MVP – MORE (REIN)VENTION PLEASE

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.

FIVE MORE QUESTIONS TO PONDER

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

We hope you have enjoyed these question and answer segments over the last few days. If you enjoyed reading them as much as we enjoyed writing them, then it was a hit. Hopefully they made you think about how you would answer the questions.

Holly summarized it perfectly as the majority of the answers depend on the performance of our manager, well 3 out of the 5 anyway. By golly, I guess that would be the majority, wouldn’t it?

Below are the final 5 questions Kurt has regarding some of the more pertinent subjects that may really impact the season.

So once more with feeling … here are the questions:

1. Was signing Joba Chamberlain a good move for the Tigers or are you worried about a 2014 rerun?

Kurt: If you don’t like pitching depth, then this is a bad signing. But it’s a smart move. I don’t believe the Tigers ever intended for Joba to pitch as much as he did last year. And I think he proved he wasn’t quite ready for a big role. The second half of the season he ran out of gas. He should prove to be even stronger this season. Low risk / high reward potential.

Holly: Joba was dealing with his mother’s ill health the second half of the season last year which we were told was a factor. A low-risk signing, he adds depth and increases the chances that some relievers will stick. I think the bigger question is how Brad will handle all of his pitchers.

2. Are the rule changes making you nervous about the future of the game?

Kurt: Absolutely, baseball is a unique game and I think the diehard fans are protective of that fact. Making a bunch of changes to speed things up, to me, compromises the integrity of the game.

Holly: Not as of yet. I think they will enhance the pace and help minimize the length of the game. Baseball is the most rapidly ageing sport in this country and part of it is due to younger fans who don’t like how long the game has gotten. This is a step to help keep building its fan base.

3. Why do the Tigers seem to ignore the bench when they look to improve the team?

Kurt: The explanation has been that with the stars we have on this team, some other areas have to suffer. That’s a lousy excuse. There were guys available, part-time players, that would have really strengthened our bench at low-cost. We didn’t go near any of them. The Tigers have to learn from past mistakes. I understand you have to count on your farm for help in those areas, but most of the minor leaguers are being traded.

Holly: There are lots of reasons. Part of the issue is due to the increasing BP population and rigid roster rules. I also saw a persistent loyalty to players who had been with the team for a while; almost being scared to use players who had been called up. At the end of the year, Brad really mismanaged the bench.

4. Do you feel better about the bullpen this year?

Kurt: I do actually. I am counting on some better performances and some contributions from some of the younger guys that we saw for a minute last season. They have more depth and opportunities to change some things up depending on the situation. Whether Brad can stray from his “formulas” is a different matter.

Holly: I think the BP is not even half-formed jello at this point. A lot of the same pitchers but a lot of new ones which leads me to believe they have gathered as many options as possible and hope some of them stick. I expect the BP to be a revolving door this year but again, Brad’s skills are also a huge factor.

5. Will Brad Ausmus have a more consistent game plan when it comes to base running?

Kurt: It was pretty exciting early on last year when we were constantly running and forcing the issue on the base paths. Then it all kind of stopped and Brad got conservative. We have the opportunity to run even more this year as we have more team speed. I am going to give him a shot and say yes, Brad will let it ride and trust his game plan for the length of the season, assuming all these guys stay healthy.

Holly: It all seems to come down to Brad’s managing skills, doesn’t it? He’s got to be more confident and consistent this year. This is a make-it-or-break-it year for him – no more probation. One reason why I think Trammell was brought back to help and was seen taking players through base running skills this week.

FIVE QUESTIONS: TIGER URBAN LEGENDS PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE

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.

THERE ARE NO DUMB QUESTIONS

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.

THERE ARE NO RIGHT ANSWERS

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.

HOLD THE WINDOW OPEN FOR A PRICE

By:  Kurt Snyder

Over the last couple years, there have been endless discussions and no shortage of articles written on the Tigers’ ‘window,’ and the closing of said window. Well, what would close the window and what would keep it open?

Many “experts” believe 2015 is it. They suggest, after this season, the purse strings get tighter, free agents won’t be signed and we will be left in 2016 with a team that will not contend for the division, much less a World Series.

So what do the Tigers need to do keep the air quality from getting stuffy? I believe it is reasonable to think that at least 2 of 3 key 2016 free agents will be leaving us after this season. Sadly, we need all 3. But remember the bills people.

The Tigers might say good-bye to Soria and Cespedes (reluctantly). But Price has to stay. The name on the “Scherzer” checkbook has been replaced with “Price.” I expect he will be pursued very aggressively. Illitch will not want him walking away. Even Cespedes if he performs, may find a place in Mike’s wallet.

Now, I know fans and the media have been lulled into thinking that we need stars from the top of the starting rotation to the bottom to win a title, mainly because they have been used to seeing it on this team. So far, that hasn’t worked, nor can you afford it for long. Watch what the Nationals do with their staff if they don’t win it this year.

But the Tigers will still need a top shelf #1 and Illitch will pay handsomely to keep the one he has.

As far as the next tier of unrestricted free agents?

Alex Avila goes; too expensive after this season and too much risk. It’s time for a fresh start with a promising youngster. We’ll see if James McCann can prove he is ready to be that guy.

Alfredo Simon stays; a valuable piece for this year and next, starting or relieving; a good, versatile guy to keep around, especially should Soria leave.

Rajai Davis stays because of speed and this team needs to keep as much of it around as possible. He can earn a new contract with another productive year. Given his age, should still be affordable.

These moves would leave the Tigers with a lineup that is lacking an impact outfielder again, assuming Cespedes isn’t resigned. Everyone seems to see Stephen Moya as a stud and that ’16 is his year to make the big club, which more than likely will mean the Tigers will trade him.

Sorry. Illitch likes established stars and Dombrowski likes to use his prospects as trade bait. No one is ever safe on that farm.

I left the bullpen last to talk about because, well, it always makes me nervous. I won’t go through every guy but hey, we know who’s gone (hold your applause), Joe Nathan. And Soria, is probably gone too after this season. So the logical choice for closer is Rondon, right? Nope, not ready to declare any major role for him until we see what he has this season. Expect another closer to arrive either by trade or free agency, maybe even one we’ve seen before (wink wink).

This all serves as a reminder for people worried about the “window”. Our owner is still Mike Illitch. And as long as he is here, nothing stops the train from the annual pursuit of a World Title. He will spend every last breath trying to win one.

What this club has been missing is balance. We have not had a good roster mix; strength in all areas. We’ve had top shelf strength in some and house booze in others.

Looking at the roster now, we appear to have more balance. I think this team has the makings of being quite good, if we can get some luck; an old friend that hasn’t exactly been hanging out with the Tigers the last few seasons. Untimely injuries have really hurt them.

So I leave you with a question? Do you still think the window is closing? If that answer is still yes, that’s your choice, but I plan to watch October Tiger baseball for the foreseeable future.

IF YOU BRAND HIM, THEY WILL VOTE

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.”

TRAMMELL DOESN’T BELONG IN THE HALL

By:  Kurt Snyder

I am not one for statistics and will never pretend to know what they all mean. I am a visual guy. I like to watch and admire the game itself.

I like a story about an injured player who limps to the plate in the World Series and manages to hit a home run for the ages.

I like a story about a pitcher, with an ankle so badly injured, stitched together and bleeding, still finding a way to help win a World Series.

And I like a story about 2 players that came to the major leagues together before they could even legally drink and spent the next 18 years playing side by side, at second and short.

Sometimes statistics are too staggering to ignore and that certainly applies here. Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker started play together late in 1977 and managed all of this in 18 years:

1,918 games played together – Major League Record
11 All-Star berths
7 Gold Gloves
7 Silver Slugger awards
4,734 hits
429 home runs.
1984 World Champions
1987 American League Champions

In 1983, the first season that Whitaker and Trammell batted first and second in the order, Sweet Lou hit .320 and Tram hit .319. Both won Gold Gloves and both received MVP votes.

In 1984, the World Champion Tigers rarely played from behind. Game after game they came out swinging. And the guys at the top of the order were menaces right from the very first inning.

That year, the Tigers scored more runs in the first inning than any other inning. Trammell hit .356 in the first inning while Whitaker got on base 45 times to start a game in 131 starts.

In 1987, Lance Parrish left the Tigers and Trammell did this hitting cleanup for the first time in his career:

.343 batting average
28 homers
105 RBI
205 hits
109 runs scored
21 stolen bases

And in the last month, in a tight and heated pennant race with Toronto, Tram batted .417 with seven homers and 20 RBI.

But Alan Trammell did not win the MVP in 1987. There has never been a good reason why.

Sometimes, great stats and clutch performances are not enough for the people that cast the votes. Trammell and Whitaker did not possess the most flamboyant of personalities. They were both rather quiet and not real demonstrative on the field. They just quietly went about their business and had outstanding careers together.

So, was the quiet demeanor of these two gentlemen detrimental to their careers and the perception of their accomplishments? I think so.

In these situations, players who really deserve recognition, need it at least from the franchises they play for. And these 2 certainly got it in 1999.

After the final game at Tiger Stadium, players from countless eras of Tiger history emerged from the centerfield gate, one after another, and onto the iconic field at The Corner. The final players to emerge? Trammell and Whitaker, together.

The Tiger organization had saved one of the greatest honors for Tram and Lou. Not Kaline, not Lolich, not Horton, but Trammell and Whitaker.

So answer this question, if you were one of the fans to walk into Comerica on the day that “glorious” park opened in 2000, and you saw the statues of the players, how long did you keep looking for Tram and Lou?

Don’t hold your breath, it’s now 2015, and they still aren’t there. Why? You will have to ask Mike Illitch. That’s another topic for another day, like Sunday!

So, what will be the fate for these 2 Tiger greats and their legacy?

This is Trammell’s final year of eligibility for entrance into the Hall of Fame. Sweet Lou garnered very little interest early and is no longer eligible.

But The Expansion Era Veterans Committee meets for the next vote in 2016, one year after Trammell’s final year of eligibility. If you are not familiar, and I wasn’t without digging, the committee provides opportunities for players who are ineligible and can no longer be voted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Could this be the opportunity for Trammell? Who knows? But you know what? I don’t think Trammell belongs in the Hall of Fame. But, Tram and Lou do.

A DETROIT DYNASTY DILEMMA

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.

STILL PUZZLED AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

By:  Kurt Snyder

First of all before you read this, I will start out with an apology. I am sorry to all those Comerica Park lovers out there, but you are not going to like what I have to say.

But there is one thing you have to take into consideration. My dad ran Tiger Stadium for over 2 decades, just about half of the 46 years he spent working for the Tigers. I was crazy about that stadium. It was woven within the fabric of my being! Pretty deep huh? Anyway, now at least you know what you’re dealin’ with.

So I have a question? When did Mike Illitch decide to forget Tiger Stadium? Now I don’t mean tear it down. My dad told us long before the wrecking ball came in, long before Illitch walked in, that the Tigers needed a new ballpark. The place was deteriorating. But it was an aging baseball mecca, one that needed to be built again, not replaced. But I would love to know the date, because it changed baseball forever in Detroit.

When Illitch started over, we got a new stadium never meant for Tiger baseball. He abandoned all the history and treated his new toy like it was an expansion team.

But Mike is no dummy. In building Comerica Park, he expanded his audience. And it has been a great success, because much of the new fan base is helping to fill Comerica Park every night. The new baseball fan wants a night out, wants to be entertained, they want more than a baseball game and they have a beautiful park to visit, it just doesn’t happen to be the right park.

And it’s sad, really. The game is not enough anymore for fans. Most dads used to teach their kids about the game while watching baseball.

But in 2000, the Circus came to town, as the club offered a Ferris wheel and a merry-go-round to entertain kids at a baseball game. Wow.

But even with that, why we needed a completely different ballpark to do all of this, I never understood. And 15 years later, I still don’t. The new fan could have all the added fluff and the more serious baseball fan could still have had the same baseball experience.

New & Improved. Same classic design. Same field dimensions. Same soul. Same magic. Throw in some suites, a New Tiger Stadium.

But Illitch watered down the baseball experience for the fan that grew up watching baseball at The Corner. It was all stripped away in favor of an atmosphere devoid of baseball charm. It wasn’t dumb, just very unfortunate.

Now, surely there has been excitement at Comerica Park. There have been great moments that will be remembered forever. Justin Verlander’s no-hitter; Magglio’s home run to send the Tigers to the World Series, Armando Galarraga’s stolen perfect game, and countless memories from maybe the best Tiger ever, Miguel Cabrera.

But a classic ballpark can take a batted ball and create drama. Tiger Stadium had the facing of the third deck in right field. We watched in awe as Kirk Gibson and others slammed home runs against that third deck. We watched players launch home runs over the roof travelling across Trumbull Avenue and into Brook’s Lumber yard. Players would hit high fly balls to right, surely about to be caught, but instead catching the upper deck overhang for an unlikely home run.

Home runs hit into the centerfield upper deck bleachers and on the left field roof were talked about for weeks or even years or still are talked about today. Sure the player hit the ball but the design of the stadium made those moments more exciting.

Think about this for a moment:

No one will ever hit the ball completely out of Comerica Park. Home runs simply terminate themselves in the stands in left or right or bounce around in the bullpens.

Most seats are so far away at Comerica you lose the ball and ultimately maybe interest.

You couldn’t have been any closer to the field at Tiger Stadium. Sure you couldn’t provide that experience without posts that obstruct the views of some, but the trade-off was certainly worth it.

The New York Yankees moved out of maybe the most iconic stadium ever built. And when the day comes in Boston for a new stadium, it will still be Fenway. The Yankees made the obvious choice to build the best new Yankee Stadium they could. And Boston someday will surely follow suit with a brand new Green Monster. Red Sox fans would burn the town down if it didn’t.