By:  Holly Horning

We’ve read a lot about how Justin Verlander must recover some form of his old self this year if the Tigers are to see October baseball. Discussions have centered around his surgery, age, declining velocity and even the impact of his personal life.

Those familiar with JV point to his bulldog mentality as being a key factor in his return to some semblance of his old self. But there is another catalyst not yet mentioned that will serve as motivation for JV. The Hall of Fame.

Believe it or not, as his stats currently stand, JV is not yet Hall of Fame worthy. But he won a Cy Young and MVP, you say. He threw two no-hitters! He was Rookie of the Year and won pitching’s Triple Crown! Six All-Star Games!

All great and good but in the mind of those who vote, these awards are considered opinion and take a back seat to stats. Same with win/loss totals which are considered a by-product of a team’s run production.

Those who may be voting for him in the future will look at his major stats (innings, ERA, strikeouts, walks, hits allowed, etc.) and compare them to the league norm in each season.

In reviewing the 77 pitchers who are already in the Hall of Fame, I looked at the averages for all the major categories. The first thing that stands out is that JV needs to pitch at least another five years.

The average for the Hall of Fame is 18 years and 253 wins with JV having played for just over 9 years with 152 wins. His stats for games played/started, innings pitched, hits allowed, runs, and earned runs are approximately half of what the inductees have. While he’s behind in BBs, he’s ahead in SOs and W/L%. But a telling factor is his ERA which is 3.53 while the HofF pitchers hold an average of 2.98.

While we look at the 6 dominant years JV has performed, one-third of his playing time has been on the weaker side. When compared to his competition each year, the couple of years of dominance have been overshadowed by years in which his standings fell.

And then there’s the post-season. While he excelled in division playoffs, his World Series record is 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA. And voters give significant weight to post-season success.

JV’s goals need to include lowering his ERA and picking up as close to 100 more wins as possible. That means he needs to pitch an absolute minimum of another 5 years. And those years need to be good ones, too. And he also needs to show that he is capable of pitching the biggest games in October.

Justin has a reputation for being a beast on the mound. Let’s hope that previous years of success and recognition haven’t dulled his competitive spirit and that he is able to evolve from being a thrower into a pitcher.

Otherwise, we’ll be having another discussion in future years, much like the debate surrounding why Jack Morris isn’t in the Hall of Fame.


By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

We all know the stories – the rumors and stories that won’t die.  Some of them silly, some of them with a grain or two of truth. Others maybe a little bit more than management is willing to admit.

With all the “sunshine and lollipops” articles hitting the papers during spring training, we feel it’s our obligation to stir the pot a little bit and give our own takes on the stories that continue to create intense debate among fans.

1. Is Alex Avila really still playing for the team because of his daddy’s position?

Holly: Not really – maybe 5-10 % can be attributed to his father’s position. This factor probably earns him some sensitivity and the benefit of the doubt. He’s with the Tigers because of his defensive skills and the Tigers’ inability to produce an heir until this year.

Kurt: Nope, I don’t buy the nepotism theory in sports. This isn’t like the CEO bringing in his kid with no skills to run his company. Teams can’t afford to waste draft picks on players solely because they are someone’s kid. They have to have talent too. Does it help them get an opportunity? Probably. But Alex hasn’t hung around because his dad is a team executive.

2. If Trammell, Whitaker and Morris played for East or West Coast teams, would they be in the Hall of Fame by now?

Holly: There are multiple reasons why they’re not in. Trammell is very quiet, humble and non promoting but would have been in if the Tigers had promoted his work. Lou and Morris less so – both with some personality issues that did not endear them to the media. Unlike Lou, Morris has some iffy records that are outside of Hall stats for pitchers.

Kurt: Whitaker is a close one, but Trammell and Morris, yes. It can only help your legacy to play in the big market cities, which mostly reside on the coasts. I would expect Trammell and Whitaker to get in together through the Veteran’s Committee vote next year. It seems right anyway that they go in as a package. It’s too good of a story not be recognized in Cooperstown, regardless of where they played.

3. Is the national media biased against the Tigers?

Holly: Yes, to some degree. The media understand that fans are attracted to flash, big egos and controversy which tend to characterize the coasts more than the middle of the country. It’s all about ratings for the media and being a solid, upstanding team unfortunately doesn’t play well with the majority fan base – the casual fan.

Kurt: Yes, along with every team that’s not the Yankees and Red Sox. It really is the ongoing joke that practically every NY-Boston game is televised nationally. But I understand it, because I rarely miss one. I love that rivalry. But jeez, don’t make it so obvious.

4. Is Kate Upton really a bad influence on JV’s pitching?

Holly: I’m sure Kate is a nice woman, but she messes with the routine that JV had when he was successful. He preferred to be left alone on game day but now goes shopping with her. And Kate’s on the record describing how mean JV gets on game day and how her goal is to make him happy and laugh. You want a mean guy on the mound, not a kinder, gentler version.

Kurt: I don’t know, last season we looked and thought we found all the reasons why JV was having a down year and Kate was put on the list as just another reason. She isn’t the first hot celebrity to shack up with an athlete and they haven’t all fallen apart as a result. But it is Kate Upton and there has to be a fair amount of distraction there. How could there not? So, just to be safe, let’s introduce her to Derek Jeter.

5. Gibby’s the manager-in-waiting isn’t he?

Holly: No, but there may be another role for him down the road depending upon his work in the booth. It will be interesting to see how long a leash they will give him in sharing his opinion about Brad’s managerial decisions. Mr. I did have to sign off on the hiring.

Kurt: I always felt one day, Kirk Gibson would manage the Tigers. And when he was hired by the Diamondbacks and began to have success, it only strengthened my belief. I would have certainly hired him over a guy with no experience whatsoever. So is he the manager in waiting? It would not surprise me. I have always loved the fire he’s got burning in that soul of his. A great managerial trait. My favorite Tiger of all time.


By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Hopefully you enjoyed our little Q&A exercise yesterday.  These are just little exercises for our own amusement but everyone is encouraged to ride along.  So welcome to Round 2.

The ultimate goal?  Give the better answer.  But don’t vote, cause Holly gets hostile  when she doesn’t win.  And she only agrees with Kurt to keep his spirits up.   He can get quite emotional, but we like that.  Where else can you find a duo where the woman brings controlled logic and the man is the emotional wreck?   Right here baby!

Today, Kurt, who’s quite controlled actually (meds do wonders), has the following questions focused on some key Tiger players:

 1. Will Anthony Gose hit enough to stay in a platoon with Rajai Davis?

Kurt: Yes, mainly because I don’t think the Tigers will raise the bar very high for him. He is here for his defense and they want him in centerfield. I think when Rajai plays center, Gose will be a defensive replacement for him late in games we are leading.

Holly: It’s going to depend upon how others in the lineup not named Miggy or VMart will hit. I expect Dealin’ Dave to keep his options open both in Toledo and on the open market. Gose will definitely be a defensive replacement who can play all three outfield positions.

2. Will David Price sign an extension with the Tigers before the season is done?

Kurt: Yes, I believe this gets done and before the season ends. Illitch doesn’t want to compete and he will make Price an offer hard to pass up. Price stays a Tiger for a good long while.

Holly: No, both sides would be silly to sign an extension. Price, younger and better than Max, will test the market. Next winter, the largest number of younger pitchers will hit the market and the Tigers will go after someone with youth, solid credentials and a much smaller outlay of cash.

3. Will we continue to see concussion issues with Avila this season?

Kurt: Yes. I don’t think the mask or the change in mechanics is going to matter with Avila. He is what he is. It will end up spelling the end of his Tiger career.

Holly: I think there will be issues but Avila will be traded before the season is up. The Tigers will not make a qualifying offer to him but they also will not allow him to walk without getting something in return. There will be a team who needs a defensive catcher short-term.

4. Will Joe Nathan stay the closer the entire season?

Kurt: No, but I want to be wrong, because we need him. But I see him faltering early, like May, and Soria will take over as closer. This will also depend on Rondon. If he is not effective, Nathan gets more leash.

Holly: Whether Nathan remains closer will depend upon Ausmus and the health of other pitchers. Can Brad get over his rigid beliefs about the BP? Will DD finally tell him to use all the resources he’s been given?

5. Will Cespedes eventually bat second this season?

Kurt: No, but he should! He has not been mentioned at that spot and I don’t know why. That power and speed combination in front of Cabrera could be lethal. But I don’t think Ausmus will realize the opportunity to really dramatically affect the top of the order.  (Here comes the overrated OBP angle … wait for it.)

Holly: Not unless Wally can work miracles because Cespedes’ OBP is officially ranked “poor” – hovering around .300 or less. He is a classic power hitter who needs to hit lower in the order. But it is his contract year so never say never.


By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Over the next few days, we will participate in a little Q & A; a unique version, as we are both going to answer the same questions. New questions every day until we (or you) get tired of them.

Keep in mind that a lot of Holly’s answers to these questions are going to seem quite logical, with the key word being “seem.” She’s gonna throw around OBP like it’s some really important thing. But don’t let it sway you. Just keep in mind that the most entertaining answers are probably the right ones. Thanks and enjoy.

Holly has the following questions focused on team management:

1. What’s your position on Dave Dombrowski?

Holly: DD has been one of the better GMs in baseball and instrumental in re-establishing Detroit as one of the best baseball cities. However, the longer he goes without that WS title, and given the amount of money he has spent, the more that halo becomes tarnished. This year’s results, the last year on his contract, may determine whether or not he stays.

Kurt: Dave Dombrowski remains one of the best GM’s in baseball and frankly, we are lucky to have him. GM’s of his caliber aren’t just falling out of the sky looking to get hired. So unless this team just plain doesn’t contend all season, I don’t see Illitch shopping for someone else. I think DD’s got the same kind of deal Jim Leyland had; he will stay as long as he wants. And who knows, he may not want to stay if the Tigers fail again.

2. What are your thoughts about Brad Ausmus?

Holly: At first, I was excited to see a much younger man come in with the promise of shaking up the team with new ideas and energy, esp. given DD’s glowing report. But Brad really turned into an enigma and made me worry about his inexperience and the ability to lead this team. This year, he’s got to prove he can manage without a book as well as demonstrate that there is a fire in his belly.

Kurt: I was intrigued and impressed with Ausmus in his press conference and out of the gate when the Tigers started the season so well. But, he seemed to get more and more tentative as the season went on. All creativity then went out the window (cause the window is open remember) and at the end, he was one scared puppy. He’s the reason not many teams turn to a rookie to get a championship caliber team over the hump. It rarely works.

3. Speaking of managers, how do you feel about Jim Leyland today?

Holly: I liked JL in the beginning of his tenure but he ran out of energy and ideas several years before he retired and needed to go. Brad has shown this isn’t an easy job and I now appreciate JL for the stability and people-management skills he brought to the game. Ideally, a new manager should have been brought in three years ago which would have maximized their ability to win.

Kurt: I was a Jim Leyland fan. I knew that Brad would have big shoes to fill when Leyland left. You don’t manage as long as Jim did without knowing the game and how to handle players and all it takes to navigate a team through a season. Brad hasn’t even sniffed Leyland’s shoes, much less filled them. Hopefully, he will at least try them on this season.

4. Was hiring Alan Trammell an attempt to show loyalty or do you think DD has something else in mind?

Holly: I think Tram serves a real purpose in multiple ways. He will be an extra set of eyes and ears for DD (esp re Brad’s skills), an advisor for Brad (they are friends) and the eventual replacement for Gene Lamont next year. He could also be that stability/transitional element in case things go south for the Tigers this year and they need to move on before the end of the year.

Kurt: I think it’s both. I think the Tigers are throwing Tram a bone here. He’s a loyal Tiger and I would expect him to be the bench coach next season. Gene Lamont hung around to be Brad’s guidance counselor, and I think it was smart to keep him. But it’s time for Gene to surrender the post.

5. What managerial issue do you most question?

Holly: Hiring Ausmus still puzzles me. As a team in “win now” mode, combined with those stars and payroll, why would you hire someone with zippo years of managerial experience? It’s akin to having a Ferrari, slapping mini-van tires on it and expecting it to run at full speed.

Kurt: I most question Brad’s ability to handle the pitching staff. And doesn’t this shock you the most? The man was a catcher! If there would be anything fresh he would bring to the party it would be creativity in the use of the pitching staff, primarily the bullpen. I’m still puzzled as to how this could have been one of his weaknesses given his background.


By:  Holly Horning

It has become a sad refrain every January when baseball announces its latest roster of players to enter the Hall of Fame. Fans wail over the injustice of legendary players like Tram and Lou going unrecognized.

MLB analysts are open-mouthed over the decision. Even Barry Larkin is coming to Tram’s defense; everyone it seems except for the Detroit Tiger hierarchy. (Insert sound of crickets chirping here.)

While I agree with Kurt’s premise that individual qualities such as personality, playing style and visibility have significant roles in recognition, I am also placing a large percentage of the burden on the corporate division of the Tigers because they lack an official branding department and vision.

So why is branding important? It is a practice that establishes a unique and uniform identity as well as creates a desirable value for both individuals and corporate entities. It is also the primary method companies use today to promote their products and services, increasing visibility, value and sales. If you’re inactive about branding, you’re invisible.

Branding is the umbrella under which marketing, media and communications exist. And this is where the Tigers fall short by maintaining an “old school” approach to promoting their product. And make no mistake about it – players, especially those who have worn the Old English “D” well, are considered to be product and capable of promoting and enhancing the reputation of their team, and vice versa.

It is not enough to bring players back to the park for the occasional celebration. The Tigers need to keep their retired players fresh in the minds of not just the fans, but the entire baseball world – and especially in the minds of baseball writers who never saw them play.

If the Tigers will not sing the praises of their own legendary players, who will? A visit to Comerica shows a dearth of Tiger history (pretty sure Kurt agrees with that) but most importantly, a lack of recognition and appreciation for players who gave their team everything they had. I can understand the need to officially separate the truly great from other fine players but to ignore a significant chunk of Tiger history gives an inaccurate picture of this team’s glorious history.

As a veteran consultant in the branding world, I will confess that the Tigers are one of my dream clients and I’ve spent years putting together a branding strategy for them. While I’m still waiting for Mr. I’s call, I will share the top three actions I would implement that would create a win-win situation for both the team and fans.

RETIRE NUMBERS – For one of baseball’s oldest teams, the Tigers have one of the lowest rates of retired numbers – six in 121 years. If the Yankees can retire the number of a confessed PED user, the Tigers should have no issues with retiring the numbers of two guys who each played 18 years for the same team and did it with the highest levels of professionalism. Besides, what are the chances that greater players who wear the jersey numbers #1 and #3 will come along?

TIGER HALL OF FAME – Establish a museum that is a visual record of the team’s history since 1894. Along with the Hall of Famers, include players like Tram and Lou as well as fan favorites and great player moments. Have a set of voting rules with former Tigers as the ruling committee. Maybe even allow fans to have a role. The franchise charges admission while raising visibility, promoting their future Hall of Fame candidates and potentially increasing team loyalty and game attendance. Invite retired players back for regular meet-the-fan events. Oh, and move Ernie Harwell’s massive collection of Tiger memorabilia into the museum.

COOPERSTOWN COMMITTEE – Many baseball teams assemble a strategy and package of stats and video highlights to present to the Hall of Fame voters. Additionally, they roll out a communications plan to highlight that player in the media. The Tigers need to shed their “MidWest nice” attitude and humble origins and finally realize it’s important and necessary to promote their brand.

To quote Bear Bryant, “It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true.”


By:  Holly Horning

MLB Radio hosted a discussion the other day about the best dynasty teams to never have won a World Series. Unfortunately, this century’s Tigers won with their 4 division titles, 4 division series, 4 championship series, 2 World Series and a slew of prestigious awards.

What I found most interesting was the inability of the hosts to identify at least one reason why the Tigers have not been able to win that ring for nine years. Maybe no one wanted to point fingers at specific individuals. But as in life, I think the answer is complicated with no single factor as the culprit.

Given this, let’s explore some of the possible reasons why the Tigers, with so many great players, have yet to even experience a single proud World Series moment. We need a comparison World Series winner so let’s match up the 1984 Tigers with the patterns and conditions seen from the 2006 through 2014 teams. Here are some of the more significant factors that may be at play. How much each one contributed will probably never be known.

OFFENSE – When you look at the starting lineup of the ’84 Tigers, the offensive stats of each player are fairly consistent to each other. No one had an exceptional year but no one had a bad year either. The teams from the past nine years exhibited a pattern of exceptional performances but also players who contributed significantly less.

PITCHING – The two groups show signs of similarity in their starting pitching with the dynasty having a few more peaks and valleys in terms of performance levels. But the biggest difference between the two is – you guessed it – the Bullpen. The World Champions had two remarkable relievers with solid W/L records, low ERAs and a tidy sum of saves. The current day generation had the saves, but not the wins and sported significantly higher ERAs.

PERSONNEL – It is difficult to assign a true value to both groups given the number of presidents, general managers, managers and coaches involved. However, it would be wise to include Dave Dombrowski and (for one more year) Jim Leyland as factors. The dynasty rosters have turned over significantly in the past three years and now there is only one player left from 2006. The players as individuals fall outside of being factors.

GAME STRUCTURE – In 1984, there were two divisions in the AL with 7 teams in each. Ironically, the Tigers were considered to be in the harder division. The latter-day team has been part of a 3-division AL with 5 teams in each and a move to the easier AL Central. In 1984, there was only one playoff before the World Series. In recent years, MLB has made it easier for more teams to be in the mix for playoffs by adding an additional playoff series and wild card opportunities to potentially create more upsets.

CONTRACTS – The biggest difference between the two generations was definitely within this category. in 1984, shorter contracts with not much difference between the players’ salaries was the rule. The highest salary was just over $1 million with gaps of approximately $100,000 between the top players. Today’s team is the complete opposite with a wide division between the stars, solid players, role players and rookies. How does this perceived unequal hierarchy impact ego, teamwork and personal relationships? Let’s think about the player making $28 million/year sharing the field with the player earning $500,000.

TEAMWORK – This could be a subset of the Contracts section above. The ’84 Tigers were rumored to be a very close-knit bunch with many of them still in touch or working together years later which would indicate a high level of teamwork and respect. While this bunch won it all, they only took home three individual awards that year between 1 player (2) and the manager.

Compare that team with the current Tiger dynasty. Yet to win a World Series, they have however, cornered the market on individual awards every year – including 2 Cy Youngs, 3 MVPs, 2 Triple Crowns (JV, Miggy), Rookie of the Year, and 10 other slightly less prestigious awards. Strong evidence that many of the players put a greater focus on individual performance rather than the greater good of the team especially when you consider the financial rewards given to players who stand out above the rest of the pack.

And herein lies the irony for Tiger fans. We celebrate a team that won it all yet gnash our teeth over the annual Hall of Fame snubs. And today, we enjoy watching players who are likely to gain entry into Cooperstown but we remain frustrated that all of this talent has been unable to win the World Series for the past nine years.


By:  Holly Horning

Spin (definition): “A form of propaganda achieved through providing an interpretation of an event to persuade public opinion in favor or against a certain organization or public figure. While traditional public relations may also rely on creative presentation of the fact, “spin” often implies disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics.”

– Wikipedia

I live in Washington, DC – home of the world’s largest concentration of people who spin for a living. However, it’s not just politicians, lobbyists and campaign strategists who practice this. “Spin doctors” exist in every industry, including the sport we all love – baseball. We hear the propaganda every day – from team and MLB spokespeople to the media to the agents. Each has their own goal whether it is to reassure fans of a winning season (and enhance ticket sales), raise their media profile (so they may sell their publications or get that TV show) or help their client garner the best contract (and make a tidy commission).

As an image consultant, I’ve spent 20 years analyzing the connection between perception and authenticity. Call me jaded, but I always take a guarded view of any declaration made by someone who has something to gain. So leery that I even travel with a pair of waders. Italian-made, of course. So who better to call out the perennial offenders who are so transparent in trying to craft their public perception?

If Kurt can play Commissioner of Baseball for two days, then I can also live out my fantasy and offer my list of spinners who need to finally ‘fess up.

Brad Ausmus – Admitting that he made managerial mistakes as a rookie manager, esp. with the BP.

Scott Boras – Overstating that many of his clients did not receive multiple contract offers.

Dave Dombrowski – Confessing that assembling a BP has been a real challenge for him.

ESPN – Admitting that their East Coast-centricity and viewership is what drives their bias of the Midwest.

Brian Kenny – Agreeing that Miguel Cabrera’s two MVP Awards over Mike Trout were solidly correct.

Keith Law – Humbly acknowledging that he uses controversy over criteria to gain media recognition.

Max Scherzer – Confessing that money took precedence over everything else in contract negotiations.

MLB players – Stating that they love their team and really want to stay when their contracts are up.

MLB teams – Declaring something other than being in “win now mode” or “posed for a successful season.”

Sabermetricians – Admitting that they don’t have a clue how the “replacement level player” is selected in determining WAR.

OK, that was wonderfully cathartic for me. How about you?


By:  Holly Horning

Some people have a list of things they want to do in their lifetime. But as a baseball fan, there are things I need to know about this game before I leave God’s green earth. They are things that no one within the sport has been able to rationally explain.

Naturally, the first mystery at the top of every Tiger fan’s list should be “Why haven’t the Tigers been able to win a World Series since 1984?” Let’s hope this one is resolved soon – very soon. In the meantime, here are a few more for us all to chew on…..

1. Brad Ausmus’ Managerial Interview – Dave Dombrowski said Brad “blew him away” during the interview process, setting up high expectations from fans but resulting in textbook, unimaginative moves all year-long. Am I the only one who would pay big bucks to have a copy of that interview transcript?

2. Doug Fister Trade – Never has one player created such a domino effect in all of baseball. How and why he was traded will go down in the annals of history along with such questions as “Who built the pyramids?” and “What exactly resides in Area 51?”

3. Syncing Ballpark Building with the Team – Do stadium architects actually consult with team ownership when designing ballparks? How would one explain building Comerica, MLB’s ninth largest field, and then filling it for years with slow, defensively-challenged outfielders?

4. VMart’s Helmet Routine – Every time he walks to the plate, Victor places his bat-free hand up to the ear flap of his batting helmet. Is it part of his mental preparation? Prayer? Or is he picking up a radio frequency?

5. WAR – “Wins Above Replacement” is a sabermetric stat that is determined by substituting a “replacement level player: a player that may be added to the team for minimal cost and effort.” Who exactly is this player and why do WAR figures often vary for the same player?

What about you? Email us your list of unexplainable Tiger lore and we’ll publish the best. Can’t promise you answers though…..


By: Holly Horning

Finally! An old-school sports journalist wrote an article that gave credibility to the intangibles that are associated with an athlete. The inability to quantify certain factors, or even see them, had led many to firmly deny they exist or to ignore them completely. Yet every year, we read about which teams are best “on paper”, yet they rarely perform as expected. Why is that?

It’s due to the intangibles – different personalities, mental skills, personal habits, and the chemistry created by combining individuals and teams. Just because you can’t quantify them, doesn’t mean they aren’t real or have significant impact. The intangibles are X Factors and have the ability to impact both individual and team performance.

Athletes are like icebergs – you see their physical skills, much like the icy tip seen above water. But what you don’t see, is what lies beneath the surface, and in some cases, can be just as effective. Just look at the Boston Red Sox who went from worst (2012) to first (2013) and back to worst (2014). They officially gave much of the credit to their renewed focus and dedication in light of the Boston bombing.

So what are these intangibles that can make or break a season? Some of them we see, some are only known to those closest to them and others may not even be realized. Here are a decisive dozen intangibles that can impact a team’s season:

1. Do players approach the difficult times with a positive, apathetic or negative attitude?

2. Are they in a contract year and / or are they settled comfortably into a long-term agreement?

3. How serious is their routine as it pertains to physical fitness, weight, food and practice?

4. Are there family concerns centered on marriage, children or family health issues?

5. How well are they able to eliminate distractions and stay focused on their individual and team goals?

6. Are there any undiagnosed or secret injuries?

7. How “hungry” are they to succeed?

8. How many leaders are there in the clubhouse to mentor and keep the team focused on the stated goals?

9. How willing is each player to learn something new and advance their skills?

10. Are personal issues, such as relationships or substance abuse, impacting performance?

11. How often do players put the team goals ahead of their own?

12. How solid is their work ethic?

Still not totally sold on the power of intangibles? Well, I’ll leave you with these quotes:

“Your most precious, valued possessions and your greatest powers are invisible and intangible.”
– W. Clement Stone

“There are intangible realities which float near us, formless and without words; realities which no one has thought out, and which are excluded for lack of interpreters.”
– Natalie Clifford Barney


By: Holly Horning

So now it’s my turn to name the five Tigers who need to step up their game significantly this year if the team is to see October baseball. And, in typical fashion, I’ve interpreted this differently from Kurt. While my partner-in-crime focused on “players”, I cast a wider net and addressed “Tigers”, simply because I feel no one should be safe – including Paws.

I could go the popular route and put Miggy and VMart on the list but when do I ever do as expected? Obviously, these two are the core of the team and the Tigers won’t do well if they don’t. But they are consistent performers so they merit exclusion. Also off the list of consideration, for opposite reasons, is the BP (short for Black Pit) because, well, where do you start? In the end, someone will have to step it up – I just don’t know who that pitcher might be.

My focus is on the guys who really need to have a “make it or break it” year if the Tigers are to succeed in a stronger division and play into the post-season. Let’s get started, shall we?

1. Brad Ausmus – No longer a rookie, he needs to grow significantly as a manager and show that he can manage outside the box as well as handle personalities and player roles better. In addition to eliminating those extreme win-loss streaks from last year, he’s got to put the fire into the team belly.

2. Dave Dombrowski – Make no mistake, DD is a great GM. But as the payroll and years without a strong WS performance add up, his track record becomes less impressive. Last year was a bad one for Dave and now in the final year of his contract, he’s got to finally resolve those BP and post-season offense issues.

3. Jose Iglesias – Just getting Iggy playing regularly this year will be a major accomplishment. His bat will be better than any of his replacements, but his glove will greatly benefit the pitchers and Castellanos. Having him in the lineup will help spell Kinsler who only had two days off last year. He’s the pivotal piece to having strength up the middle.

4. James McCann – The Tigers may downplay it, but McCann needs to adjust quickly to the majors with both bat and glove – and as soon as possible. Avila will be gone before the year is out if McCann performs as expected. The Tigers need a healthy catcher who can offer a little more speed and a better bat, especially with the loss of Hunter and Jackson. Count on Ausmus to accelerate the learning process by coaching him.

5. Justin Verlander – A no-brainer really. Was his perceived decline due to injury, surgery, age or focus? Could be a combination of all four. Now that Max is gone, he needs to rediscover his beast mode and be open to reinvention. And dare I say it? He performed much better when he was focused on setting records instead of setting dates. (Wow, I said it.)

Now that Kurt and I have shared our lists, what do you think? We want to hear from you!