BASEBALL ROBBED OF JOSE FERNANDEZ

By:  Kurt Snyder

My dad spent half of his career with the Tigers working in the Scouting department. So of course, he evaluated a lot of young talent. He found himself gravitating towards young catchers, mostly because he was one himself having spent time catching in the Cincinnati Reds farm system.

But as his career with the Tigers evolved, he grew to appreciate young pitchers. Guys who could throw hard. Guys who had “great stuff” as he would often put it.

And when a young, talented pitcher would struggle and fans would complain about his performance, he would invariably defend them by saying, “you never give up on a good arm.”

He loved to watch Nolan Ryan pitch but he had an affinity for the young pitchers who would arrive with so much promise, so much talent, whether they were Tiger prospects or not. Guys like Frank Tanana and Jack Morris and Roger Clemens. I guess it was his scouting background that stuck with him even after he began managing Tiger Stadium.

What he hated most was when some of these young prospects, with all the talent and all the potential in the world would get hurt; never recapturing the dominance they had displayed each time they pitched.

Mark Fidrych was one of those pitchers. It bothered Dad so much when Fidrych got hurt and never regained the magic he exhibited in that special year of 1976, when he won 19 games in a rookie season that included being chosen to start the All-Star Game for the American League.

Dad considered it such a waste for pitchers with so much talent to have their careers cut short due to injury. He loved the game so much. He loved watching players develop and become stars.

But I can’t imagine how Dad would have reacted to the news this week of the death of Jose Fernandez. He would have loved to watch him pitch. He would have loved his arm, his “stuff.” And he would have loved his story about how, after so many attempts to get to America, he finally made it.

Dad was a sucker for an emotional, feel-good story and Jose Fernandez certainly had that; a young phenom who only wanted to pitch in the big leagues. In America. Unfortunately and tragically, the storybook tale began in a boat and ended in a boat; an event that fans in Miami and all of baseball will never forget.

Being American League fans, we weren’t exposed much to the fun loving personality of Fernandez. And it was that personality which endeared him to his teammates, his manager, the entire Marlin organization, the city of Miami and all of baseball.

At just 24, his immense pitching talent and his light hearted personality made him one of the best pitchers and ambassadors for American baseball. The sky was the limit for this kid.

Baseball is an incredibly difficult sport. Dad always told us that to be able to hit a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports. Especially when faced with a pitcher blessed enough to throw so hard and the ability to move the ball around like it was on a string. Jose Fernandez was that kind of pitcher; a repertoire consisting of an explosive fastball and what they called a “wipe out” curve or slider.

More than any other kind of game, Dad appreciated pitching duels the most, when pitchers were at their best and all their stuff was working. Their talents were on display. There was nothing like it in his eyes. When we would ask him about the best games he remembered, most featured tremendous pitching performances. They were the greatest memories of the game for him.

Even at just 24, Jose Fernandez had given baseball so many memories. He had impressed so many people, both with his talents and a big hearted and bubbly, full of life personality.

But he is now suddenly gone. Many people will suffer over his loss. All of baseball will suffer. He will be remembered eternally as the Marlins go on to retire his number. But he had so much left to give. To baseball and to people. What a horrible, horrible waste.

TWO TIMES TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

It’s Tuesday – the last Tuesday of the regular season. Where did the time go? With the season drawing to a close, our writers at Totally Tigers will tackle two topics.

Remember, Kurt and Holly do not share their answers. So, it will be interesting to see the range of perspectives on 2 entirely different questions.


After this weekend, what occupies your mind more, the upcoming week or the off-season and why?

KURT

Where Holly and I differ and what makes us a good fit for a blog partnership is, I look at signs for optimism. I look for things we should be encouraged about. I look for things that could spark a run of victories, while Holly admittedly, has more guarded optimism.

But I can’t watch this team anymore. I can’t watch how our pitching staff is mishandled. I no longer have the optimism. And I am no longer focused on the standings and this season.

So much is capable of happening for this team, still. Anything is possible. But you can’t successfully overcome poor game management within your own dugout for very long; and Al Avila will get a firsthand look at a well-managed team in Cleveland, one that fosters success not hinders it.

HOLLY

I tend to be a positive person and while I’ll take each game this week one at a time, and not yet ready to officially write off the Tigers, I haven’t been given definitive proof that the team has upped its game beyond this year’s performance trends.

Part of me wants what happened this season to become crystal clear and leave no doubt in Al Avila’s mind what needs to be done this off-season.  After spending the past 11 years waiting, watching, waiting, hoping, waiting and praying for the Tigers to ascend to that best of all places, I am unfortunately, thinking more about what needs to be done after the season ends.

And it’s all because that clock hasn’t been ticking louder than it has all this year.  Detroit has a number of long-standing issues that have plagued the team for over a decade now.  And I simply don’t want to see this Tiger dynasty go down as one of the top two in baseball history to never have capitalized on their greatness.

Al Avila entered the GM job with not much time to get acclimated before he had to make some crucial roster decisions.  Now that he’s been in the job for just over a year, this will be the most accurate time to see what kind of a GM he will be.

Will he simply shuffle the roster around and fine-tune the starting pitching and bullpen?  Or will he dig deeper and address the real reasons why the team finds it so difficult to sync their play and score runs consistently?


Has Justin Upton’s resurgence justified his signing?

KURT

Upton has proven his appeal and he has lived up to what was expected, finally. We knew he was a good ball player. But who was comfortable with the possibility of him being under contract for 6 years with the Tigers?

He is a big name player; a prototypical signing for the Tigers. But in the interests of keeping some of their other players around, like JD Martinez, who is one of their most consistent offensive stars, the Tigers really can’t afford for Upton to pick up his own option at the end of next season.

It’s much more important for the Tigers to keep JD in Detroit. And the signing of Upton puts that at risk. So even with Upton coming on and how exciting his production has been, I don’t believe bringing him on board was such a good thing. Frankly, we needed more starting pitching depth before we needed a high-profile, potentially long-term, offensive signing.

HOLLY

It’s nice to see Upton start to perform more consistently and get some timely hits. But it appears from the interviews with Mr. I that his signing was done for attendance reasons more than anything else. And while high attendance is required for the Tigers in order to meet those extremely large contracts, his signing means the Tigers are facing a “Sophie’s Choice” at the end of 2017.

The Tigers’ payroll will crest in the 2018-19 seasons with 4 players earning some of the highest salaries in the business. Sports economists will tell you that major-market teams can’t afford to have more than 2 athletes making $25+ million/year. The Tigers, a smaller market will have 4 making $25 million and up to $32 million – and an additional one, Upton, very close to the $25 million mark.

This really means that the Tigers cannot afford to add yet another player who will certainly command a very high salary. JD Martinez. His contract expires at the end of the next year and he will certainly want much more than what the Tigers are paying Upton for a lesser bat and glove.

The future of the outfield is looking very uncertain currently where all 3 positions may be filled with new players for the start of 2018. Do we really want to keep a streaky guy with no consistency playing LF or would we rather keep the guy with the best glove and bat?

CALLING CAPTAIN HOOK!

By:  Holly Horning

You didn’t think the Tigers could go free of controversy until the end of the season, did you? Yes, just when some of us started to think that the team had finally settled into a winning groove, did defeat get snatched from the jaws of victory on Saturday.

With the score 4-2 in favor of the Tigers, they managed to lose the game 7-4 in which their closer, KRod put 5 men on base and gave up 5 runs before being pulled. But is Rodriguez solely to blame?

Despite the fact that the Tigers’ RISP was 5-for-18 and they left 14 men on base – while loading the bases twice without scoring – let’s focus solely on the issues surrounding that day’s pitching.

There are always going to be instances when the closer has a bad day. But it’s how the team and manager react, and how quickly, that can make the difference. Many have a valid argument that Brad dropped the ball by keeping KRod pitching until the game was out of hand. And it just wasn’t the fans. The commentators broadcasting, as former pitchers, also noticed and questioned the non-move.

Some could make the case that Rondon should have stayed in. Afterall, he mowed down all three batters in the 8th on 12 pitches – 9 of them strikes. But others could argue that relievers need to know what innings they will pitch so they can prepare both mentally and physically.

But are either extremes the best way to go? Is there another way to manage the bullpen? And should there only be one way to use your relievers?

In a recent study based upon Baseball Prospectus stats, the trends of how bullpens are managed are traced. Starting with the philosophy of the “7th inning guy” to the “8th inning guy” and finally to the “9th inning guy.” Now, managers are using their best relievers in the most high-leverage situations and aren’t afraid to pull them quickly if they’re not on their game. Bruce Bochy and Joe Maddon are today’s managers who work more from their gut and from what they see rather than a set philosophy.

Statistics that will either inspire exploding heads or put readers to sleep are thankfully omitted here. I read them so you don’t have to….. And these stats were calculated and a list of the managers since 2000 was developed that ranked them according to best bullpen management. It is no surprise that the best tended to be younger overall and had won numerous distinctions and championships. Topping the list was Joe Torre followed by Ozzie Guillen, Joe Girardi and Bruce Bochy.

These guys all shared a common factor – using relievers based upon the situation and not the inning. They also weren’t afraid to mix it up when warranted.

The bottom of the list was more interesting. Filled for the most part with older managers who believed in having relievers strictly assigned to specific innings. Jim Leyland ranks 4th from the bottom. The list also showed that managers who practice this old-style strategy and then changed to the more modern one, rose in the rankings because their effectiveness increased.

And in case you were wondering, Brad Ausmus, who practices the innings-based role, did not qualify for the list. However, Bud Black (who turned down the Nationals job and remains available) ranks as one of the savviest bullpen managers.

However, successfully managing a bullpen doesn’t fall solely on the skipper. The GM, pitching coach and bullpen coach should be held responsible, too. Yes, the talent contained in the bullpen does matter, but it’s also about how well that talent is used and managed.

So while Leyland is no longer manager of the team, the question to ask is how much information and advice did he share with Brad?

Ausmus is young and supports using analytics, but his bullpen management is definitely old-school. Is this difference in generational thought a result of being an inexperienced manager or copying/learning from the previous one? Could the belief in this outdated system also be coming from the bench coach – who worked for years under the former skipper?

Whether or not Ausmus stays, the true indication that Al Avila will be looking to strengthen and update their strategies will be based upon whether the Front Office decides to replace some old faces with those that are younger and from outside the organization.

Can Avila break the tradition of intense loyalty to former managers and players? Stay tuned.

THE CLOSER, THE CALENDAR & CLEVELAND

By:  Kurt Snyder

If there has been one constant throughout this season in the Tiger bullpen, it has been the success and resiliency of Francisco Rodriguez. Sure, losses are never bigger than in the last week of the season when you are trying to make the playoffs, but everyone needs to take a breath.

Fans again want KRod’s head; they have made generalizations about how long it has been since the Tigers had a dominant closer. But, if there has been one reliable force in the bullpen, it has been KRod. So enough.

Yes,  the Tigers are teetering on the fence, where just a stiff breeze one way or the other could make the difference between making the playoffs and not.  Saturday’s game could indeed become damaging if we let it.  But this is when you find out about your team. Their ability to bounce back will never be tested more.


With 1 more game versus the World Champion Royals, there can be no more whimpering about Saturday. There can be no losing streaks. Teams that go on losing streaks at this time of the season when they are on the outside looking in, will watch the playoffs on TV.

With less than a couple of handfuls of games remaining, losing streaks have to be over now. Every game is now a must win. Beginning Monday, all focus shifts to the Indians with more than occasional glances at the Orioles as they play a huge series versus the Blue Jays in Toronto.


Back at home, after hopefully having finished off a series win over KC, the much awaited 4 games against the Indians begin on Monday. It’s a great time for this series.

The Indians have been the team standing in the way of the Tigers all season, winning all but 2 games in 2016. For Detroit, it has been no way to perform against the team you need to catch. And it has been that poor head-to-head record that has made all the difference.

So the Tigers have some scores to settle with the Indians. They have demons to exorcise. And after getting pounded by the Indians all season, Detroit has never had more incentive to fight back and finally inflict some damage.

Sure, Cleveland has all but salted away the division. They have dominated the Tigers in every way possible. But I feel the Tigers were disrespected during that last game in Cleveland. So there is plenty of incentive. The umpires are going to have to stay on top of these games; because there has been some bad blood brewing for a week since these teams last faced each other.

It is a reasonable bet that the Indians will clinch the division at Comerica Park. And the Tigers need to fight hard not to let that happen. A sweep is a lot to ask, but again, losses really cannot be tolerated any longer. Not against Cleveland, and not against the Royals on Sunday.

So expect an epic battle when the Tribe comes to town.  As Mickey Redmond likes to say; this is no place for a nervous person.

QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, KUDOS & CONCERNS

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Saturday’s segment is a day to touch on as many issues as possible. With 153 (83-70) games behind us and just nine games to go, readers have the opportunity to read and think about a number of different topics.

Holly and Kurt don’t share and it’s only for the readers’ benefit. It almost always translates into a wide array of thoughts. Suspect nothing different today.


HOLLY

COMMENT

It took me 1.5 years but I’m finally truly appreciating what Andrew Romine brings to the game. Utility players get no respect but this guy has stepped up to the plate, gotten some timely hits, runs well and has played every single position for the Tigers this year except catcher. Given the significant number of injuries in 2016, where would the Tigers have been without the ability to plug him in anywhere?

CONCERN

Rut roh, Gary Sanchez is gaining ground on Michael Fulmer for Rookie of the Year Voting. His stats, even given a smaller sample size, are jaw-dropping while Fulmer’s are not as impressive as they were earlier in the season. And the one with the most momentum may gain the advantage and the support that comes from playing for a NY team and a biased NY-centered media.

KUDOS

Daniel Norris revealed in a radio interview this week that Justin Verlander is working overtime to help him, Fulmer and Boyd with their pitching. JV attends every throwing session of theirs, reviews all their video and tirelessly mentors all three. Performance on the mound is only one aspect of a great player and JV has shown us all that he brings the same intensity and talent to the game on the days he’s not starting a game.


KURT

KUDOS

Justin Upton’s turnaround at the plate over the last month has been truly electric and well, shocking. Three days of rest to clear his head and bam, he’s been crushing the baseball ever since. Outside of a still relatively low batting average, his offensive numbers now reflect the type of production that was expected when we signed him.

COMMENT

If you haven’t been to a game yet this season, I would pick one of those Indian games next week at Comerica Park. Those beanball antics in Cleveland last Sunday are not going to be forgotten and I would anticipate things could get a little dicey. Until proven wrong, I still see that final game in Cleveland as the pivotal point in the season; one that finally shook this team up and turned things around.

QUESTION

I know there is plenty of work yet to be done, but do you think Brad has looked ahead to make sure he lines up Justin Verlander for the start in the Wild Card game, should they get there? I’ll be right back … going to check … hang on a second. Ok I’m back … as the schedule shakes out right now, JV would pitch next Tuesday versus Cleveland and the following Sunday in Atlanta; meaning if Brad leaves things alone, Michael Fulmer would pitch in the Wild Card game, hmmmm.

POSSIBLE POTENTIAL

By:  Holly Horning

How many of us were amazed when Miguel Cabrera manufactured a run almost entirely by himself the other night? He stretched what normally would have been a single into a double and tested the arms of two outfielders to score a run. And he did it on an increasingly “barking” bad ankle.

Media reports afterwards all referred to Miggy as one of the smartest players out there. Not just with a bat and a glove, but also on the bases. Not with speed, of course, but with the ability to read opposing players and game situations. Being smart on the base paths only has a partial relationship to speed.

So why now?

The most obvious answer would be this home stretch of baseball where the Tigers cling to the hopes of a Wild Card ticket, along with a number of other teams all clustered within a game of each other and seemingly changing every couple of hours.

Yes, this was really good to see. Especially good to see Miggy trying to rally the troops and do something out of the box that would help solve this dearth of run production lately.

But don’t you also want to ask why we haven’t seen this type of aggressiveness from the entire team throughout the season? Why they didn’t do this earlier when maybe they had the chance to stay closer to the top of the AL Central?

Why is this now being practiced in game # 151? When they have already played 150 games and only had 12 more left?

And how would this team have shaken out over the course of this year if they had been practicing smarter and more aggressive running since April?

We know that every year, for what has seemed like a decade, the Tigers announce that baserunning will be addressed in spring training. Coaches have been brought in to work with everyone on how to run better and more instinctively. And every year, we think that there will be improvements.

But the fact is that the Tigers, for both 2015 and 2016, have gone from a merely bad team to baseball’s worst baserunning ballclub. And it’s not even close. We tend to see the most obvious mistakes – when runners are thrown out. But the most insidious stat is their inability to take extra bases on their hits. Bases that the majority of teams are able to take with some regularity. Some refer to the Tigers’ talent as station-to-station running. We painfully remember it from the playoffs when Jim Leyland was at the helm.

For two years now, Detroit has only been successful 34% of the time in trying to stretch out a hit while running.

Could this simply be that too many of these guys who are known for the long-ball simply can’t respond and run fast and well because of their size? Could part of it be due to the manager’s philosophy on base running? The same principles that got Rajai Davis benched for running on his own last year? The same guy who refused Detroit’s offer to return and instead headed for speedy Cleveland? The same guy who leads the AL in stolen bases and single-handedly has only 17 fewer than the entire Tigers team put together?

Or could some of the issues be related to the two coaches who oversee the team’s baserunning? What about this long-standing issue that the Tigers ignore teaching and enforcing the fundamentals?

And what about motivation? Which brings us full circle and back to Miggy’s magnificent manufacturing.

Will his success inspire the rest of the team? Will others step up to the challenge? We’ve got 10 more days to see.

ONE TOPIC – TWO TAKES

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Today’s topic centers on the health of Victor Martinez and the Tigers’ plan for him going forward. It’s a difficult time to lose key components of the lineup, but it will be something the Tigers will need to address in the final weeks of the season.

Kurt and Holly have not shared their answers to this Thursday question, but both can’t wait to see what the other has to say. So without further ado…


How should the Tigers handle Victor Martinez for the rest of the season?

KURT

Before the beanball festival on Sunday, the general consensus among fans has been that the Tigers need to consider swapping VMart’s place in the lineup with JD Martinez. But Brad has been adamant about not doing that.

I think it has been quite amazing that, for the most part, Victor has been able to stay in the everyday lineup. I think it’s amazing that he has been able to retain his power. But of late, getting hit on those knees has really taken its toll.

With just a couple of weeks left in the season, Victor being injured and out of the lineup is a blow for the Tigers, still very much in the Wild Card race. But his inability to run and now hit is really something to ponder and opens up an opportunity for JD to audition in that cleanup spot behind Miggy.

In the past, it has been critical to the Tiger lineup that VMart be the one to protect Miggy. Pairing Cabrera with a high average, switch hitter with power has indeed made it a difficult proposition for opposing pitchers. But it’s only been true when both were healthy.

Watching Miggy run the bases lately is proving that he is finally healthy in the month of September. He is still the one guy they cannot afford to lose. But watching VMart on the bases has been painful and now more than ever has contributed to the Tiger offense slowing to a crawl.

Obviously JD will continue to hit behind Miggy while VMart is out and looks to be a much better scenario. If the new lineup indeed improves productivity, Brad will have no choice but to move Victor down in the lineup if and when he returns.

VMart hitting in the bottom third would add a skilled hitter they haven’t had further down in the order, and his latest injury may facilitate that move; a potential blessing in disguise.

Of course, all of this is contingent on an actual return. We have seen Victor writhing in pain way too many times dealing with injuries to those knees, with this latest HBP perhaps being the final straw for him.

If that is indeed the case, the Tigers will swap around the DH position depending on the pitching matchup like they have been doing the last couple days. Again, another luxury that hasn’t been possible with a full-time DH in the lineup.


HOLLY

What the Tigers do with VMart will depend upon how close they remain in an attempt to secure a wild card spot. Currently, Victor is trying to recover from being hit on the right knee twice in less than a week by pitchers from the same team and is, according to a team statement, having trouble even walking given a very swollen knee.

Over this season, despite VMart’s ability to stay healthy over the winter, we’ve seen him noticeably decline on the basepaths. We’ve learned that his knees are once again bothering him more since the end of last month which helps explain the sudden decline in his stats. His BA has dropped over a 100 pts. and his OPS over 300 pts.

Since his first plunking, he’s hitting a jaw-dropping .118 and a measly .404 OPS. Teams know he’s hurting so why keep him batting #4 when JD Martinez currently would make for a more challenging cleanup hitter? An MLB program identified JD this week as one of the top 5 most productive hitters since the All-Star break, hitting .365 with an astounding 1.035 OPS.

Arguments can also be made for other hitters to take the #4 slot. The point is that VMart is not currently capable of that role and one of the reasons why the Tigers have an increase in poor RISP numbers and a problem scoring since late August. This is starting to resemble the issues the Tigers had with him early last year and required Mr. I to step in to help facilitate change.

If the Tigers want to play for that wild card spot, they need to update their lineup strategy that reflects today’s changes. With Victor out of the lineup on Tuesday, they moved JD into his former spot and it turned out well. But when Victor is able to return, he needs to be dropped in the batting order.

However, is Brad capable of telling his strong-minded veteran that he’s changing his role? That will be telling of both men.

But should the Tigers find themselves on the outside looking in at some point this month, then it’s time to start using your 40-man roster as it was intended. Depth for injuries and for teams to start to get a closer look at their promising rookies.

Tyler Collins, Stephen Moya and JaCoby Jones could all use more experience in advance of next year. And quite frankly, it would serve the team well to showcase some players for the trades that need to happen this winter. Especially since the farm system remains tapped and maxed-out payroll is unlikely to bail out the team with new free agents.

INDIANS MAY HAVE POKED THE BEAR

By:  Kurt Snyder

Now that the Tigers have left Cleveland having salvaged one game from the Indians over the weekend; looking back, I feel we did a decent job taking a few more jabs at our manager, which were very much deserved by the way.

We had hoped the Tigers would have really cranked up their aggression and taken September by storm. Desperation needed to become a part of their baseball vocabulary. But the Tigers crawled into Cleveland more than likely a disappointed and disheartened crew having split with the Twins and losing a 3-game series to the Orioles at home.

And as you know, the slumber continued in Cleveland. The Indians clowned and embarrassed the Tigers in Game 1 and Game 2 saw the Tigers once again waste yet another JV gem. A sweep was in the offing.

Surely Cleveland, with all the momentum behind them would all but finish the Tigers off on Sunday, a sweep that would have taken even more starch out of any playoff hopes.

But Cleveland may have done something few recommend. What do they say about sleeping dogs? You let sleeping dogs lie. And the Tigers have been those dogs all month, until Sunday, that is.

The Indians may have woken them up. Trevor Bauer, a Cleveland pitcher who won’t win many good character awards, beaned 3 Tiger stars, rendering 2 of them unable to play to start the series in Minnesota. Out went Kinsler with a concussion after being beaned in the head and out went VMart with yet another shot to his right knee.

But Bauer also hit Miggy, the dog you never want to wake up. After everything had calmed down on Sunday, Miggy was visibly steamed at what had transpired. After Bauer walked him, Cabrera glared at him as he sauntered to first base. And you know what? I loved it.

Miggy went on to run through a Dave Clark stop sign at third base, scoring another run for the Tigers and he started the Minnesota series on Tuesday night, doubling and then tagging from second after advancing to third on a ball that didn’t look deep enough for him to try it.

Then on a ground ball to third, Miggy took off after the throw towards first, scoring the second run for Detroit. They were two ill-advised actions on the base paths for someone relatively slow afoot, and surely not endorsed or ordered by Dave Clark. He later followed all that up with a line drive into the seats in left.

Miggy now appears on a mission. The Indian antics may have changed the whole dynamic inside the Tiger dugout. After all, they needed to find fire somewhere.  And Miggy has that look about him now as a result. That’s never good news for any pitcher. He doesn’t need any help. He doesn’t need any extra motivation.

Cabrera is spending rare time in the Tiger lineup in the month of September. Injuries have kept him from competing at a level that he expects at the end of the last couple seasons. So the Tigers do have the luxury of having their franchise player available to carry them to the finish line if he chooses to accept the challenge.

The Indians played a bunch of games with the Tigers on Sunday; dangerous games, quite literally dangerous in the case of Kinsler. It’s up to you to determine if any of those beanings were intentional. Cleveland and Bauer would never admit it if they were.

Regardless, we will see if Sunday’s game has lit a fire under the home team. You don’t poke a bear with a stick and you leave a sleeping dog alone. But thanks to the Indians, the bear has been poked and the dogs are now awake.

One game in Cleveland, the only game they won, may have given the Tigers plenty of incentive to motor through Minnesota and get back home. Miggy and the boys, now more than ever, can’t wait for 4 more cracks at the Indians, a team that may have made a big, big mistake.

TWO TIMES TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

It’s Tuesday, so two topics will be tackled by our writers. With the season closing in on its final weeks, Totally Tigers will open up another managerial discussion.

Remember, Kurt and Holly do not share their answers. So, it will be interesting to see the range of perspectives. So let’s get on with it.


Did Sunday’s complete lack of support for his players spell the end of Brad?

HOLLY

How important Brad’s inaction was on the part of protecting his players from being hit is going to depend upon a couple of factors.  First of all, winning cures everything so if the Tigers get into the playoffs, it may just save him.

But his failure to protect his players may have impact only if Mr. I. and Al Avila consider factors other than standings and stats.  The intangibles are at least equal to talent when it comes to winning and Brad did not show a level of leadership common to managers.  Would Jim Leyland have sat there and said nothing to the umps?  No matter what you think about JL, he always had his players’ backs and wouldn’t have tolerated multiple hits.

On the other hand, if someone went after $60 million of my assets (just this year’s totals) with the intent to take them out, I’d be pretty mad if my employee allowed the investment to be damaged and would want someone else guarding it more carefully.

Will the owner and GM connect the dots between this year’s inconsistent play and a manager who hesitates in getting involved with motivating/interacting/supporting his players?  Only if they see that successful managing has multiple layers of both tangible and intangible skills.  Dave Dombrowski, from what we see now, didn’t dig much below the physical talents so we’ll see if Avila values character traits more.

KURT

Earlier in the season, Brad put on a show arguing with the home plate umpire, taking off his sweatshirt and draping it over home plate. It was an extravaganza his players publicly endorsed, talking openly about how good it felt to know they have a manager that will fight for them.  But it’s now blatantly obvious that the whole display was a fraud.

Sunday was about instincts; something that should kick in while watching 3 of your best players at risk at the plate. How on earth didn’t Brad lose his mind? How could he not be enraged by what was going on?

The Detroit media hasn’t gone near this, when in fact they needed to pound on Al Avila’s door and ask him where Brad’s fire is, or better yet, ask him if the medical staff has checked his pulse.

As you know, Avila has shown unwavering support for Brad once again this season. So, even now I don’t expect him to feel differently about the leader of his team who possesses no passion, no backbone and thus, no future.


What could save Brad’s job or have injuries already saved it?

HOLLY

The Tigers are a team that hasn’t fired anyone in years.  GMs are “released from their contract to pursue new opportunities”, managers and coaches “retire” and become special assistants and the scouts, development directors, medical and training staff haven’t changed in over 15 years.

Based upon their pattern, I don’t see the Tigers actually firing Brad – maybe “reassigning” him as a worse-case scenario.  Don’t forget – this organization has the largest collection of former managers which currently totals 6.  But keeping him will ultimately depend upon winning and the level of Mr. I’s patience.

Injuries will certainly be part of the rationale for whatever the Tigers decide.  Their goal has always been to downplay and smother any hints of negativity or rumor by offering factors beyond the manager’s control.  And then it is known that GMs are hesitant to change managers because it then removes that layer of accountability and places it directly upon the GM’s performance going forward.

Winning cures all, even if the Tigers finish the year above .500 because the team will spin it and say he improved the team from last to second place.  But the biggest factor in saving him comes from outside the organization – the lack of qualified candidates.  At least until late October.

KURT

Look, this Chapter of Brad has already been written. After finishing in last place in 2015, injuries saved his job.  According to Avila, he deserved another shot.  Dave Dombrowski bailed Brad out by bringing in 3 stud pitchers who served as his swan song before he left town.

More Tiger injuries made it necessary for these 3 pitchers to jump into the fray right away, and they have not disappointed. Fulmer, Boyd and Norris have helped keep the starting rotation afloat.

Brad will certainly get credit for their success. Brad will certainly get credit for keeping the Tigers in the race despite all of their injuries.  A playoff appearance would only put icing on the cake.  It’s a cake that would be hard to swallow.

 

TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER

By:  Holly Horning

I kept changing my blog topic all day Sunday. And just when I had selected the best topic that would address the most current issues, I had to change it again. All because of yesterday’s game.

I’ll admit that I’m very surprised I avoided hospitalization because I was about to burst a major artery. I haven’t been this mad in a long time. And poor Kurt was subjected to my text rants most of the afternoon. I think he ended up having to change his phone number to an unlisted one.

Yesterday’s game was one hot mess even if you take the final score out of the equation. Injuries, grudges, hit batters, “meet me behind the dugout” dialogs between players – and an AWOL manager.

In case you didn’t watch the game, let’s backtrack to Saturday night’s game when Indians’ pitcher, Carlos Carrasco had his hand broken by a line drive off the bat of Ian Kinsler. He is presumed to be out for the rest of the year. Carrasco was considered to be a major force for the team and essential to their post-season playoffs.

Fast forward to Sunday and it appears that Cleveland was still upset over their loss despite the injury being accidental. In the first inning, Indians starter, Trevor Bauer caught a come-backer to the mound off his shin. And he looked really ticked.

He then hit the very next batter, Miggy, on the hand. Coincidence? Rather symbolic considering what happened to Carrasco the night before.

Just in case the Tigers weren’t sure, Bauer then hit Ian Kinsler in the head as he came to bat in the top of the third. It was obvious he meant to send a purpose pitch, just not aimed at his head. Afterall, Ian was the guy who sent the line drive back to Carrasco on Saturday. Truly terrifying moments and quite frankly, even though Ian stayed in the game, complications cannot yet be ruled out.

Third inning, two hit Tigers and both dugouts chirping at each other. The only people not expressing their displeasure were the umpires who issued no warnings. And Brad Ausmus.

But at the end of the third, Bauer hadn’t had his fill and proceeded to hit VMart in the knee (the second time in this series) where he knew he could inflict maximum pain. I was watching a non-FSD broadcast and the announcers couldn’t believe that Bauer had not been thrown out of the game after hitting Kinsler.

He was systematically picking off Tigers one by one. Still no warnings by the umps. Still no protests by Brad who sat there spitting seeds.

Instead, it was Kinsler, walking home from third base, who got angry and directed his comments to Bauer – and also to the umps. The broadcasters, Cal Ripken and Ron Darling, both said he was right to do so and wondered why no one in charge came to support him.

Yet, still no umpires issuing warnings. And still no Brad.

In the bottom of the inning, Daniel Norris did what was expected. He threw behind the first batter’s back. And as proof that life is stranger than fiction, the home plate umpire then issued a warning. Really? Three hit batters and a history didn’t do it but a warning shot did?

Miggy was seen just shaking his head in disbelief. Even an interview with Wally Joyner mentioned how Trevor Bauer never received a single reprimand after hitting each Tiger. Where’s Brad?

And in the fifth, we learned that Kinsler had left the game. Everyone assumed that his injury had forced him to exit. But then we learned it was because the umps had thrown him out for arguing that Bauer needed to be tossed.

Still no Brad.

And once again, we have another game where Ausmus sat in the dugout and allowed his best players to get thrown out of games. A game that the Tigers needed to win with one of their top players in the lineup.

Some fans have wondered why the Tigers get little respect. This is one reason why. When you don’t draw a clear line and when you allow others to take advantage of you, you send a message about what you are willing to accept. You send a message about how others may treat you.

But an even bigger message sent yesterday is that the Tigers lack a true leader. It should be the manager. What other skippers out there would watch 3 of their most important players get hit within an inning and a half and not even lodge a complaint with the umpires? In Brad’s case, he didn’t even leave the dugout when his players were arguing their cases.

If your manager is unwilling to fight for you, are we surprised that there is little fight in this team more often than not?

If your manager doesn’t have your back, how likely are you to approach each game with a “must win” attitude?

If your manager isn’t willing to fight for you, what kind of message does this sent to players about fighting for the playoffs?

We shouldn’t be surprised that the Tigers have been so inconsistent this year or underperformed for the past couple years despite all this talent. When you don’t have a leader, this is what happens.