks, which means it’s your day! Today is the day for reader feedback.

Most weeks like today, there will be a topic on which to respond, while once a month for “Open Mike,” readers get the opportunity to comment on the Tiger topic of their choosing.

This is the one day of the week where we open up the comment parameters for you, so you can really get those juices flowing. Comments on THIS DAY ONLY can be expanded to a maximum of 8 sentences.

So let ‘er rip! Let’s get this party started! We can’t wait to get your feedback on the following topic.


What is the one most important thing the Tigers need to accomplish by the end of this week’s Winter Meetings.  Why?

 

THERE, I SAID IT – PART 7

By:  Holly Horning

Let’s finish the series of blogs based upon my observations and conclusions, so far, about the Tigers since 2006. This is about the long-standing direction of the team and why, despite the immense talent, they have been unsuccessful when everything was on the line. The premise for these points of discussion are all based upon Mr. I’s well-publicized desire and stated goal to win the World Series.

This series is meant to uncover, examine and discuss why their path never achieved the desired goals and why it’s been 32 years, second-longest in the AL Central, since the last one.

In the media, most portray the process of winning as simply getting the right players. But we know there are many more factors that play into creating a successful team – and franchise. And those factors are tangible and intangible. Just ask Theo Epstein, who has managed to break baseball’s two longest curses because of his vision and strategy.

The Tigers have poured more money into signing players than any other team, save for the Dodgers. Are there beliefs and corporate culture issues that have been holding them back? That’s a primary premise of these blogs.


If you missed the first six installments, catch them here:

WORLD SERIES

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/there-i-said-it/

OWNERSHIP

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/11/06/there-i-said-it-2/

DAVE DOMBROWSKI

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/11/14/there-i-said-it-part-3/

AL AVILA

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/11/17/there-i-said-it-part-4/

JIM LEYLAND

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/11/27/there-i-said-it-part-5/

BRAD AUSMUS

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/12/01/there-i-said-it-part-6/


We may blame certain players, the manager, the GM or even the owner, but whatever perceived weaknesses we see can really all be traced back to the overall corporate culture of the team. The best way to summarize the definition and importance of this element comes from Inc.:

Corporate culture refers to the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature. Corporate culture is rooted in an organization’s goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community. As such, it is an essential component in any business’s ultimate success or failure.

In other words, a successful corporate culture starts at the top and is communicated thoroughly and effectively from the highest levels and on down. We all know the teams who practice this successfully. Teams who consistently perform well and up to expectations on a regular basis – the Cardinals, Giants, Yankees (Steinbrenner era) and now, most probably, the Cubs.

But what about those teams with uneven performance? Or the teams who seem to have all the resources yet can’t put all the pieces together or reach their goals? Or teams with immense talent and yet haven’t won a World Series for 32 years?

And this is the topic I’ve saved for last because it is the most important one out of the 7 categories we’ve covered.  And it’s the topic I feel is most crucial to the success of the team – and the one topic the Tigers have consistently failed to address more than any other one.

It all depends upon the strength of a team’s corporate culture – the beliefs, the training, the mission statement, the purpose, the communication, the level of details, the stated vision and the performance award system. All must align with the stated goals in order to be successful.

For example, it doesn’t matter if you buy the best and most exclusive parts for your high-performance car if you don’t have the right team of mechanics to put it all together. It can make all the difference between a car that regularly outperforms the others on the track – or sits in the garage, looking pretty and expensive, but offers an uneven and sometimes disappointing performance.

This is a series that is dependent upon you, the reader, to weigh in. My statements are only meant to be the starting point. These thoughts are meant to inspire analysis and carry us all through the month, season and coming years. Now let’s tackle this last subject……


CORPORATE CULTURE

1. The Tigers, culturally, find themselves at a disadvantage. Why don’t teams from the Midwest get as much attention or credit, or taken as seriously as teams from the West or East Coast? It’s because they practice MidWest Nice. If you don’t remember what that is from previous blogs, check it outat:

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/midwest-nice/

2. While we appreciate Mr. I for his constant generosity, he has often meddled in the signing of players that may not have been aligned with the GM’s vision. Bringing on players such as Prince Fielder, Justin Upton and (rumored) Mike Pelfrey – and keeping favorites such as Victor Martinez well past their expiration dates has put speed bumps, if not road blocks, into the team’s chase for the ring.

3. This team is one that practices contradictions. Older, slower players brought into a stadium that requires speed and defense. Vast sums spent upon starting pitching and power bats but not used to shore up relief pitching. A “win now” World Series mode that brings a manager with no experience on board. And changes made at the top that don’t create changes throughout the system.

4. They are a team that spends large sums on players yet goes cheap by ignoring every other aspect of the organization. No investment in the future or development to keep the team updated or nourished from within. The equivalent of putting the focus solely on the fruit and not on the roots of the team tree that allow it to continue to grow.

5. Management that shows no signs of regret or that lessons have been learned. Years of ignoring the bullpen that cost them repeatedly in the post-season. Years of watching lack of speed kill run production by creating station-to-station hitting. Multiple signings of expensive players that have stalled team momentum.

6. The Tigers are a team that collects pieces instead of building a complete vision. Players brought in from everywhere else with no common adhesive or experience. Departments that are not developed or coordinated to work with one another. Different philosophies from the owner, GM, manager, coaches and players.

7. There is little evidence that management plays an important role in the success of a team. GMs who are overruled by ownership on a yearly basis, GMs and managers who are kept for years despite not reaching the stated goals and players who openly defy their manager’s decisions. Changes in upper management have not resulted in turnover that is expected when a new regime takes over.

8. Loyalty to the team has taken priority over results, goals and performance. A GM given 3 contracts, 14 years and one of baseball’s largest payrolls. A manager given 8 years with one of baseball’s best rosters that results in exactly 1 World Series win. Farm system management/scouting routinely recognized for their bottom 5 standings each year and the drought of finding top players since signing Justin Verlander in 2004.

9. A preference for making safe hires and decisions that has resulted in a lack of true leadership and new ideas. Little to no turnover in the Front Office or in field-related positions. A preference for bringing back old, retired and fired faces including 6 former managers. All but one with short-lived unsuccessful careers. In sum, a collection of hires who can be safely expected to accept the company line and not push for changes or new attitudes.

10. Long-term employees, dated outlooks and an organization that does not recognize nor reward new ideas and attitudes has resulted in antiquated philosophies and practices that places the team near of the bottom in MLB trends. As seen with the old-style of play, refusal to see the rising importance of the bullpen, and lack of an analytics department and players’ manual until just this year.

So let’s begin some great dialogues as they relate exclusively to issues surrounding the Tigers’ corporate culture.

Please pick one topic and start the conversation. Don’t forget to come back later and respond to others who have posted.

FANS WOULD MOURN MOVING MIGGY

By:  Kurt Snyder

“This is one of those times which you now and then find in sports, when a density of expectations hangs in the air and plucks an event out of the future.”                            – John Updike, American Novelist                                                                                                                                                                                              


I shared this quote as part of a Facebook post back in 2013. Even though it was written to paint the picture of the feeling an American Novelist had in describing  Ted Williams’ home run in his final career at bat, it also served to describe perfectly the anticipation of a Miguel Cabrera ninth inning at bat.

Smack in the middle of a pennant race in August of 2013, the Tigers were tied with the visiting Royals in the bottom of the ninth inning. It was the perfect summer night. Packed ballpark. Fans filled with excitement. Miguel Cabrera leading off the ninth.

It was an incredible feeling as the crowd rose to their feet.  Miggy was approaching home plate.  And we knew. Everyone knew. It wasn’t a situation where we all hoped Miggy would end the game in dramatic fashion. We knew he would. And he did it, driving the ball just over the wall in right field. The crowd went nuts.  It was magical.

These are the kinds of moments we have experienced and grown to expect from Miggy during his Hall of Fame career here in Detroit. But there is one thing I have never considered. That he could potentially leave and play for someone else. That he could potentially end his career in another uniform.

It doesn’t seem right does it? Miguel Cabrera is the face of the Detroit Tigers. And yes, he gets paid an incredible amount of money to be that face. To be a star. To provide moments like what is described above.

Cabrera has been Must-See-TV his whole career in Detroit. If you’re at the game, you make sure you are in your seat when he comes to the plate. If you are at home watching, you make sure you’re in the room. At least, that’s the way I feel.

My brothers and I talk a lot about a number of sports greats we feel we have been lucky to experience in our lifetime. Players we will describe to our grandkids as the greatest athletes of all time. Careers we witnessed. Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and of course, Miguel Cabrera.

When Al Avila announced the Tigers’ intentions for this season and into the future, I never believed changes could include the departure of the face of the Tigers. But the reality of it all hit me hard in the face when Cabrera made it known that he would approve any trade which would be beneficial for all sides.

Wow, what a sobering thought.

You see, I am a sucker for feel good sports movies and moments. Field of Dreams sends chills up my spine every time I watch, even when I know what’s coming. That ‘thunderous’ home run in the movie, The Natural , gets me every time. Hoosiers, Rudy and Remember the Titans are others that bring a tear to my eye every time I see them.

But when real life drama on a baseball field presents itself right before your eyes, it doesn’t get any better for a real fan of the game.  Kirk Gibson’s dramatic World Series home runs for the Tigers and the Dodgers.  The Curt Schilling bloody sock game.  The Red Sox improbable series win in the playoffs after trailing the Yankees 3 games to none.  And of course, the Magglio Ordonez game winning home run in 2006 to send the Tigers to the World Series.

Miguel Cabrera has provided so many great moments for fans in Detroit. And as fiscally responsible as it would be to get out from under his immense contract and move on in hopes of a more sustainable future,  it would be hard to take, but does make some sense.

But you have no idea how hard it was for me to simply write that. The pure thought of it makes me sick to my stomach. The thought of Miggy leaving puts me in a bad mood before it even happens; if it happens.

And I may indeed be stressing over something prematurely. This is something that may never happen. But it has gotten serious now. The Tigers have spoken to him about the possibility. He has given his blessing under the right circumstances, and you know what? Even the discussion is a real bummer for fans.

I expect many of our readers to respond to this blog justifying a trade that involves Cabrera. But I will never pretend to like it. I am an emotional fan who can’t bear to envision this giant of a man, a star destined for the Hall of Fame, one of the best hitters of all time, maybe the greatest Tiger of all time, someday wearing something other than the Old English D.

Do you want to feel emptiness inside as a Tiger fan? That will be the day.

QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, KUDOS & CONCERNS

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Saturday’s segment is a day to touch on as many issues as possible. Now that the Hot Stove League is heating up, there is plenty to contemplate about the home team and where they are headed.

Kurt and Holly don’t share and it’s only for the readers’ benefit. It almost always translates into a wide array of thoughts.


KURT

KUDOS

Finally, some semblance of order has been brought to baseball regarding the All-Star game result determining home field advantage in the World Series. Imagine a world where the team with the best record in the game is rewarded with home field advantage in the World Series – wow, how brilliant! No one will be able to convince me that the All-Star Game ever needed to mean something; it only needed to entertain.

COMMENT

I was happy to hear this week that the Tigers, even though they are looking to peddle stars that we love, aren’t looking to give them away. It’s quite the contrary as their asking prices are very high. Maybe most of their moves will end up happening at the trade deadline when teams are more eager to make deals involving their top talent; by then the Tigers  may discover that they are contending and 2017 won’t be the waste we envisioned.

COMMENT

Many are trying to tie Justin Verlander and Kate Upton’s purchase of a new home in Beverly Hills, California to the potential that he could be dealt to the Dodgers. Sorry, this looks like nothing more than satisfying the needs of the future Mrs. Verlander whose acting career would take her out west more often than not. Besides, unless the Dodgers have some kind of magic bag that allows them continued free reign to keep dropping $28M contracts on players, you can pretty much dispel the rumor that he will land in LA, if he leaves at all.


HOLLY

QUESTION

Just how many viable trade partners will the Tigers have if they are looking to unload the mega-million contracts of JV, Miggy and Upton? The Dodgers, once rumored to be interested in JV, are now under MLB-mandated orders to reduce payroll by $100 million by the end of next year. It will be interesting to see if Al Avila wants to do business with his former GM, Dave Dombrowski, or if Dave sees a value in obtaining the players and contracts to which he was the creator.

CONCERN

With the news that the Mets were interested in signing JD Martinez and balked at the Tigers’ asking price of a promising rookie, it really comes as no surprise given that they traded Michael Fulmer to Detroit last year. The blowback they got for that move had to be pretty significant. And given the news that the Tigers were asking a lot for their players, it may make sense to keep some or all of them until the trade deadline when teams are more desperate and willing to part with some better players.

COMMENT

I listened to an in-depth assessment of how the Chicago Cubs built their WS team over a period of 3 years. It was mentioned that they created a precise vision for each of the next 3 years, down to the smallest details, as soon as Theo Epstein came on board. Most interesting to note is that management emphasized that the people who didn’t play on the field were just as important as the athletes – making over their entire Front Office and ensuring that everyone brought on board aligned with the new philosophy.

THERE, I SAID IT – PART 6

By:  Holly Horning

Let’s continue the series of blogs based upon my observations and conclusions, so far, about the Tigers since 2006. This is about the long-standing direction of the team and why, despite the immense talent, they have been unsuccessful when everything was on the line. The premise for these points of discussion are all based upon Mr. I’s well-publicized desire and stated goal to win the World Series.

This series is meant to uncover, examine and discuss why their path never achieved the desired goals and why it’s been 32 years, second-longest in the AL Central, since the last one.

In the media, most portray the process of winning as simply getting the right players. But we know there are many more factors that play into creating a successful team – and franchise. And those factors are tangible and intangible. Just ask Theo Epstein, who has managed to break baseball’s two longest curses because of his vision and strategy.

The Tigers have poured more money into signing players than any other team, save for the Dodgers. Are there beliefs and corporate culture issues that have been holding them back? That’s a primary premise of these blogs.


If you missed the first five installments, catch them here:

WORLD SERIES

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/there-i-said-it/

OWNERSHIP

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/11/06/there-i-said-it-2/

DAVE DOMBROWSKI

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/11/14/there-i-said-it-part-3/

AL AVILA

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/11/17/there-i-said-it-part-4/

JIM LEYLAND

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/11/27/there-i-said-it-part-5/


This is a series that is dependent upon you, the reader, to weigh in. My statements are only meant to be the starting point. These thoughts are meant to inspire analysis and carry us all through the month, season and coming years.

So let’s begin some great dialogues as they relate exclusively to issues surrounding current manager, Brad Ausmus. Over the coming weeks, we’ll also address the corporate culture and other topics.

Please pick one topic and start the conversation. Don’t forget to come back later and respond to others who have posted.

BRAD AUSMUS

1. I believe the frustration and anger over the way Brad manages is misdirected for a large part. Afterall, he came in with absolutely zero managerial experience and we can’t possibly expect him to evolve and instantly make the decisions it takes years to learn. We should place most of our irritation with the people who selected – and signed off – on his hire.

2. Dave Dombrowski recently revealed that he made Jim Leyland the point person in finding his replacement back in 2013. I would never ask my outgoing manager to tackle this job, especially when no one wants their successor to possibly be more successful or likeable at the job than they were. It’s a conflict of interest.

3. Brad is never going to develop as a manager with the coaching staff he has. Three of his top 5 coaches worked under Jim Leyland with one more who worked under Dombrowski. How effective can he possibly be if he’s outnumbered by JL’s crew who seem to rigidly adhere to their former boss’ managerial style? To make it worse, 3 of those guys were former managers – 1 of which, a recent refugee from Seattle, is undoubtedly salivating at watching Ausmus in the last year of his contract.

4. From his refusal to sit for multiple interviews with his college alma mater, to his post-game interviews, it is clear that Brad is introverted and uncomfortable in the media spotlight. The Tigers can spend bazillions of dollars on baseball’s most expensive contracts, yet they cannot hire a media consultant to help him feel comfortable and learn to communicate the message more effectively. Any interview with him is painful – and sleep-inducing.

5. Given the many rumors about the direction of the organization, combined with the statements about reducing payroll and getting “younger and leaner”, Brad may finally be a better fit for this team. Expectations are diminished and the Tigers are looking to swap some big names for unknown rookies. It’s known that Ausmus is very approachable and has a good feel for how to handle guys who have just reached the majors.

 

ONE TOPIC – TWO TAKES

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

The Ilitch family has owned the Tigers for almost 24 years. And for the first time in a long time, the Tigers have professed a desire to take a step back and get the franchise to a more manageable level financially while acquiring more young talent at the expense of some of their stars. This all brings about a very important question.

Holly and Kurt never share their answers to these topics before it’s time. And today is no different as we take a look at the Ilitch ownership and what this change in direction may mean for the franchise.


Do you believe the Ilitch family plans to hold onto the Tigers after they make their changes? Why or why not?


HOLLY

If you follow media that is not Detroit-based, you will get a very different take on what is going on with the Ilitch family. A number of journalists are already using the name “Chris” instead of “Mike.” I won’t go into details that revolve around the owner’s health, but what we do know is that Mr. I hasn’t been seen in months including missing those very important team photos for both his Tigers and Red Wings, recent big player signings and last week’s significant joint venture announcement with Pistons’ owner, Tom Gores.

Whether or not you believe the rumors that the rest of the family is not as enamored of the Tigers as the patriarch, there is one huge reason why the family will sell the team. The estate tax bill.

Simply put, the Ilitch family will have to pay out 40% of the team value ($450 million) unless Mike leaves the team to Marian. Which, of course, he can’t because she owns a casino and is getting ready to launch another one. We all understand the rules that forbid MLB owners from being connected to gambling and bequeathing the team to Chris will spur the 40% tax, which is the primary reason why teams change hands.

It’s really as simple as that.

(On a side note, Mike can leave the Red Wings to Marian without an estate penalty because there are no gambling rules attached to hockey and he cannot sell to the Fords because NFL rules prohibit ownership of a baseball team.)

Additionally, as supporting points, you can also add in the huge cost overruns at the new Red Wings arena and the time and energy this massive project is taking away from baseball as part of a bigger rationale for selling the team.

Tom Gores is another factor and he’s stated his interest in owning another sports team. Based in CA, raised in MI and owns a home in Birmingham, he now has a joint business venture with the Ilitch family.

His behind-the-scenes actions, of course, were never reported in the local papers, but he recently hired a sports attorney who specializes in buying/selling sports teams. And the guy he hired is best friends with Steve Greenberg (Hank’s son) who works for…. get ready for it….Mike Ilitch.

And if you think this is a coincidence, I have a bridge to sell you……..

The Ilitches couldn’t sell to a better person who now holds a combined interest in the success of downtown sports and as a natural by-product, the industries that are Ilitch-owned and feed off of their baseball, basketball and hockey. An incredibly smart business move and a win-win situation.

So really the only thing left to determine is why the team has to reduce payroll. Is it because the Ilitches were told by MLB (1 of 9 teams) to reduce payroll because their debt-to-equity ratio is reaching dangerous levels? Or are they preparing the books to help bolster their sale price? Afterall, since at least 2006, the team’s payroll has exceeded revenue every single year.

I think we’ll soon find out.


KURT

Mike Ilitch has professed for so long how badly he has wanted to bring a World Series championship to Detroit, but that run is beginning to, well, run aground.

And the new direction announced by Al Avila to become younger and leaner is some real foreign territory for the franchise and for all of us. But we have watched the cracks form for a few years now.

We witnessed the departure of Dave Dombrowski, replaced internally by Al Avila. We stood puzzled by the retention of Brad Ausmus as manager, when it’s common place for a GM to put their own stamp on the team with a new skipper, especially when given the opportunity to hire a better one.

And bit by bit the cracks have widened, contributing to the Tigers’ decision to change course. Mike Ilitch has spent a lot of money, and considering there is no trophy to justify the spending, it’s time to stop the bleeding.

With Mr. I in poor health, Chris Ilitch is now making the appearances on behalf of the family, as recent as last week when the Pistons announced their intentions to move downtown and share Little Caesars Arena with the Wings.

Chris has been said to have much more interest in the operation and ownership of the Red Wings than the Tigers, which seems to be a huge red flag when you consider his father’s apparent decreasing role. Mr. I was the driving force behind every Tiger signing, every championship attempt. But it has reached the end.

I believe every move the Tigers make from here on out will be very calculated. Every move will be made in the interests of preparing the team for future sale.

Mike was all about a new ballpark in the infancy of his ownership, but never really moved on attempting to build a winner until 2004, the year after a historically bad year for the franchise. Then heavy spending seemed to be his strategy, which hasn’t been much of a strategy after all.

So, they will sell because it is time. They will sell because we need them to do it. We have reached the point where only new ownership can breathe new life into this team; ownership that doesn’t just blatantly throw money at a problem. Let the Ilitch family concentrate on what is clearly #1 now in their hearts; the Red Wings. That’s enough of a challenge as it is.

VMART THE LEAST LIKELY TRADE PIECE

By:  Kurt Snyder

Totally Tigers has to put a hat in the ring on a particular topic. It’s a topic, but it’s also a rumor. And at this point in the Hot Stove League when there is very little player movement, site after site after site can only respond to rumors with their opinions about how much merit they have.

But we can’t get too caught up in rumor. What we can do is speak to moves that are the wisest in this off-season of transition for Detroit.  And without a doubt, finding a taker for Victor Martinez would be an absolute godsend. It’s also never going to happen.

This past season, baseball said goodbye to David Ortiz; another former member of the-soon-to-be extinct (unless you’re the Tigers) full-time DH position. The full-time DH is finding its way out of the game. The role has certainly done its job in offering aging players the opportunity to prolong their careers. Players with big bats but not much else have still contributed big and starred in that role.

But these players with only a bat to offer their teams are making too much money and limiting team flexibility. And with the Tigers, we all know we would love to see Miguel Cabrera in that spot much more than we do, which right now is almost never.

Sure, Miggy is still able to effectively play in the field. In fact, he plays a pretty darn good first base. So, he’s not a candidate for full-time DH anytime soon.

But I have to ask. How long will the Tigers gamble with Miggy? Will the Tigers have to wait for VMart’s contract to expire before Cabrera assumes that role for close to half the season? Yeah, that’s right. Half the season. It’s a big step, I know. But he is going to be a Tiger for a long time (that’s right, don’t look for any big deal involving Miggy) and it is the franchise’s responsibility to preserve their biggest investment.

Rumors are aplenty about teams showing interest in VMart. It’s exciting to hear actually. It’s surprising to hear. But I can’t find it in myself to believe any of it.

As much as I believe that unloading Victor would be one of the shrewdest of moves the Tigers could make in the interests of their bottom line, it is also the toughest of tasks. To me, you’re asking for another Prince Fielder type trade.

Victor has been reduced to a brittle player. He can still hit, but running is hard work for him and scoring with him on the bases is difficult. I hate to talk about VMart like this. He has been a great Tiger. The hardest of workers. Intensity and fire embodies him more than most in the Tiger dugout. But he is holding this team back. And unfortunately, this information is no secret to the rest of the league.

So what do the Tigers do assuming VMart stays in Detroit? Well, first they need to dispel the notion that he is the only player who can hit behind Miggy. I haven’t been given a good reason to believe that to be the case. Victor has to move down in the lineup just so 2 of their slowest baserunners aren’t hitting back-to-back.

Secondly, Victor has to sit more. I understand he is a switch hitter. I understand he makes big $18M bank. But he’s got to sit in the interests of transitioning Miggy more and more into the DH role. Who plays first base in those situations? Sounds like a good roster addition to consider.

Dave Dombrowski pulled the biggest rabbit out of his hat when he magically found a team to take Prince Fielder off their hands, and receive Ian Kinsler in return. It was by far one of the most unlikely and lopsided deals a team has ever made.

Now we sit here asking the Tigers to do something similar. And it’s a stretch. The Tigers are better off spending their time and energy establishing a diminished role for Victor. It would be best for all involved, including VMart himself.

TOPIC FOR TUESDAY

It’s Tuesday folks, which means it’s your day! Today is the day for reader feedback.

Most weeks like today, there will be a topic on which to respond, while once a month for “Open Mike,” readers get the opportunity to comment on the Tiger topic of their choosing.

This is the one day of the week where we open up the comment parameters for you, so you can really get those juices flowing. Comments on THIS DAY ONLY can be expanded to a maximum of 8 sentences.

So let ‘er rip! Let’s get this party started! We can’t wait to get your feedback on the following topic.


Are the Tigers really making the best decision to potentially start the rebuild this year instead of waiting one more year while the team is still viable?

THERE, I SAID IT – PART 5

By:  Holly Horning

Let’s continue the series of blogs based upon my observations and conclusions, so far, about the Tigers since 2006. This is about the long-standing direction of the team and why, despite the immense talent, they have been unsuccessful when everything was on the line. The premise for these points of discussion are all based upon Mr. I’s well-publicized desire and stated goal to win the World Series.

This series is meant to uncover, examine and discuss why their path never achieved the desired goals and why it’s been 32 years, second-longest in the AL Central, since the last one.

In the media, most portray the process of winning as simply getting the right players. But we know there are many more factors that play into creating a successful team – and franchise. And those factors are tangible and intangible. Just ask Theo Epstein, who has managed to break baseball’s two longest curses because of his vision and strategy.

The Tigers have poured more money into signing players than any other team, save for the Dodgers. Are there beliefs and corporate culture issues that have been holding them back? That’s a primary premise of these blogs.


If you missed the first four installments, catch them here:

WORLD SERIES

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/there-i-said-it/

OWNERSHIP

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/11/06/there-i-said-it-2/

DAVE DOMBROWSKI

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/11/14/there-i-said-it-part-3/

AL AVILA

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/11/17/there-i-said-it-part-4/


This is a series that is dependent upon you, the reader, to weigh in. My statements are only meant to be the starting point. These thoughts are meant to inspire analysis and carry us all through the month, season and coming years.

So let’s begin some great dialogues as they relate exclusively to issues surrounding former manager, Jim Leyland. Over the coming weeks, we’ll also address the Front Office, Brad Ausmus, coaching, the corporate culture and other topics.

Please pick one topic and start the conversation. Don’t forget to come back later and respond to others who have posted.


JIM LEYLAND

1. In typical Tigers fashion, Leyland has reaped the loyalty rewards of always staying or returning to the team. He spent 18 years as a player and minor league manager for Detroit before returning for another 11 years – and now going on 12. He’s survived more than a handful of several owners, GMs and managers. Over 30 years – and continuing – with one team is highly unusual and not seen in modern day baseball. And that loyalty is part of the overall problem.

2. JL was a good solid choice for a manager back in 2006 as the nucleus of the team was in its infancy and needed guidance from someone experienced. Also good for a team that had started collecting high-priced star players who needed to have their egos managed effectively. But as the team evolved, their managerial requirements needed changing. Leyland should have been replaced in 2010 at the latest.

3. Track records are indicative of a person’s likely performance. Despite managing immense talent on the Pirates, Marlins and Tigers, Leyland’s managerial record is barely over .500 – standing at an unimpressive .506 . His records with the Pirates, Marlins and Rockies were all under .500 and he won only 1 WS in 22 years. He won multiple division titles with both the Pirates and the Tigers but couldn’t advance his teams much beyond that. A manager with so much talent on his roster should have done much better than what his record indicates and the GM should have seen that he was unlikely to be successful when it came to October baseball.

4. JL is a profound opponent of sabermetrics and analytics and so are many of his former coaches, who are still with the Tigers. Why would Al Avila introduce an analytics department and introductory software program when Leyland, a special assistant to him, and many of the coaches don’t buy into it? In many ways, the game has passed him by and there are no signs he’s updated his thoughts about what it takes to win today.

5. Despite Leyland having the title of “special assistant”, make no mistake – he is the power behind the throne. Mr. I begged him to return as manager in 2015. And it’s no coincidence that every single one of his friends/players/coaches dating back to the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s has been kept on the Tigers’ payroll or brought back after being fired elsewhere. He’s outlasted numerous top Front Office executives and despite a change of GMs, he has surprisingly stayed on when it’s routine to replace everyone. The Tigers will not be able to move forward successfully until they cut ties with their past.