WE THOUGHT YOU’D NEVER ASK

By Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

OK, it’s a start. In only our second edition of this new segment, We Thought You’d Never Ask, you asked!

Remember, Saturdays offer us the opportunity to address questions from our readers. Sometimes we get tired of answering our own questions. We’d much rather hear from you.

So this week, one of three comes from a reader. We will address that question along with two others regarding what has been an expected but eventful last couple of days for the Tigers.

The 3 sentence rule means we have to get busy with our points right from the start, which is tough for us sometimes. But it should be easier with all that’s happened with our beloved Tigers this week.

So, let’s get the ball rollin’.


1. What’s the positive that comes out of trading Price, Soria and Cespedes?


Holly – The Tigers sold three and got six – 5 desperately needed pitchers and 1 SS which is a good start. Some of them should be able to get a head start this year on making the 2016 rotation. By going to NY, the Tigers are in a better position to re-sign Cespedes given that the city is a fishbowl and he may not like having every move scrutinized.

Kurt – The Tigers may have gone all in if they had a farm system with some value they could offer for stars to make a run. But they have very little and admitted it. A couple of these guys may not remain Tigers, but all of them give the team options, which they didn’t have before these trades.


2. What was disappointing about the three trades?


Holly – I expected Soria to fetch more and was surprised that other teams saw him as a set-up guy and not a closer. The new AA shortstop is a puzzler but somehow I think the Tigers either have future infield plans for him or they’ll use him as currency next winter in a trade. And I was hoping that at least one of the new pitcher acquisitions would have had a larger sampling of experience in the big show.

Kurt – What’s disappointing is that they had to be made at all. But the Tigers are in a precarious position with some high dollar salaries and a weak farm system stifling their ability to grow. So it’s a painful step, but a necessary one.


3. (From our reader, Brian) Should Kinsler have been moved this year?


Holly – Personally, I like what Kinsler brings to the table – great defensive skills and pairing magic with Iggy, solid offensive skills and a desperately needed hard nose attitude. I think some over-estimate his contract, which was front-loaded to the Rangers and actually goes down each year starting in 2016 to reasonable levels. He is an essential cog to that defensive strength up the middle and one of the few veterans, which is important to have especially when the Tigers have had a devil of a time finding a capable second baseman.

Kurt – No, Kinsler is a glue guy, and a dynamite middle of the infield partner for Iglesias, who brings leadership sorely needed in that dugout.   We cannot discount what we have gained defensively with Kinsler.  His value to this team may be underappreciated, but he is a key part of our foundation going forward, both offensively and defensively.

TRADES ARE ONLY THE BEGINNING

By:  Holly Horning

I’m sure that by the time you read this, the Tigers may have completed another trade – or two. But no matter what happens, barring a trade of Miggy, Iggy or either of the Martinez boys, there is still lots of baseball to enjoy.

We just need to realign our focus for these next two months. It will be a change from what we’re used to experiencing these past years, but I’m a firm advocate of Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” (And if you’re not familiar with this masterpiece, you must watch the movie or at least the video clip.)

I’m talking about how the Tigers will spend the rest of this year. It’s definitely not over. Home plate has just been moved. There is still a purpose to this season.

I am looking forward to seeing Miggy come back, JD slugging his massive home runs, Victor grinding away at the plate and Iggy turning glorious play after glorious play. While I always appreciate the destination, the journey can still be fulfilling even if you know you won’t reach your goal this year.

Which is why I see today as the first day the Tigers will start preparing for next year. Not the day after the World Series. A lot can be addressed now, tried out and then tweaked over the winter. There’s something to be said for not being in playoff mode.

The Tigers took the first and most important step in acknowledging they are best off by selling their free agents. It truly is a rebooting, not a rebuild or fire sale. The Tigers have a fundamentally good core with great players at 6 of the 9 positions. A few question marks at third base and left field. But yes, it’s the pitching that really needs to be addressed.

So what should the Tigers be doing for these next two months?

The first thing is to rewrite the ending of this year’s book. The team needs to have a new purpose and new goals. The funny thing about being out of contention is that it allows a team to focus on improving the weaker aspects of their game.

As the media reports, the Tigers are unusually quiet and lacking energy in the clubhouse and have been for much of July. Many players appear disinterested during games. That also needs to be addressed. Direction needs to be redefined and goals set. If they’re not, then we’ll have players just going through the motions.

New players will also be coming in and the dynamics will be changing which means the team will have to go through another round of assimilation. Getting an advance start on “gelling” will be helpful before spring training and the start of the 2016 season.

In addition to the mental game, the physical one also needs to be addressed. The next two months should be a time of polishing for McCann. Castellanos, Greene and a bevy of rookie relievers should find it easier to focus on their skills and strategies now that there is less pressure. And depending upon whom the Tigers acquire, players like Collins, Machado, Moya, Lobstein, Nesbitt and Fields may potentially find themselves in Detroit gaining more experience.

The Tigers still have over 60 games left. Approximately one-third of a season. They should consider August and September to be a dress rehearsal of sorts which should prove useful to the Front Office as they evaluate what worked and what didn’t this winter. Everyone would be smart to start thinking of this as 2016.

And who will be leading this reboot? Ah, well, that’s another blog for another day. I’ll have the answer in Part Two of my next blog.

ONE TOPIC – TWO TAKES

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

At long last, we are finally getting down to the nitty-gritty on where the Tigers are headed strategically in the efforts to improve their team at the trade deadline.

The buying and selling topic, though intriguing, has been beaten to death over the last several days. But the Tigers have now revealed what many, including us at Totally Tigers, have been thinking all along.  Cut your soon to be “losses” and turn them into much-needed gains.

And when the dust clears, even though they may not be a playoff team, the right strategy and the right moves can set the Tigers up to be contenders for years to come. So this all brings one very important question:


What does Dave Dombrowski need to achieve in order to have a successful week?


Holly – Well, he just took his first step by acknowledging publicly that the Tigers will indeed retool and be open to offers on all players with expiring contracts this year.

At minimum, Dave has to trade away Price, Cespedes, Avila and Davis. I’d like to include Simon but the bullpen is such a mess that they may just need to move him there for the rest of the year. Same with Soria, unless the team can use a tandem of two of the better-performing relievers as patchwork closers.

But maybe the Tigers acquire a closer and another reliever which will allow them to trade the two “S”s. For any of the players involved, save Avila, the Tigers will need to trade for their replacements.

The bar has been set with the Cueto trade so teams now know they need to offer more in order to get Price, the much better pitcher. Trading Cespedes ironically will put the Tigers in a better position to re-sign him after the season ends, given the structure of his contract. If they keep him and don’t sign him within a couple of days of the World Series, they lose any compensation pick plus the ability to negotiate until May 15th, if he is still available.

I would expect Dave to get 4 players for Price, 2 – 3 for Cespedes, 2 for Davis and 1 for Avila.

So what do the Tigers need? At least two MLB-ready starting pitcher and 2 relievers. I’d like to say more but I have to be realistic. Oh, and an outfielder who bats left-handed. The rest should be current AAA or top-ranked AA prospects to replenish the farm system.

But it would be foolish for Dave to continue to build this house on a shaky foundation so the final move is one of the most important and it doesn’t require a player in exchange. Ausmus need to be given his surfing papers this weekend.

The team is at the point now where his lack of leadership is negatively impacting the team. Time to work with an interim manager until the right candidate comes along. Someone who will right this ship, inspire stability and confidence and start the trek towards competing next year.


Kurt – This is going to be about as strange of a comment that you will ever hear about a baseball team. But I am now finally at peace with where the Tigers are headed.

When you say you are at peace with something, it usually means you have dealt with something that has affected you emotionally, struggled with it, and have now come to terms with the results, good or bad. That’s where I am.

This has been one of the most confusing and frustrating Tiger seasons I have followed in a long time. The team is both talented and a mess, if that is at all possible. So, Dombrowski needs to piece it all back together to become one.

If we can believe what we have heard so far about the value of David Price and a “potential” multi-team bidding war for him, Dombrowski is in a prime position to receive a haul of talent.

And we would just be getting started. Yoenis Cespedes has chosen a great time to have his best season and his stock rises daily as he continues to perform at a high level, both offensively and defensively.

So, to be successful this week, Dombrowski must replenish this franchise with high level talent in exchange for two of the best and most talented assets in the league. I trust that Dave will be patient and make deals that will allow the franchise to move forward more freely towards years of contention without taking a step back in 2016.

But, we must be sure that the advances that the Tigers have made in speed and defense are not compromised. So both of those elements but be replaced and be present in the talent we receive in return.

And of course, I leave the most important piece for last. Pitching wins and the lack of it is why we are in this position today. DD must bring us sure-fire pitching to replenish the rotation, bullpen and the farm system.

This franchise needs to get deeper, and the Tigers have a tremendous opportunity that I am ready to embrace. But you can’t make a transition like this and expect poor leadership to guide it. So Brad Ausmus must be removed from this equation.

ATTENTION SHOPPERS: TIGERS NOW AVAILABLE

By:  Kurt Snyder

It’s a fairly odd situation going on with the Tigers right now. If you haven’t noticed, they have actually run into a pretty favorable part of their schedule.

Teams like the Red Sox and now the Rays came calling at just the right time for Detroit, giving them a real opportunity to maybe get on a roll against a couple of teams that have not been playing well at all.

Boston and Tampa were to provide some magic elixir that could eventually kick-start this team and justify adding some pieces for a run at the playoffs.

But, the schedule brought a false sense of security; a theory that we could make some hay against under achieving  clubs and then take advantage of upcoming home games against teams they are chasing. You know … contender type talk.

I have searched long and hard for justification; a reason for the Tigers to continue the fight. I have wondered the last few days, even got in line with some of the media, actually trying to convince myself that they were indeed going to buy despite their poor play. Somehow I thought, the Tigers are going to grab 3-4 stars and the whole ship is going to turn around.

You could almost understand that theory if they were actually winning games, but they are slowly fading away. Not climbing. Not threatening. They are daily removing themselves from the fight.

So, this won’t be a trade deadline we have become accustomed to around here. Every year, we wondered what strings Dombrowski will pull to execute another heist of an unsuspecting team, getting them to hand over their stars for our substandard minor league talent.

But that’s not how we will be proceeding folks. The team is speaking loud and clear, drowning out the sounds of their management who are preaching continued hope for a still attainable playoff spot.

Sadly, this team is not a contender, not anymore. Isn’t it amazing how continuous losing can really affect your enthusiasm and any hope you had for the rest of the season? Funny how that happens.

The Tigers haven’t had a winning streak of more than 3 games since they were 6-0! And really, what more needs to be said?

But team leadership continues running the propaganda machine; littering Detroit with messages announcing, ‘everything is gonna be alright.’

Dombrowski and Ausmus have taken every opportunity, almost as if they aren’t even watching these games, to try to reassure everyone that we are still playing for the playoffs and insisting there is plenty of time to make up ground and potentially grab a wild card spot.

Sure, Dave’s got to still play the game. He’s got a job to do. And it’s the media’s job to decipher what he is saying, and search for any hidden messages. Plus, Dombrowski has a responsibility to put his team in the best possible position for the future. So, he’s got to preach the good news to the people. I get it.

But as fans, watching game after disgusting game, we are just left to roll our eyes and proclaim, ‘Wake me when the selling begins.’

Because who are they kidding really? None of this passes the laugh test, even with more than two months of baseball yet to be played.

So this week can’t go fast enough for me. I am ready for what comes next. I want to finally rest and quit trying to decipher the Dombrowski code.

There really is no more mystery here.

In a few short days, Dave Dombrowski and Brad Ausmus will change their tunes and get real.  All the nonsense will be over and we can spend more constructive time talking about what lies ahead.

 

TWO TIMES TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

We are getting down to crunch time now and by the end of the week or sooner, we will find out what direction this franchise will be taking.

Buy or sell? It’s not a question this team has had to deal with in a while. It’s always been about buying, about adding a piece or 2 that could potentially take them over the top.

And boy is this different. But Dombrowski hasn’t changed a bit; he is holding his cards close to his vest as usual. So let’s tackle a couple more questions as we wait for the decisions that will shape the team’s future.


1. Is Dave being sincere when he claims to be on the fence about being buyers or sellers?

Kurt – Oh my gosh, it’s so classic Dombrowski. He is a master at keeping people all over the league guessing, which makes him one of the best GM’s in baseball.

It bothers me so much that he hasn’t been able to deliver a championship, because I believe he’s got one in him before he’s done in this game.

But buying or selling? Is he on the fence? Of course not. Not this late. He knows exactly what his strategy is and it’s just the names and the faces that need to fill in the blanks.

He will do his best to do right by this team. He always does at this time of year, and who knows, it may have enough of an impact on his owner, playoffs or not, to make  Ilitch bring him back for another round of fun.

Holly – It would be really worrisome if he was. But ain’t that second wild card slot great for allowing teams who struggle in an attempt for a .500 record to dream – and to spin it for hopeful fans? The reality is, the Tigers have one winning month followed by 3 losing ones and the team isn’t going to magically turn around given even greater performance concerns.

No, Dave is very smart and I’ve got to believe that this is part of a complex strategy to get the highest return for any trades. His rationale may be three-fold:

1. Create increased desire and pressure on teams who really need key pieces by waiting until the applicant pool shrinks and thus your asking price goes up.

2. Wait until other teams trade for pitchers, like Cueto, to gauge what the going rate should be for Price and then set the trade requirements higher.

3. Marketing 101: Never let the fan base believe there is a reason for leaving or not tuning in by sticking to an official statement that the team is about to turn the corner.

This is likely to be a complicated process of both buying and selling. I wouldn’t expect the deals to be straight-forward ones, but rather trades that involve 3 teams, one of Dave’s specialties.


2. What kinds of players do the Tigers need to get back in return for trades?

Kurt – As much trust as I have in Dave at trade deadlines, my hope is that we will continue to build on all the good that has been brought to this team. We know about all the bad. We know all about how the moves made with the rotation have turned out.

But there were elements added to the Tigers that were sorely needed to allow them more opportunities to win. Speed and defense introduced a new dimension to Tiger baseball. Unfortunately, the issues with the pitching have cancelled out all of what was good about this team, which is a horrible shame.

So, DD needs to rebuild that rotation and acquire players that solidify what they have established in the areas of speed and defense. But above all, Dave knows deep down that the continued failures in developing a bullpen that can take over games has always been his downfall.  As Tiger fans, we have always wondered when it would find the top of his list. Maybe this week?

Holly – The Tigers can’t trade away Price without getting another rotation-ready pitcher in return. In fact, they really do need at least 2 new hurlers. And I don’t need to tell anyone about the urgent need for multiple relievers. And if Soria leaves, they will need another closer.

Other needs will depend upon which Tigers will get traded. The Tigers are set at catcher but if Cespedes and Davis go, they’ll need at least one new outfielder and a call-up.

But they have to get at least one player, preferably two, with a left-handed bat.

And finally, the urgent need to restock the farm system. Cueto brought 3 players so Price could conceivably bring 4. If you add in trades for Simon, Soria, Avila, Davis and Cespedes, the Tigers could receive a possible 13 players split between Detroit and the minors.

THE BREAKING POINT

By:  Holly Horning

These are interesting times in which we Tiger fans live. Every day seems to bring a new twist or drama that impacts whether the team wins or loses.

But have you noticed that while the Tigers have slowly started to drop in the standings, the controversial sideshows have been increasing? And they just may be the motivation in releasing a manager sooner, rather than later.

Owners never like to upset the apple cart, so to speak, during the season which is why many of them let managers go just as players are heading home. And there are many reasons why they fire, not just based upon where a team sits in the standings.

In a previous blog, “Chicken and the Egg” (https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/07/14/chicken-and-the-egg/), I outlined a number of arguments why Brad is still wearing the Old English D. The most likely reasons center around waiting for the right managerial candidate to become available and a possible change in the Front Office.

If Dave Dombrowski is not returning, then it’s logical to understand that his successor will want to bring in his own manager. But the issue now is whether the Tigers can afford to wait any longer.

We’ve known about the feud between JV and Brad since last year. In 2015, we’ve watched Rajai get dressed down in the dugout in full public view and several quotes from Brad that seem to question Rajai’s skills. And it’s not surprising why Rajai hasn’t been playing much lately. Seen from an owner’s and GM’s point of view, Brad is undermining Davis’ trade value in his free agent year.

But Ausmus has also made some interesting statements about Gose recently. And let’s not forget Victor’s “no comment” quote when asked to analyze Brad’s managerial moves after a disastrous game. More players, including Price, are being left out to dry by their manager. And this isn’t good.

VMart made the news again the other night when the media asked him if he had talked to management about current team issues. While some thought Victor was not showing leadership by responding “no”, it was actually a very smart move by him. It helped him and the team avoid the feeding frenzy that would have resulted if he had answered “yes.”

Mr. I has indicated publicly that he sees Victor as family – and vice versa. There’s no doubt the two have spoken and Victor, ever the stabilizer of team dynamics, has probably told his boss that the mood has become worrisome.

But in addition to this drama, we can add the unhappiness of two very expensive starting pitchers. The other night, Price, ever the professional and low-key guy, had enough. And it came just several starts after the infamous game when he left after the 6th inning and no one noticed.

He broke protocol by handing the ball over to Castellanos and leaving the mound before Ausmus arrived. He tugged at his cap, lowering the bill closer to his eyes, and avoided eye contact with Brad. As he walked off, he patted the Old English D worn over his heart several times. It was his way of communicating his appreciation to the fans and his team mates in what was probably his last game as a Tiger.

Price pitched his heart out in this extra-innings game that was known more for questionable managerial moves than for the stellar talent on the mound. And a night later, an almost identical scenario, just with a different pitcher. While we should have been focused on JV’s great performance, once again, the buzz on social media was about Brad’s managing.

And this is the biggest reason why the official breaking point may have been reached. While disintegrating team mood is a solid reason for managers to be let go, another is to allow very expensive talent to be wasted.

Price is earning $20 million this year while JV is pulling in $28 million. Two great games pitched with the added bonus that Justin is showing that he still has the potential to rebound. But the Tigers ended up with two losses that easily could have been wins.

Mr. I cannot possibly be happy. His huge investment is being wasted. And in a year where pitching has become a weak link for the team, he’s got to consider all viable options, not just trades, to maximize the results from the starting rotation.

VERY LITTLE SAND LEFT FOR DOMBROWSKI

By:  Kurt Snyder

Baseball in Detroit is driving me nuts.

The ‘win now’ mode is way past due. Trying to win now for the owner, if that is in fact what the Tigers are doing, is putting a time clock on winning.

It’s exciting, but you can’t rush success, not every year.

I won’t lie, I am mesmerized by big names just like everyone else. The last-minute dealing for stars of the game at trade deadlines are riveting and their potential impact on the team really gets your heart beating.

The day David Price arrived last season was an exciting time and sent a message to all of baseball that the Tigers will stop at nothing to win a title. But we didn’t even win a playoff game.

Is this what we needed? Shouldn’t we have focused our attention on some solid bullpen studs? Maybe even guys we could keep more than a year?

Watching guys like Price and Cespedes succeed but not enough to help the team win a World Series or even go to the playoffs is more frustration than I can take.

It messes with your head, it really does. Fans get attached to players. I have gotten used to watching David Price dominate, I have enjoyed watching Cespedes play the game and would love to see at least one of these guys, either of them, stay in a Tiger uniform. But sadly, this is today’s baseball, or at least Tiger baseball.

Teams with aggressive owners eager to win, sometimes take risks and build teams to win one year at a time. I am completely drained by this approach where these big names become Tigers but don’t bother buying a house, knowing full well, it’s merely a stop at the train station.

If you took DD out for a few drinks, got him to let down his guard, and give his honest opinion about the prospects of this year’s team heading into April, he may have questioned if we had enough to win.

We rushed Victor back to the lineup for Opening Day, Verlander was not ready to pitch; and Joe Nathan, who should have retired, blew out his arm. And after Soria moved to the ninth, no other options were available for late inning duty.

Dombrowski has no issue trading a starting pitcher for a gifted and desperately needed leftfielder, but the poor Tiger bullpen only gets the remaining change in the piggy bank when they need more help to try to get good hitters out at the end of games.

On the other hand, Alex Wilson, an actual great find who came over in the Porcello deal wasn’t trusted until late in the season. Only recently has Dave’s manager realized that Alex can be pretty competent in a late inning role.  https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/wilson-could-b…fference-maker/

It’s really a shame isn’t it? A team with the talents of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, JD Martinez, David Price, Jose Iglesias and Yoenis Cespedes, shouldn’t be forced to figure out whether to buy or sell at the trade deadline.

This team has won every individual award imaginable. They have Cy Youngs, MVP’s, Rookie of the Year awards, a Triple Crown and no hitters; practically every individual award to be won has sat in that Tiger dugout at one time or another over the last several years. Even this year, Jose Iglesias is a good bet for Comeback Player of the Year.

But amazingly, none of those awards have helped carry the Tigers to a title, and time is running out.

My dad used to have this huge hour-glass on his desk when he was the manager of Tiger Stadium. After every game, he would walk to his office, turn it over and when the sand ran out, it was time to clear the park. Every fan still in the stadium would be directed to the exits.

Mike Illitch must have an hour-glass just like it for Dave Dombrowski;  as it seems DD may have been given the “No World Series – No Extension” ultimatum. The way things are going, the sand is close to running out and Dombrowski may be forced to find an exit.

WE THOUGHT YOU’D NEVER ASK

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

In our never-ending quest to keep things fresh, we are introducing a new segment this week for Saturdays. Hopefully someday the name will be appropriate. The new segment, We Thought You’d Never Ask, is really for you guys, our readers. As we like to say, this is your blog too, and we want to interact with you.

Our goal one day is for readers to anticipate Saturday as the day we address questions you would like us to answer, and have you submit them by Thursday. Until that day comes, we will try to read your pulse and pose 3 questions to which we are limited to 2-3 sentences to finish our point.

We will handle the questions for now, but someday would like to use Saturdays to address your questions. Thus the name: We Thought You’d Never Ask.


1. What’s your take on Dave’s statement about waiting until next week to decide if the Tigers will be buyers or sellers?

Holly – It is pure and total spin – or at least I pray it is. It’s helpful to the team’s psyche as well as attendance that everyone is led to believe that they are so close to making a run when they actually are not. But Dave could also be setting up potential buyers, like Scott Boras does, by waiting as long as he can to drive up the price. (Pun not intended.)

Kurt – As bleak as things seem, I don’t blame DD for waiting and using all the time he needs to determine which is best for the team. The schedule is an interesting one with more shots left to play the Twins who, for the most part, the Tigers have handled. He’s always been patient and timely at this time of year, and I don’t expect that to change.


2. Assuming we trade Cespedes, should the Tigers try to re-sign him next year?

Holly – While I’d like to see him back, Roc Nation (agents who got Cano his 10-year $240 million deal) has set up his contract to create a bidding war. Cespedes turns 30 in a couple of months so he will want his last contract to span at least 7 years and a minimum of the going rate of $21 million/year, which would be $147+ million and financially unsustainable. The Tigers would still desperately need a left-handed bat and this is one of the few positions where it will fit in.

Kurt – This is a tough one for me as Yoenis has been one of my favorites to watch all season. But we brought him on board to help us win a title now. Not next year or the year after, now. I can’t responsibly expect the Tigers to re-sign him, but the speed, defense and extra base power that he has brought to this team must be replaced by someone.


3. Excluding the 6 free agents, will Dave trade anyone else by the deadline? If so, who?

Holly – It’s logical to think that if the Tigers need lots of new pitchers that some of the current ones needs to leave, with the only pitchers safe from trades being Sanchez, JV, Wilson, Hardy and Rondon. I’ll also pick Castellanos, with his weak defense, as trade bait for a team in desperate need for any offense they can get. Since the Tigers are out of contention, they could bring up Mike Hessman with similar-to-better offensive stats and superior defense or Corey Jones, a left-handed bat with excellent BA/OBP/SLG/OPS to fill in for the rest of the year.

Kurt – My view hasn’t changed since I wrote on this subject a couple of weeks ago. (https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/07/09/nick-could-help-nab-another-1/). Regardless of what category the Tigers find themselves in, selling or buying, Nick Castellanos, as a young, second year big leaguer, would bring good value and may be a guy Dombrowski chooses to deal. I view Nick as someone who will continue to improve but not someone who we would regret letting go.

CORPORATE CULTURE IS KEY

By:  Holly Horning

Whenever I work with someone on their professional goals, one of the first things I ask about is the company’s corporate culture. How it is defined, or not, is crucial to the company’s – and individual’s – success.

So what does the term “corporate culture” really mean? According to Inc.’s Encyclopedia of Business Terminology:

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.

So what is the Tigers’ corporate culture? Not even reporters can speak to it and I doubt the tight-lipped Front Office will give us a hint, but the philosophies and outlook of management trickle down to all employees. And yes, that includes the guys who share a clubhouse, dugout and playing field.

At first glance, there is much to admire about the organization. The Tigers are consistently one of the few teams who do not stir the baseball pot of rumors and make moves that can only be seen as highly professional. They keep a lid on everything and you’d be hard-pressed to hear any of them denigrate an individual. That’s why Dave Dombrowski’s comment about Scott Boras last year was unusually surprising, creating a ripple in the local newspapers.

And in a world where baseball people tend to be nomads, the team has been a harbor of job stability which tends to indicate that employees enjoy the work environment. There is also a keen sense of loyalty from Mr. I and on down. All admired in the business world, but taken too far, can also create problems.

And maybe that is now what the hierarchy needs to address. When your team has been trying to win the World Series for 10 years despite a radical change in players, as well as managers and coaches, you need to start looking at the constants in the equation – not just the personnel. And the corporate culture, only one of a number of issues, should be one of those examined.

Mr. I has been very loyal to his GM of 14 years. And in turn, Dave maintained confidence in his manager, Jim Leyland for 8 years. To this day, there are still a number of executives, consultants and coaches who have been with the team significantly longer than the average for the other MLB teams.

Only three other GMs have a longer tenure than Dave. And all three have won at least one World Series title. Yes, loyalty has played a part but how much is also attributable to “Midwest Nice”? (https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/midwest-nice/)

Is loyalty getting in the way of management being able to see the long-view of performance? Is it responsible for management being unwilling, hesitant or slow to make some changes or hard choices?

Another factor to consider is attitude. The Tigers have never been known as a typically aggressive team so could this be missing from their corporate culture? Players who don’t battle pitchers and pitchers who try to nibble on the corners, instead of challenging batters. And this week, social media threads focused on Ausmus’ actions and quotes which appear to indicate a strategy of “playing not to lose” instead of “playing to win.”

All businesses need to define their “winning mentality” culture – a way of expressing and working towards the desired goals. At least in the clubhouse, this has not been communicated. When you hear managers, coaches and players saying “it’s just one game”, “that’s baseball” and putting the blame on something other than their performances to excuse a loss, then Houston, we’ve got a problem. When Andrew Romine said this week, “It’s just a loss, it’s not that big of a deal,” alarm bells should have been going off in the Front Office.

Contrast this to other teams with managers who speak to the media with energy, attitude and assertiveness. They are precise in their message. They are passionate. And they clearly articulate their expectations of players. The best at getting their message across are Bruce Bochy, Clint Hurdle, Joe Maddon, Buck Showalter, Mike Matheny, Paul Molitor and Matt Williams. Is it merely a coincidence that their teams are performing well?

Couple an undefined attitude principle and a weak “winning mentality”, as seen in manager and players alike, and you end up with no accountability. You end up with underperforming players telling the media that they did well (when maybe they didn’t) but something else got in the way.  In his 6 starts with no wins, Justin Verlander still refuses to admit that his pitching is a concern.  Contrast this with other teams who actually fine their players for making excuses because it goes against the team’s philosophy.

And this is why many fans complain about the Tigers often having no passion or spark. A winning mentality includes clear performance expectations for everyone – whether it is statistical or attitude-based. Other than VMart, which players appear to be giving it their all and grinding out every single moment on a daily basis? Could the inconsistent play and complacency that has characterized this team for years now be a result of an uncommunicated and unenforced “winning mentality” attitude?

But in this new global workplace, every organization must also recognize that they have employees who are not American-born or raised. How people grow up, how they interpret events and the basis for their belief system are crucial to developing a true team-think. No longer can we assume that foreign-born players should automatically know what “teamwork” means in this country.  This concept has different qualities in different countries. Cultural divides need to be recognized and a universal system for expectations needs to be part of any organization.

The Tigers currently have 12 of their 25-man roster as foreign-born. Six different countries are represented and a number of the players speak little to no English. Could an absence of an international set of expectations and goals be a factor in the public critiques about the players often having a hard time getting on the same page as a group during a game?

But a final factor to consider, and one of the most important, is that the majority of Tigers came from other teams.  They came from other organizations with different corporate cultures, different management styles and different expectations. Detroit is at a disadvantage when compared to teams such as the Cardinals and Royals, where players were assembled early in their careers and the corporate culture was precisely defined. Have the Tigers compensated for this factor?

With the team rumored to make some changes in the near future, one of the most important changes they should make is to fully define and communicate their corporate culture. It is a system that trickles from the top on down and within departments, or a clubhouse. And it is very contagious. Look no further than the former players and current GMs who say that over the course of even a year, the players eventually take on the characteristics and attitude of their manager.

Maybe this means that personnel changes, and bringing in effective messengers, is a crucial step the team needs to take.  It is one of the easiest, and least expensive strategies any organization can implement in creating a consistent, winning environment.

ONE TOPIC – TWO TAKES

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Today, we take on the question of the week, and of course it revolves around the trade deadline and the path the Tigers will take for their future.

The Tigers given where they stand in the race may look to be sellers this season, like it or not.

So, as you might have guessed, we have a lot to say about that.


With the Tigers rumored to be sellers this year, and given their performance to date, how should Tiger fans be feeling?


Holly – I would say “relieved” and “hopeful” because it would mean the Tigers have no intention of becoming the latest reincarnation of the Phillies.

There are different degrees of selling ranging from the full-out “fire sale” to “retooling” to “tweaking.” I think the Tigers are in that middle category where they need more than a couple of pieces. Obviously, most of that shopping list revolves around obtaining multiple starters and relievers.

But I will say that I thought something like this would happen this year. I didn’t anticipate the degree to which the starting pitching would collapse but I believed that Price and Cespedes would only be here for the year. Their salary demands would dictate they move to teams other than the Tigers.

I saw them as that Silly Putty that would hold things together for a year until the mortar, young outfielders like Collins and pitchers like Lobstein, Hardy and Farmer, matured.

When you look beyond the pitchers, this is a really talented team. Other than third base, the infield is solid and stellar. The outfield is better than last year and I think Collins, with that desperately needed left-handed bat, will do nicely in LF. There’s a lot of good stuff happening here!

But for all of this to work, the Tigers need to address the talent that doesn’t pick up the glove and bat. They need a fresh vision, new ideas and new names in the Front Office, as well as managing and coaching. If they don’t change that, and add people with energy and leadership, it won’t matter who they acquire or how much they spend. And that is another blog for another day.

But if the Tigers are smart, they will use Price, Cespedes, Avila, Simon and maybe even Soria and Davis as what they are right now – currency. Let’s hope the Tigers get the best possible exchange rate they can find to get the pitchers and start restocking the farm system.

And start the process right now, not next year, by giving the new pieces a chance to gel and gain experience. If done right, the team could easily be back in contention next year.


Kurt – Well, I think Tiger fans should feel disappointed and now maybe even a little concerned. If indeed the team becomes sellers and we have to say good-bye to guys like Price and Cespedes at the trade deadline, it will be the exclamation point on a wasted opportunity.

This is one of the more talented and athletic teams we have seen in Detroit in a long time, so we have indeed blown an opportunity. They shouldn’t be this bad. But the decisions made with the starting rotation have been failures. And things got worse with Verlander on the shelf early and Sanchez unable to keep the ball in the ballpark for the first couple months of the season.

Once again the bullpen, outside of Wilson arriving in the trade for Porcello, saw little improvement. Sure, Soria moved into the closer’s role, which everyone wanted, but the Tigers had little else, and no major moves were made in the spring to really impact the pen. Sorry, Joba.

Assuming they are sellers, things do still remain interesting as we appear to have a lame duck GM making decisions about our future. How good has Dave been at drafting?

Well, there have been several players we have drafted that looked good enough to other teams to trade for them allowing us to acquire big time additions at past trade deadlines. We won most of those trades didn’t we? Our “young guns” had few bullets when they reported to their new teams.

So how good will DD be at trading for good young talent? How motivated will he be as well considering his uncertain status as GM? Are we about to have the tables turned on us? Will it be our turn to get fleeced by other teams at the deadline? Who thought we would end up here? And who now wonders if we will come out the other end in better shape?