By: Holly Horning
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….” Leave it to Charles Dickens to sum up the past week for the Tigers. Games where they all stepped it up while Miggy went on the DL and a single game that resulted in an unbelievable 9th inning meltdown.
Sadly, Friday night’s game was the catalyst that has further muddied the waters for the Tigers’ year – and future. In the media, they are roundly being seen as an enigma – no one sure about what kind of team they are. There’s lot of potential to be considered, yet lots of problems, too.
But this is the first year where the future of the team is truly unclear. We saw a glimmer of it last year where long-term results were created in order to gain short-term solutions in the attempt to go deep in the playoffs. But now, bigger decisions must be made. And unfortunately, each decision carries a much greater risk than it did in previous years.
•Should the Tigers risk it all for the big reward? If they do, and it doesn’t work, the team could be crippled for years as a result.
•Should they play it safe and start planning for next year? Waving the white towel now and making plans for the future may give them more time and better resources that may prop that window open a little longer.
•Or, should the Tigers rebuild? Have free agents, high payroll and a depleted farm system taken too much of a toll? Maybe cashing in free agent chips and re-stocking the team and farm will prevent what happened to the Phillies.
Lots of questions, lots of thoughts – and the blogs about what should happen and what will happen this year have only just begun for us here at Totally Tigers. We’ll be covering the entire adventure so check back daily.
But in the meantime, whether the Tigers are buyers or sellers this month goes way beyond their position in the standings and even the Wild Card. There are 15 factors in play that will determine what the final decision will be. Some will be weighed more heavily than others.
As the month of July unfurls, consider all of these elements as changes are made – or not.
FACTORS THAT SUPPORT BUYING
AGEING – Huge sums of money were spent on JV, Miggy and VMart. With each passing year, the ROI diminishes as these players grow older and skills start to naturally decline. The longer they wait, the longer the odds.
MR. I – He didn’t build the empire he has today by retreating at the first time of trouble. He still really wants that ring. Will he be willing to open the purse strings one more time?
OFFENSE – The Tigers have led or are among the top teams in offensive categories. The talent is there – they have the bats, they have the gloves. Can they get all the pitching they need?
TV CONTRACT – The Tigers will soon be renegotiating a tv contract that is considered to be one of the primary revenue producers. It is dependent upon viewership numbers which means the Tigers must stay relevant and winning.
WILD CARD – Still just 2.5 games out of a wild card with a half-season to go. The Giants and Royals used it last year to get into the World Series.
FACTORS THAT SUPPORT SELLING
BULLPEN – We don’t need to discuss this one. The Tigers would need more than one reliever. Will they all be available and at what cost?
DIVISION STANDINGS – Can they come back from 8 games (through Friday night) out? Even this cautiously optimistic blogger thinks it’s a tall mountain to climb.
FARM SYSTEM – Not a whole lot left after years of Trader Dave working his magic. They may not have the pieces anymore that will allow them to compete with other teams for those big name pitchers. Maybe selling = restocking = 2016 trade chips.
MANAGER – Even if the Tigers acquire all the necessary pieces this year, will they want to hand it over to an inexperienced manager who is more than likely to mess it up, waste the opportunity and put the team into an even bigger hole moving forward?
MIGGY – For many teams, an injury to your top player will make you hesitate about making any big trades, esp. when you have no idea where you will be in the standings when, and if, he returns.
STARTING PITCHING – One big question mark. Starters comprised of one star, one stabilizing, one recovering and 2 stumbling (aka “scuffling.”) Two new starting pitchers make for one tall order.
DAVE DOMBROWSKI – His contract renewal doesn’t make for good timing. If Mr. I wants to move in another direction, he will probably take away or greatly diminish Dave’s buying/trading power which is SOP for any GM on the way out.
ILITCH HOLDINGS – Whatever Mr. I wants will also be based on how it impacts the profitability of Ilitch Holdings. All of his businesses feed off one another so a significant downturn in Tigers performance will negatively impact the others.
INVESTMENT – The fourth highest payroll in baseball has helped win pennants, but not the big enchilada. Will the fear of failure despite huge expenditures inspire the organization to wait and re-trench or to double-down financially?
WINTER FREE AGENT MARKET – Billed as the biggest and best FA market in years, there will be lots of pitchers – younger and expected to be entering their prime years. Would the Tigers be smarter to wait until the winter when the selection will be bigger, better and less expensive?
This should be an interesting month – and one that will help shape the Tigers beyond 2015.