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:
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……
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:
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.