FORUM FOR FRIDAY

microphoneHappy Friday! It’s time again to head into the weekend hearing from our readers.   You have the rest of the week to hear from Kurt and Holly, today is the day to let them know what you’re thinking on a selected topic.

Friday is the one day of the week where we open up the comment parameters for you, so you can get those juices flowing.

Comments on THIS DAY ONLY can be expanded to a maximum of 8 sentences.

We can’t wait to get your thoughts on the following topic.  Really!  We can’t.


Ron Gardenhire has been named the new manager of the Tigers.  How do you feel about the hire?  Was it a good move?  Explain.


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THE TIES THAT BIND

By:  Kurt Snyder

“Growth in the analytics area is key in our goal of making sound, informed baseball decisions both when evaluating players, and in providing data to the big-league players, manager and his coaching staff,” he said in a statement. “The additions in scouting are important for us in our search for impact type players to bring into our organization.” – Al Avila


It certainly sounds good. Analytics has been an area that’s been the absolute emphasis for teams having the most success. And even the Tigers have made some moves to begin building an actual department. Imagine that.

But questionable moves have been made with the scouting department. Two seasoned vets, maybe too seasoned, have been added. And just to keep the home fires burning, Don Kelly has been added to the mix.  Why? Well, Leyland and Avila know him and they like him.  So, hey, just as long as everyone is comfortable, right?

The Kelly-type moves are what make all of us nervous when it comes to the ongoing managerial search. The Tigers surround themselves with comfort. Leyland stays because well he’s an organizational mainstay. Gene Lamont stays because Leyland likes his friends to stick around. And Al Avila signs up for all of that because he likes the comfort zone as well, and anything suggested by Leyland will be strongly considered, if not implemented.

Dave Dombrowski fostered that comfort-zone of thinking. Leyland stayed an awful long time because of Dombrowski’s loyalty and the comfort of knowing that Jim had won for him a thousand years ago in Florida.

But does it stop there? Nope. Dombrowski was allowed 14 years to find that magical combination. The Ilitch family loyalty shown to Dombrowski and Leyland together, for so long, was perhaps the deep roots that kept the franchise from evolving.

It was old-time baseball ideology during a time when more progressive philosophies were beginning to emerge as keys to real success. And who stood in the wings being groomed under that Ilitch-Dombrowski-Leyland ideology? The one. The only. Al Avila.

The organization’s biggest challenge, their biggest adversary, continues to be themselves, mainly because of who remains making the decisions. It is still an Ilitch ownership. Al Avila is still around to make the critical decisions, while Leyland is still there to advise him.

Consequently, don’t think that the managerial search will go beyond Ron Gardenhire, a close Leyland friend and Fredi Gonzalez, a long-standing tie to Avila. If you disagree and think the Tigers will finally forge a new path, I hope you’re right. But I don’t have that kind of confidence.

There are 2 men who would represent a new direction towards a more progressive managerial approach; men who have been exposed to success through analytics and more strategic thinking. They are Alex Cora and Dave Martinez. These are the guys I favor in moving the Tigers in the right direction; perfect for a team in transition.

Cora has been immersed within a Houston organization considered to be one of the more progressive in baseball.

Martinez has been standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Joe Maddon for the last 10 years, a manager who screams creativity and performs under the guidance of Theo Epstein, who took 2 title-starved franchises, the Red Sox and Cubs, to World Championships.

Under Epstein in Chicago, pillars of the organization were unearthed and rebuilt to foster concepts of modern-day, analytical and eventually championship baseball.

These are the organizations the Tigers should be benchmarking. And don’t forget the Dodgers, a team that had all the star power in the world, but couldn’t win until they changed their philosophy. And the Yankees? Well, we are painfully aware of their current playoff success and a future that is maybe the brightest in baseball.

So, where will the Tigers head? Don’t expect good news here today. I am convinced they will make sure they stay good and comfortable when this search is over.

I only hope I’m wrong.


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THE FINAL ANALYSIS – THE 2 A’S

By:  Holly Horning

Let’s continue the multi-part analysis about why the Tigers were unable to achieve their ultimate goal for over a decade. There are lots of moving parts, with some of them having greater impact than others.

If you didn’t read the intro and the first 3 installments of this series, catch them here:

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/10/03/previews-reviews-interviews/

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/10/07/the-final-analysis-the-individuals/

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/10/10/the-final-analysis-the-groups/

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/10/14/the-final-analysis-the-priorities/


Today, we’re going to cover 2 of the biggest factors. Let’s file them under “A” for…..

ANCIENT

It’s interesting that despite different owners over the decades, the trend of the Tigers being among the very last to adopt the most important trends has remained a constant. The second-to-last team to integrate a full 11 years after the first. The last team to start using computers. Among the very last to include analytics and a correlating software program. Also near the bottom of MLB in developing a manual on the standard of play.

And the pattern of behavior carries out into the field as well. The continued failure to see the rise in importance of the bullpen for over a decade. The dependence upon using starting pitchers as long as possible and into the dreaded third go-around into the batting lineup when stats show this is where teams can lose games. Ignoring the importance of the defensive game and how it saves games. The list goes on.

This has been a team that historically is always the last to change. They are a reluctantly reactive team, rather than a proactive one. And teams that are slow to change are often those actually afraid of it. But is the failure to heed the lessons of adapt-or-die the result of the same established group in charge, the lack of knowledge, resources and even leadership? Or it is the result of all of them?

And now this failure to address the future has left the team significantly behind as they attempt to rebuild. How long will it take them to catch up? How long of a rebuild will this actually be?

ANALYTICS

Before we can even discuss this aspect that is now a major contributor to the sport, we need to understand what analytics is – and what it isn’t.

It’s not just number-crunching. It is not a system that ignores the expert eye or the human element. It is not a computer named Hal that takes over from an organization or a manager. It is also not a system that reduces the manager to sitting in a dugout tapping at his keyboard instead of looking at the field.

Analytics is an extremely thorough collection of data from a variety of mediums – scouts, coaches, historical data, trends, numbers, video and an assorted collection of stats that are correlated to performance. All of this is run through supercomputers and then shared among the Front Office so they can discover which potential players will fit their needs the best. It is shared among the manager and his coaches so they can determine lineups and in-game strategies. And it is shared with the players who use it to enhance their performance and help them develop a strategy about how to pitch to a batter or where to stand in the field.

And any member of that organization can request the analytics department to run a program that is specific to what they want to learn, correct or enhance. Which brings us to…..

Justin Verlander.

We all know Justin has had the tools but didn’t have the success with the Tigers that correctly reflected his effort or potential. Now with the Astros – a team that has the best analytics in MLB – he is 8-0 with a miniscule ERA. Coincidence? Think he simply went to a team that gave him run support? Of course not.

Reporters are now doing stories on JV’s move to Houston. Interviews with him describe a system where he felt like a “kid in a candy store” when presented with what the analytics department could do for him. Their reports helped him add another highly-effective pitch to his arsenal – all in less than 2 weeks. They had a super high-speed camera that showed him every frame of his pitching form and that is where he saw how his grip could be improved to turn his forgotten slider into a highly nasty one. He spends days preparing for each start with all sorts of info he custom-orders from the analytics department.

And within these stories are quotes from an “anonymous” former Tigers pitching coach who said they were forbidden to use analytics in their work. A long-term manager who refused to use the tool or even look at any info given to him. And a former GM who didn’t believe in it. Let me now also refer you back to the ANCIENT category above.

This is what analytics can do for you if you have it. It is also a cautionary tale about how your current talent is not fully utilized or effective when you can’t offer them what other teams are giving theirs. And a warning about how seriously compromised your team becomes when they don’t have the tools everyone else does.

On Sunday, we’ll continue the analysis as we talk strategies, money and the intangibles.


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TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Amidst all the changes with the Tigers, there is one constant. Miguel Cabrera is still a Tiger.  But, after coming off the worst year of his career, news has come out about more issues with Miggy’s personal life. Our writers have agreed to tackle this topic for analysis.

As is the norm, Holly and Kurt have not shared their responses to today’s topic. It’s the best way for our readers to get the best bang for their buck. So here is our question to address.


Are the reports of a paternity suit against Miguel Cabrera newsworthy to his career or should we file this info under “personal life”? Should the Tigers be concerned?

(To facilitate meaningful and user-friendly dialog, we ask that comments be focused on the impact as it pertains to baseball and not on opinions based on either party’s character as it pertains to their private lives.)


HOLLY

I’m sure the midnight oil is burning over at Comerica’s Media/Communications/PR departments as well as those within the legal offices.

Given the extensive evidence, we also know that many within the Tigers’ executive offices, as well as those within the clubhouse, knew about Miggy’s messy personal life – and hoped it wouldn’t see the light of day – or a courtroom.

It is so very upsetting to once again see an unattractive side of Cabrera coming out in public. The 2009-2011 time period of very unacceptable behavior gave us great cause for concern and the past 6 years of calm lulled us into thinking that Miggy had righted his ship and expelled his demons.

But now we know that is not the case and it’s made even worse because, unlike the previous rocky stretch, he has failed to perform on the field. (Insert your own joke here.) And his salary will climb once again in 2018.

Fans were willing to forgive him 6 years ago because he was hitting .344 and had an OPS of 1.033 but 2017 was his worst year ever and many are now understandably thinking that his messy personal life contributed to it. And these same people probably believe that if Miggy had his life in order, his numbers would have been better and he might have helped mitigate the sell-off of some players.

It’s one thing when you are a top performer – it’s another when you aren’t. This time, Cabrera may not be able to dig himself out of another bad PR hole.

His inability to successfully manage his personal life will create significant problems for the Tigers. First, the PR nightmare in which they are undoubtedly fielding thousands of calls and emails from upset fans. The Tigers will be mopping up the mess for much of 2018 and potentially beyond. Like they don’t have enough to do.

And during a time when the Tigers are pushing 2018 ticket sales.

It’s hard enough to sell season packages when you finish in last place and some of the fan-favorite players have been traded. But it’s another when your remaining face of the team has flushed himself down the dumper.

The Tigers now are effectively without a franchise face – the player who drives the turnstiles and marketing sales. Justin Verlander is gone so who are the Tigers going to use in hawking their product? Michael Fulmer who is still young and unproven while also recovering from surgery or Nick Castellanos? This is bad, folks.

I don’t know which is more upsetting – the reality and disappointment in learning that Miggy has not successfully corrected his personal life and allowed it to impact his career once again – or that the Tigers will now be faced with much lower-than-expected attendance figures for 2018. The latter which will also impact the financial decisions pertaining to the rest of their roster.


KURT

Let me tell you something. If your franchise player is coming off the worst year of his career, issues with his personal life are worthy for discussion.

If your franchise player is being compensated with a $30M a year salary, issues with his personal life, unfortunately become our business.

First of all, it’s nearly impossible to keep things personal when you are a high-profile celebrity. Eventually, whatever you are dealing with is going to come out. Eventually, when the public and the media are puzzled over what could be compromising your play other than an injury, you can find out with enough digging; or things simply become part of the public record.

Nothing stays a secret very long. And yes, the Tigers should be concerned. Cabrera hasn’t exactly been living a clean life. The Tigers weathered the storm of his drinking issues years ago and Miggy effectively put it aside and resumed his career with a fury.

Also, people not only speculated but seemed certain that Miggy’s issues at the plate this past season were all tied to his family struggles amidst the political unrest in his homeland of Venezuela. I even wrote a blog on how poorly I felt that I had criticized him at all, given what he was dealing with in his personal life; fearing for the life of his mother.

Of course, the back wasn’t helping him physically, but mentally and emotionally, who are we to question whether the issues in Venezuela were contributing to his poor play?
It’s great that Jose Altuve could have an MVP season despite the problems back home, but people deal with things differently. Some can put things aside and others can’t.

Which is where the concern should lie with the Tigers. Miggy has been so mentally strong his whole career. But maybe there are exceptions and the cracks open for him when he is dealing with personal issues.

Whether it is a drinking incident, family endangerment back home or an unforeseen paternity suit, these are all personal battles. And they are all worthy issues that could be, or are, impacting his ability to focus on his baseball obligations with the Tigers.

No wonder he’s having back issues, with all the baggage he has been carrying around over the last year.


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JV DOING US PROUD

By:  Kurt Snyder

I’m sure you have read many stories over the weekend describing the wonders of Justin Verlander and his incredible dominance of the Yankees on Saturday night.

But from a Tiger fan perspective; there is an angle not yet covered. And it’s all about pride.

What Verlander is doing in Houston since the day he stepped out of a Tiger uniform has been nothing more than, well … expected. Yeah, that’s right.

Expected.

Is it unbelievable? Nope. Is it surprising? Not by any means.

We know first-hand what it’s been like to watch JV. We’ve been watching him baffle hitters forever. Since he walked into Houston, it was just the next chapter, the next opportunity to remind the baseball world that he’s not slowing down anytime soon. He is still one of the most dominating pitchers in the game.

Watching him Saturday in his finest hour of the season was strange amidst all the electricity. Why was it strange? Well, it was because I was no less a fan of him pitching for another team than I was when he was wearing the Old English D. Usually when players leave your team, they take our allegiance with them.

But it is so not the case with JV. There is no other team I want to see win it all than the Houston Astros. They have been good all year. But they were short one very important piece. They needed a starting pitcher. And Houston must shudder at the thought of how close they came to not acquiring him. Justin Verlander has supercharged the Astros.

Go ahead and list them. The difference maker. The X factor. The missing link. They all apply.

Don’t you get the feeling that Justin will not allow the Astros to miss this opportunity? This is his moment. He knows that realistically, even as successful as he has been, still, late in his career, the decline is inevitable.

But it’s not here, yet. And he’s on his best team. Sorry 2006 Tigers. Sorry 2012 Tigers. JV is indeed on his best team and he knows it. Does anyone have a dispute with that?

When it comes down to it, I could not be happier for him and the opportunity he has been given. Yep, that’s right. I am rooting for a man who has everything, to be granted even more.

This is a guy who has worked so incredibly hard. He fought through his down years and injuries when all thought his best was in the rear-view mirror. He promised future dominance. He talked about how close he was to being back. And we doubted him. He was just another aging athlete looking to find it again, unwilling to come to grips with the end of his career; so it seemed.

We have seen it all before. But none of this applies to JV. There is a long line of players and athletes we have been blessed to have witnessed during our generation. And Justin Verlander is on that list.

And now that he is leading the charge in Houston, I have no ill will. I do wish he could have realized that championship goal in Detroit. It’s all we ever wanted.  It’s all he ever wanted. But this is the next best thing for him.

There will be no excuses in Houston. Over the years, the Tigers had roster obstacles to overcome heading into the post-season; areas of the club we hoped would not stand in the way.  All wishful thinking, of course.

Without Verlander, the Astros had a weakness. With him, they don’t. He has helped to form a dominant 1-2 punch which is lethal to have to deal with in a 7-game series.

Justin Verlander, regardless of uniform, sent shivers down my spine on Saturday, with each demoralizing swing and miss by clueless Yankees. It was a feeling of immense pride. Something I have never felt for an ex-Tiger.

That is until JV pitches again.


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THE FINAL ANALYSIS – THE PRIORITIES

By:  Holly Horning

Today, we continue the multi-part analysis of why the Tigers were unable to achieve their ultimate goal for over a decade. As goes for most things in life, it’s never due to one reason, one person or one decision. Very simply, it’s complicated.

If you didn’t read the intro and the first 2 installments of this series, catch them here at:

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/10/03/previews-reviews-interviews/

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/10/07/the-final-analysis-the-individuals/

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/10/10/the-final-analysis-the-groups/

As with everything in business, priorities dictate the direction of an organization and it’s the owner who decides them. But don’t assume that those in charge are going to disclose every priority. Transparency can be a tricky thing.

Now that Mr. I has left us, and Chris is in charge, the priorities have changed. Unfortunately, the younger Ilitch has yet to speak publicly about his direction going forward with the Tigers. From reports, we know that he was in charge briefly back in 2013 and then again from 2016 until today. But let’s focus on those years when his father was making the decisions.


Let’s address the known – and unknown – priorities that dictated the path of this team.

THE RING

It’s well-known that Mr. I wanted that World Series ring. The ultimate goal. The ultimate trophy. And as he got older, he realized that he needed to make up for lost time. Thrifty habits and weak personnel decisions gave way to open wallets and the hiring of a GM Golden Boy.

Rather than develop a long-term thoughtful plan of building a contender, Mr. I fast-tracked a strategy that ignored developing from within and opted for bringing in established talent from elsewhere. And in many cases, it was big talent for big bucks.

And it worked – to a certain extent. Sure, there were some duds, but the Tigers got markedly better due to his willingness to spend. The only problem was that he was collecting pieces – players from a variety of other organizations who all had different perspectives and training and were thrown together suddenly with other athletes. Pieces that didn’t necessarily all fit together.

And Mr. I ignored the historical data showing that larger payrolls weren’t more successful at building World Series winners. On average, the team that wins the World Series has the 8th largest payroll, not one of the top 1 or 2.

MARKETING – FILLING THE SEATS

This is the category where the Tigers really shine and the priority placed on this endeavor is the one that the Tigers don’t advertise to fans. And for obvious reasons.

Let’s start off with Comerica Park. A ballpark developed in size to sit at the top alongside several other AL Central fields. A park with seating that eerily parallels the other new parks within their division. A park that since the end of 2006 (ding! ding! ding!) has been adding extra seating – and more expensive seating – to the venue at a small but regular clip.

And then there is the park itself. Despite the size (average when compared to the rest of the parks around the country), the dimensions of the park are among the largest. Even with the infamous bringing in of the outfield walls. To this day, the CF distance ranks as MLB’s largest expense of grass. And it is a park that is built for the speedy and defensive wizards.

Which brings us to that eternal debate about why such a large park is mismatched to the slow, lumbering and defensively-challenged players the Tigers have signed to play in it? And again, marketing rears its head.

Studies have shown that teams with “sexy” players – power pitchers and HR hitters – attract more fans. Teams filled with guys who have speed and solid defensive skills – even the “small ball” guys – don’t sell as many tickets. It’s hard to get excited over a runner going from 1st to 3rd or making a double play when most would rather see them launch one into the seats. This is a marketing plan made for the masses, not for the smaller percentage of fans who are knowledgeable and appreciative of the level of skills.

It appears the Tigers wanted their cake – and to eat it, too.

But the actions to sign stars to expensive contracts set off a chain reaction. When payroll skyrockets, you better have a plan to pay for it all. And ideally, you get the fans to pick up the lion’s share.

And you do that by marketing the heck out of your team. A plan to put as many fannies in the seats as you can. And a plan to attract the non-fan (can you say amusement park?), the casual fan and the ones who can reel off the starting lineup and players’ stats.

And you keep the fans coming by controlling the message. By giving out positive stories to the newspapers. But cutting off access to the media members who don’t fall into place. And by keeping a vigilant eye on the social media threads and spinning negative stories into gold before the sun goes down.

And finally, by understanding that the seats continue to stay filled when you promise the fans big stars. New stars. Even if it means a yearly flashy signing. From the Pudges to the Miggys to the Prices to the Princes and finally the Uptons. A big new shiny toy every year keeps the fans happy and spinning those turnstiles.

And signing a big, expensive star, rather than building a decent bullpen, always wins as a result. The masses don’t get excited over a 7th or 8th inning guy. They’d rather see the slugger.

And the Tigers clearly won the attendance race (minus one new stadium opening) in their division every year for a decade as a result. Too bad they don’t give trophies for that.

On Wednesday, we’ll continue the analysis as we talk strategies, money and the intangibles.


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QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, KUDOS & CONCERNS

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

October baseball is living up to its billing as ex-Tigers have been impacting games, both positively and negatively. So, there is plenty to talk about, of course.

Saturday’s segment is a day to touch on as many issues as possible. Let’s see what Kurt and Holly have on their minds this week. They don’t share their Saturday topics and it’s only for the readers’ benefit. So expect a wide array of thoughts.


 KURT

CONCERN

Leave our game alone; quit messing with it! When a baserunner is at risk of being picked off or called out when his foot comes off the bag for half a second, we have a rule to change. Once again, the sanctity of the game is being affected, and it has cost a team a shot at advancing in the playoffs; it took 2 angles placed side by side to determine that the tag and the foot off the bag were taking place simultaneously and that ain’t right.

COMMENT

It looks like MLB teams now have a reason to add another position to their executive staffs. Without rehashing the dreaded 5th inning in Washington on Thursday night (you’re welcome, Max), it appears teams need to have their own rules official so they can quickly site rules on the spot when umpires are falsely making their own judgements and casting the book aside. Washington and Mr. Scherzer got shafted my friends; I hope the Cubs know how fortunate they are that rules were not properly enforced during Game 5.

QUESTION

What topic is more compelling, the Tigers search for a new manager or Dave Dombrowski’s search in Boston? Just for entertainment purposes alone, I hope the Red Sox hire Ausmus, even though I would fear for Brad’s sanity when having to face the blood thirsty fans and media in Beantown. I still find it very hard to understand how Dombrowski would still consider him, given his failed experience in Detroit; this goes far beyond Brad’s numbers and is centered squarely on a man who commands very little respect.


HOLLY

COMMENT

The Tigers’ Communications staff has been the hardest-working department in the entire organization with their constant stories about why Miggy wasn’t performing this year. Before his back injuries came to light, they flooded the media with stories about Cabrera’s mother and the strife in Venezuela to generate sympathy and quell the growing public concerns. I am reminded of this concerted effort while I watched Miggy’s best friend, Jose Altuve, who is also from Miggy’s hometown, having his best year ever, hitting 3 HRs in one playoff game and is in the running for AL MVP – and who never once mentioned or was asked about his homeland problems.

COMMENT

Several in the media have mentioned that Dave Dombrowski has only hired 1 solid manager (Jim Leyland) in his entire career. And now he is faced with having waited too long to fire John Farrell and, in the process, losing the highly favored Torey Lovullo who took his new team to the playoffs this year. How interested he may become in Brad Ausmus will tell us a lot about how Dave now views his managerial decision in Detroit – that is, unless Boston’s most highly-paid player, David Price, weighs in with his less-than-favorable opinion.

KUDOS

I dislike them with every fiber of my being, but you gotta admire the way the Yankees did their NY-minute rebuild in less than a year. They ripped that band-aid off and made bold decisions about releasing players, cutting payroll and not being timid about remaking the roster. Let’s hope that Al Avila learns from their moves and finally gets inspired to pull the trigger and make tougher and bigger decisions in a more timely fashion.

FORUM FOR FRIDAY

microphoneHappy Friday! It’s time again to head into the weekend hearing from our readers.   You have the rest of the week to hear from Kurt and Holly, today is the day to let them know what you’re thinking on a selected topic.

Friday is the one day of the week where we open up the comment parameters for you, so you can get those juices flowing.

Comments on THIS DAY ONLY can be expanded to a maximum of 8 sentences.

We can’t wait to get your thoughts on the following topic.


You’re the GM.  There are 2 characteristics important to you for the Tigers’ next manager.  What are they and do you see a candidate out there with those qualities? 


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NOT JUST ANY WILL DO

By:  Kurt Snyder

Are there playoff managers (eliminated or not) the Tigers wouldn’t want?

Is this a dumb question? These are all playoff teams, right? Well, believe it or not, there are even managers in the playoffs I am not so sure would be candidates for the Tigers vacant position if they were to become available.

Despite their successes, Detroit should stay away from a few of them, hypothetically speaking. The Tigers, after all, will have already decided on a manager before the end of the World Series.   But let’s have a little fun and take a look.


JOHN FARRELL

They have already made it known that the just-fired John Farrell is not a candidate.

Why?

Well, he’s got some issues worthy of making the Tigers frightened. Communication problems. Issues with not standing up for his players. Some disrespecting him. Haven’t we had enough of that here? Hand it to Al for coming out right away and putting that notion to bed.

On the other hand, keep in mind that John Farrell is still a World Champion, and we will never discount that most coveted accomplishment.


DUSTY BAKER

So, who’s next? Well, it’s been the story of the week in the National League. Even as I watched the Nationals shock all of Chicago with a big grand slam in the 8th inning yesterday, the first home run off the Cubs’ Wade Davis all season, it didn’t distract me from all the drama over whether-or-not the Nats would pitch a sick Stephen Strasburg in the win-or-go-home, Game 4.

All joking aside, I don’t think Dusty Baker was challenged much this season. I have read so many interesting comments about him in Twitter Land over this whole, ‘will he pitch or won’t he’ circus, it makes you wonder where Dusty’s head was at.

One comment suggested that Baker is a good manager as long as he never has to make a decision. Another comment was more logical. All the histrionics could have been avoided if Dusty would have simply announced that if Strasburg is well enough, he would pitch Game 4. And if not, it would be Tanner Roark. Period. Why did he make this so hard?

Give Washington credit though; Dusty has stabilized things in Washington. They have weathered the early storm in this series with the Cubs and have a tremendous opportunity to get to the NLCS. Sorry, Dusty, just couldn’t help it.


JOE GIRARDI

You want another? Well, ok.  I think Joe Girardi will from now until eternity, when given the choice during the playoffs, always challenge versus not, when given the opportunity to use instant replay.

His excuse about being a former catcher and not wanting to risk jeopardizing the rhythm of his pitcher was downright Ausmus-like. We had 4 years of that critical thinking. So, sorry, Joe, as good as you have been, you scare me. “I screwed up” was a much better answer.


AND EVERYONE ELSE?

As far as the rest of the managers? None of them are perfect. But they are the cream of the crop. All these teams are loaded with talent of course. They are playoff teams! But without that leader, without that manager who keeps pushing them, and motivating them to reach their absolute highest potential, talent isn’t enough.

I have picked on a few. I had too! It’s fun! How can I ignore some of the antics that have gone on over the last week? But frankly though? I can’t reasonably suggest that these 1 or 2 examples define what have been very successful seasons for these managers and their ballclubs. That just wouldn’t be fair.

But while we wait on the Tigers’ decision, it’s fun to look at some of these guys and wonder who would be best for Detroit during a rebuild. Not all of them are candidates for rebuilding jobs.

Going forward, I am sure many of you will be like me for the next few weeks. While we wonder what the Tigers will do, aren’t you waiting with bated breath to see what Dave Dombrowski will do in Boston with his vacant managerial position?

Would he dare hire you-know-who?


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THE FINAL ANALYSIS – THE GROUPS

By:  Holly Horning

Last week, we started the process of dissecting the past decade of the Tigers. A way of giving us closure as well as identifying the factors that prevented the team from winning it all despite the immense talent.

The first blog identified the individuals coupled with some examples of their actions. If you didn’t catch it last week, shame on you. Here’s your chance for redemption: https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/10/07/the-final-analysis-the-individuals/

Today, we’ll continue the journey by looking at some of the groups, or departments, that contributed to the missed opportunities.


THE STRUCTURE

The first thing you notice when you look at how the Tigers’ organization is structured, is the traditional hierarchy most teams had a decade ago. The power is concentrated among a handful of people who oversee multiple areas of the organization. The Executive Office is rather skimpy compared with other teams – roughly half the size of the majority of other organizations. Al Avila holds 2 full-time positions (VP Baseball Operations and GM) instead of the typical separation seen with other teams – President (not VP) of Baseball Operations with a different individual as GM. Right away, someone doing 2 jobs is at a disadvantage when compared to another team who has one person per job.

What is truly telling is how Detroit has structured the list of their personnel which is usually based upon which departments they see as being more important. And unlike most other teams, they list their sales, marketing and media departments near the top of the pecking order and the medical, training and conditioning departments closer to the bottom.

THE EMPLOYEES

Three things stand out as you peruse the resumes of those in the Front Office:

1. The majority of the decision-makers have been with the Tigers for a decade+. A good number of them go all the way back to the Marlins when Dave Dombrowski and Al Avila were there.

2. The few who are new(er) have ties to Jim Leyland from his Pittsburgh days.

3. There is a pattern of employees who have returned to Detroit, often after being terminated by other teams.

Overall, there is a pattern of staying within the Old Guard – either long-term employment of the same people or hiring those who have spent years doing the same work for other teams. No outside-the-box hires of young minds with backgrounds in sports-related fields. (Exception: Analytics, which will be covered shortly.)

It is an older, ageing and insular group of individuals. Please don’t misconstrue this as ageism. It is about having only 1 group of individuals without the influence of the newer, younger and outsider employees who would bring a modern, updated and different voice to the mix.

The Analytics Department is too new to be able to bring into this discussion. And they are the only department with a new influx of people outside of the Tigers’ organization. Let’s simply mention that the lack of analytics was a factor in this past decade. The Tigers were the last team in MLB to adopt them, putting them at a distinct disadvantage.

THE SCOUTS

Again, most of them long-term scouts for the Tigers with many of them dating back to the Marlins days. Not known for great signings since Justin Verlander but then potentially Dave Dombrowski wasn’t concerned with signing and developing talent as he used all his prospects as trading chips. (Remember that some of the best Tigers like Miggy and JD were scouted primarily by Avila himself.) And given that the Tigers weren’t using analytics at a tool for evaluating, the scouts were also working at a disadvantage. Given that the organization is now attempting to develop “Caesar”, it stands to reason that new scouts, equipped with the latest analytic tools, should be hired. And just recently, Avila hired 2 from outside the organization.

THE COACHES

One of MLB’s oldest collections with the primary members ranging in age from 50 to 70. Again, it is not about the age, it is about not having a range of ages which represent different views and experiences within the game. All of them Jim Leyland coaches with the exception of Omar Vizquel who was recommended by Jim Leyland’s best friend, Tony LaRussa. Four of the 5 are former managers. Sense a pattern here?

MEDICAL

Year after year, injuries were used as the excuse for why the Tigers couldn’t get it done. And increasingly, players have had injuries linger throughout the year. We saw an increase in not knowing what was wrong as well as players who traveled outside the organization, on their own dime, to see specialists. JV, Miggy, Zimmermann, Norris, VMart and others spent the better part of at least one year where their injuries could not be resolved.

Other teams, like the Nats, fire entire medical staffs when injuries dominate. But the Tigers don’t. They also have an outdated health system with only 4 medical-related personnel on staff. The average number for each MLB team is around 10 with some teams having 15-20 – all of them specialists – on board. It’s telling that the medical and training/conditioning programs are listed near the bottom of the Front Office directory. Most of the other MLB teams list theirs closer to the top.

TRAINING/CONDITIONING

(See MEDICAL.) The same regular number and types of injuries indicate a lack of attention to proper conditioning esp. concerning the team’s emphasis on strength training and no programs addressing core and stretching (specific exercises, pilates, yoga, etc.) like most teams do now in MLB. More than a couple of players getting injured in the weight room from lack of supervision. And a pitcher who was allowed to pitch from the mound recently with a broken leg. A head trainer who has been with the Tigers for 25 years – again, since the Marlins. Two assistant trainers with 25 years and 20 years experience with the Tigers. There’s that darn pattern again…

MARKETING/COMMUNICATIONS/PR

Arguably, the best and strongest departments within all of MLB. Listed near the top of the organizational chart, they recruited the best talent from NY to ensure that the Tigers maintained one of the mid-market’s strongest attendance figures. They actively pushed the right messages and countered problems and social media angst promptly and thoroughly through several local newspapers and sports tv. They completely control the message and spin every potential negative story. Which brings us to…

THE LOCAL MEDIA

More than a couple of reporters outside of Detroit have pointed to a cozy relationship between the PR department and certain reporters within several of the local papers. Which helps explain why the best journalist arguably among the major dailies does not write about the Tigers more than a couple of times a year and why another, who won a major journalistic award, was “laid off” one week after winning it.

Also the reason why there is rarely criticism of anyone connected to the team and why recent grades for the worst team in MLB were, on average, high-C’s. Even the manager was given a “B.” This simply wouldn’t fly in any major city (but especially on the East Coast) where the media regularly critiques everything and everyone associated with the team in question. And failure to criticize with a rationale of having access to the team, is simply unacceptable. When feet are not held to the fire, there is no accountability. And without accountability, there is no championship.

But the factors that contributed to the team’s failure to reach that ultimate goal don’t stop here. On Sunday, we’ll tackle the non-people related elements. And most of them have 1 thing in common.


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