TWO TIMES TWO FOR TUESDAY

By: Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

This is when it gets tough. After enduring a beating at the hands of a legitimate World Series contender, we are painfully realizing how far the Tigers have fallen.

But we have to look at the big picture. Since we sold at the deadline and are enduring key injuries, the team has little ability to hold down their opponent. So September is going to be a very trying month.

But what positives can we draw from this? What questions should we ask? Here’s a couple.


With a month left to play, what is one goal you would like to see accomplished?


Holly – While I’m tempted to select Miggy winning another batting title, it would be an individual achievement and short-sighted. It’s always about the team for me and I want hope going into next year so I’d love to see some call-ups this week and prove they are ready or close to playing in the Big Show.

With some question marks in CF and LF, let’s see what the AAAers have before hitting the free agent market. And if one of them can also play first base in a pinch, all the better.

Huge needs in starting and relief pitching so the sooner Al Avila can sort this all out, the better. Hopefully Lobstein returns so the Tigers will potentially only need 2 more starters.

But the bullpen – oh, the bullpen and the source of my PTBS: Post-Traumatic Bullpen Syndrome (but I’m sure you can come up with another appropriate definition given this acronym).

Most of the arms called up should be young and healthy. Hopefully, Al can trade all those old, surgically repaired retreads to Dave up in Boston. The Tigers will need an astounding number of new relievers.


Kurt – The Tigers need to get their big boy pants on and finish strong. I don’t see them winning many more games because they have few bullets left in their guns, but they can at least drop the guns and put up their fists.

I want them to start putting up a fight again. They played so scared in Toronto, it was embarrassing. The Blue Jays were allowed to dig in at the plate without any fear of anyone pitching inside.

I want to see some aggression. I want them to fight through at bats and make pitchers work. I want to see pitchers back hitters off the plate, take a little control instead of letting them have their way with you.

The fans in Detroit have continued to fill the park. And the Tigers at least owe it to them to keep playing hard. I don’t think that is so much to ask of highly paid athletes, whether they are winning or losing.


What will motivate the Tigers to try to win games in September?


Holly – After this last series with Toronto, it’s evident that the only means of motivation will be an interim manager. Even after a shellacking, the team exhibited no fire the next day, progressively got worse with multiple examples of failing to run out hits and lack of focus in the field and on the base paths – all the while the manager and coaches were sitting silently together in the furthest confines of the dugout.

The only logical choices at the moment are Tram, Leyland and maybe Omar. The team needs someone they can respect and in turn, someone who can change the energy and attitude. Someone who won’t allow sloppy play and who will insert meaning into the last month of play.

This manager needs to break the bad habits of the past two years and start creating a higher level of play and expectations for next year. A guy who will tell the team that last place is totally unacceptable and will point to third place as the goal.

And this temporary replacement needs to use this month as a time to address the fundamentals and situational baseball. Overall, the players have done little to show fans they play as a cohesive team and this will be one of the biggest needs for any team wishing to play October baseball next year.

There’s a lot of work that can be addressed in September that will help them avoid the “first to worst” moniker – and help set the mindset for next year.


Kurt – What will motivate them? How about pride, and money and big league jobs? Shoot, there are roster spots to think about for some of these guys.

Our young pitchers, who are currently in our rotation, need to use this time to start learning how to pitch to big league hitters. They need to learn from their mistakes, learn that you can’t get away with throwing the ball right down the middle and not get hurt.

Winning starts with them and just a taste of success and the taste of winning could go a long way to building some momentum as they transition into next season. The Tigers aren’t just going to go out and sign 3 starters for their rotation next year. A couple of these young guys have to develop quickly and it all starts now.

I think our hitters are demoralized by the poor pitching and if we pitch, the hitting will come and then so will the winning. This is an important month for this team, regardless of how it looks in the standings.

PUTTING PUZZLE PIECES TOGETHER

By:  Holly Horning

We here at Totally Tigers are impatiently biding our time until the managerial dominoes start to fall in earnest around both leagues. September is usually the start of this annual classic with a final flurry of departures expected when teams with high expectations fail to move up in the playoffs.

We’ll be covering it all so expect a number of blogs dedicated to analyzing the candidate pool and identifying the most likely (and hopefully!) new managers. But in the meantime, it’s time to turn our attention back to D3 – Dave Dombrowski’s Departure – given that another GM has been let go and another is said to be on the ledge.

Reliable sources indicated that Dave interviewed with Boston, Seattle and Washington, DC. Weeks later, Seattle released their GM from his contract. And if the Nationals don’t clinch at least a wild card, then we’ve seen signs that DC is probably interested in moving forward with another GM.

And this is the trend with GMs and managers now. As teams spend more money, the stakes are higher, the timelines shorter and owners raise their expectations of how their Front Offices should perform. Mr. I was extremely patient, in retrospect, by allowing Dave 14 years to get the Tigers that ring. Seattle gave Zack Zduriencik  7 years while Boston has been rotating at least one top executive every couple of years.

Which brings us back to Dave. When he was first released, there was a flurry of speculation about why and how it happened. Fingers being pointed at Mr. I, his son, Chris, and even Al Avila. But the truth usually emerges down the road as the dust starts to settle and sources within the involved organizations loosen their lips.

And from what we now know, the fingers appear, for the moment, to be pointing at Dave. First, it was a social media comment from a Detroit Free Press writer that mentioned Mr. I released Dave because he found out Dombrowski was using a “back door” strategy in looking for a new job.

Next, MLB Radio former GMs revealed that their sources within the Red Sox organization indicated that Dave was talking to them in the days before he was officially released by the Tigers. And finally, Boston’s top management accidentally revealed in their presser different information and dates about when and how they actually started the interview process. It appeared they couldn’t get their stories straight.

And this is where the process gets muddy. We don’t know if Dave and Mr. I had a discussion about his future in Detroit. We wonder whether Dave even asked for a progress report at all in 2015.

Dave had to know that no contract talks did not bode well for his future. But was it OK for him to start shopping for a new job, allegedly behind Mr. I’s back? In baseball, most teams insert clauses into contracts that forbid executives from talking with other teams without permission.

But were the rules followed? Maybe not given Mr. I’s action and tepid press release. As we know, he values loyalty and is quick to dismiss anyone who does not appear to practice it.

I expect that as time goes on, we will learn more about what actually happened. The only issue that isn’t surprising is how both sides have maintained a sense of professionalism and not aired their dirty laundry.

While criticism has been leveled, and given this already ugly season, we maybe should appreciate what could have been an attempt by Mr. I and his organization to go “ghost” in the aftermath rather than unleash negative information and unhappiness.

And maybe this is the best way for both the Tigers and Dave to move forward.

HOCKEY MEETS BASEBALL

By:  Kurt Snyder

Admitting to watching the entire 15-1 whipping that the Tigers took at the hands of the Blue Jays on Saturday is, in a word, brave.  So, I asked myself a couple of questions. Should I admit to this? Should I lie and say I missed it? Of course not.   This is what I signed up for.  What kind of writer would I be if I only watched the good games, the ones in which the Tigers compete and play well?

What I was watching on Saturday was the perfect storm. Toronto, in a position to make a run at a wild card at the trade deadline, have now taken the East by storm and will make a strong charge for a World Championship.

They already had plenty of power, but needed a stud pitcher. Enter David Price. And they added one of the best shortstops in the game in Troy Tulowitzki to hit in front of a guy (Josh Donaldson) who will probably win the AL MVP.

The Tigers, who also were technically still in the wild card race at the deadline, have floundered all season and had nothing really to offer to become buyers. So they sold 3 huge pillars of their team and now have only a shell of what they started the season with.

Throw in a couple of key injuries, a manager whose weakness is, well, competitive execution, and you have a Tiger team settling into last place in their division.

So put Toronto and Detroit on the field together at this juncture and there is the potential for ugliness. The Tigers starting staff hasn’t been this bad in many years and Toronto has scored over 100 runs more than the rest of the league. That’s a match up made in hell, folks.

But we as fans need to settle in, because this is a September preview. As we uncomfortably send the likes of Buck Farmer out on the mound to be sacrificed, the chances of winning are not good. Outside of Farmer, we are left with Alfredo Simon, Matt Boyd and Randy Wolf before we can look forward to another start from the surging JV.

So yes, 4 out of 5 nights, we will hold our breath hoping to score a bunch of runs to have a chance to win. This will be our September.

Meanwhile in Toronto, a city who lives and dies by the success of the Maple Leafs, not the Blue Jays, fans brought hockey to the baseball diamond.

In a game where the Jays seemed to hit a home run or 2 every inning, got 3 from Edwin Encarnacion, as he tallied 9 RBI’s, 4 on a grand slam. After he rounded the bases for his third round tripper, the crowd littered the field with hats, recognizing the rare achievement of hitting 3 homers in a game; a baseball “hat trick.” Only in a hockey town would this happen. In fact, David Price stood on the dugout steps muttering “I have never seen this at a baseball game before.”

If Ilitch even watched, he must have been infuriated by this game. The Tigers not only lost, they were embarrassed. They didn’t have a single pitcher that could get anyone out. They put up little resistance at the plate and Toronto even scored a run because our centerfielder thought there were 3 outs instead of 2. Things are unraveling and the Tigers are cashing in their chips.

After Encarnacion’s grand slam, the jubilant Toronto crowd laughed and partied like it was Mardi Gras. It was mass hysteria, all at the expense of the Tigers, considered contenders in spring training, but now just playing out the string. Toronto, on the other hand will be one of the favorites to win a World Series.

Mike Ilitch, the owner of a hockey team and a baseball team, may have seen his own personal nirvana play out in Toronto, not Detroit; fans celebrating a hockey tradition on a baseball diamond.

Something tells me it’s going to be a while before things go so well at Comerica that an octopus winds up in the infield.

WE THOUGHT YOU’D NEVER ASK

By Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

As this disappointing Tiger season draws to a close and September looking like just a month for 2016 auditions, most of the discussion among fans has revolved around our manager.

An increasing number of our readers are commenting and wondering about what the Tigers will do with Brad Ausmus.   Among the comments are questions about potential managerial candidates should the Tigers decide to make a change.  Stay tuned for a future blog dedicated to that subject.

But first, let’s examine our manager’s future with the Tigers by addressing a very simple question.


Is it better to keep Brad for the rest of this year as manager or move on?


Holly – There are several reasons for moving forward without Brad. While this has been a bad year, it could get worse both in terms of performance and morale.

Does Mr. I really want to see his team sink even lower in the standings and win percentage? Thursday’s game with the tying run on third base and Avila not pulled for a pinch hitter is just one of many where Brad didn’t play to win. And it resulted in another drop into last place – but this time, in sole possession.

While the year may technically be over, there are still some worthy goals for the Tigers to achieve. First is Miggy’s offensive numbers and possible batting title run. JD has a strong chance to win the AL HR title while McCann could rank near the top for Rookie of the Year. These are the nice milestones we could look forward to at the end of a disappointing year.

Avoiding the continued loss of morale will help these three perform at their best. But more importantly, setting a new tone within the team will allow Al Avila to see next year’s potential starting lineup more clearly. Next week, a handful of promising players will head up from the minors for their tryouts.

An interim manager is more likely to assist in resetting the morale button and enhance the performance levels for the last month of the season. A new manager could also start working on breaking bad habits and strengthening teamwork principles in advance of next year.

While the ideal new manager is not yet available, why not audition Vizquel for bench coach? And give Tram a “re- do” of his managerial stint for one month – only with much better players. For all of his loyalty, give him a chance to neutralize bad memories and maybe even showcase his stuff for another team.

All in all, instead of treating September as a lost month, it should be used as a dress rehearsal for next year. Avila needs to see for himself what’s working, what’s not and to start assembling that “to do” list. Make September the fresh start, not the death of a season.


Kurt – Ausmus should have been let go after the trade deadline.  Avila knew enough about the situation to pull the trigger and would have really made a statement by firing Brad instead of endorsing him for the rest of the season. Letting Brad go now serves no real purpose, so we might as well just let him ride it out; and I mean ‘out.’

The trades at the deadline and the key recent injuries to 2 starters doesn’t give them much of a chance anymore, most nights. This is a much different team now because of it.

With a starting rotation that consists of a hot Justin Verlander and 4 other guys, the Tigers are not going to win many more games. It appears they will settle deep into the cellar without much resistance.  They no longer have enough guns to stop the decline.

But the guns we do have are loaded with pride, and they have individual goals left to attain. Guys like JV, Kinsler, Miggy and JD are on personal rolls and look to be trying to make the most of a bad situation. All should emerge from this season having had great personal success.

I know it’s funny to say that about 2 game winner Justin Verlander. But he has really come on and in a year where he looked to be really trending downward, he now is heading back up the ladder.

Given all of this, a managerial change at this point will make little difference. After the trade deadline was the time to do it and would have impacted the team more than it will now.

Ausmus can sit in the seat and work on perfecting his craft during meaningless September baseball, should for some incredibly strange reason he is retained for next season.  But, there will be little pressure for him as there is nothing left to win or lose.

All the damage has already been done.

ASKING THE TOUGH QUESTIONS

By:  Holly Horning

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….” pretty much describes the other day for the Tigers. Less than 24 hours after hitting the cellar in the AL Central, JV comes oh-so-close to throwing a no-hitter. Wednesday was the perfect microcosm of a very strange 2015 Detroit Tigers season.

Earlier in the day, more than a few in the national media were anointing our beloved team as the most disappointing one for the year so far given the fall from “first to worst”. And the justification for their opinions was based upon the significant amount of talent many believe resides on this team.

So much talent, that despite some injuries, should have translated into so much more than 7 games under .500, 18 games out of first place and the 10th worst record in baseball. Talent that consistently produced top offensive numbers yet had difficulty in translating those figures into wins.

We know all too well about the struggles of the starting pitching for part of this year and the eternal black hole known as the bullpen. But can we really use lack of pitching as the sole or primary excuse for this year?

For all the arguments that say good pitching beats all, the Tigers had the best starting pitching in baseball for years yet always managed to win the division by a single game. (2011 is excluded considering they were the only team above .500.) We won’t even discuss performance during recent playoff years or the single World Series win from two contests.

So what gives? Why have the Tigers failed to put it all together for the past 10 years when expected by most to have had at least one ring by now? And why especially did this year turn so sour?

Maybe it’s just not talent that is a factor. Maybe there are other non-physical skills and intangibles that are at play. And that’s why we need to evaluate this team as any other business gets analyzed.

Make no mistake, baseball runs like any other company – the same structure, purpose and goals. The intent is to develop talent and produce a winning team. And when owners invest millions in employees and resources, but expectations don’t match performance, companies have to look inward at the culprit(s).

Many of these organizations end up bringing in analysts and coaches to help them dig deeper and locate the hidden weak links. And from my experience as a professional performance coach, I can say it is never one single factor. It is usually a combination of elements – and it always involves the tangibles as well as intangibles.

So can we assess the Tigers organization? Sadly, no, unless Mr. I gives me a buzz – and even then there’s the pesky issue concerning client confidentiality. To be able to locate the factors holding this team back, we need to be welcomed through the front doors and to be able to scratch around a bit.

But we can, like coaches, ask lots of questions. Questions raise awareness and in turn, issues are identified and hopefully resolved. As we say in the biz, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

So what questions would I ask if this was my client? I thought you’d never ask……..

What is the corporate culture? In other words, what are the shared values, standards, attitudes and beliefs of the members that would characterize this organization and define it to outsiders?

What is the leadership style? Does upper management take a proactive stance on exhibiting visible leadership or is their style subtle and low-key?

Are the goals of the organization clearly spelled out in detail? Or are the goals vague, unwritten and assumed?

Does each leader within the organization mirror the leadership and energy of the owner? If the owner is exacting and energetic, for example, are all the managers as well?

Are the methods of managing conducive to achieving the set goals? How well do they inspire the desired level of performance?

Are the leaders of the organization easily recognized by everyone else? Does every department, division or team have at least one clearly defined leader?

Do the leaders have mentors and coaches to assist them? Do these “helpers” coordinate the work and message with the leader?

Does every employee or player have someone to guide them? Are they able to understand what is expected of them? Is there someone who can work effectively with them?

How is accountability communicated and measured? Do members understand what is expected of them? If they fail to meet goals, do they understand that consequences may be involved?

And the biggie……

How important is teamwork in the overall organization’s philosophy? Is it taught, emphasized and practiced regularly?

So once again, we’ve got an exercise in which questions, not answers, are offered. And that’s OK, because the fans and media should be asking the questions. It’s up to the owner to provide the structure and for the team to provide the answers.

ONE TOPIC – TWO TAKES

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

In light of JV’s near no-hitter on Wednesday, we would be remiss if we didn’t recognize his continued return to form.  Rest assured that JV will be part of an upcoming blog but for now, we will shift the discussion to a rumor that has been gaining some traction in the media.


Rumors circulating in the non-local media link Omar Vizquel to potentially being in contention to manage the Tigers. Would this be a good idea?


Kurt – Brad Ausmus has taken a lot of criticism during his two terms as Tiger manager. But he did it right when he added Omar Vizquel to his coaching staff.

If I need a coach and I have a budding superstar at shortstop, who better than to have a former shortstop the caliber of Omar Vizquel to tutor him and foster him in his development? Vizquel is here because of Jose Iglesias and it’s a sharp move.

Also, I would guess most teams have a Spanish-speaking coach to help with any communication issues. Omar certainly provides priceless help in that arena and if you think about it, having someone with that expertise as your first base coach is an important asset.

So those are Omar’s important contributions to this team. But is it enough to anoint him and give him his first shot at managing a major league team? No, not this team.

Even as the team is getting younger, the high-priced, major personalities like Cabrera, Verlander and Martinez need veteran leadership. This team was never a candidate for a rookie manager. And they still aren’t.

I definitely can see Vizquel as a manager someday, but there are good fits for rookie management and then there are bad fits. And rookie candidates for major managerial jobs are not on a level playing field with equal qualifications. They have to be a fit with the team they will lead.

Omar is certainly someone to think about, but if the Tigers decide to make a change after hiring a rookie manager, I find it hard to believe they would hire from within and do it all over again.

If the Tigers were going to evaluate whether Omar has a shot at becoming the manager of this team, pulling the plug on Brad and naming Omar the interim during the season would have given them the opportunity to really size him up. But who’s really sure about Al Avila’s managerial intentions?

The Tigers, since Jim Leyland left, have needed an experienced, seasoned manager, one who could come in commanding respect from the get go. If they choose to go get one in the off-season, he must be sure to realize the value of Omar Vizquel and retain him as a major member of the coaching staff.


Holly – Unfortunately, a great track record as a player doesn’t transfer over to managing skills. And what the Tigers need is an experienced manager with a proven track record.

Actually, I find it quite surprising to hear this rumor. One would hope the Tigers would have learned their lesson from hiring a rookie manager in Ausmus. And given that with the right acquisitions, the Tigers can be back in the thick of it next year, it makes no sense to extend the pain and frustration by repeating their mistake.

In many ways, Omar is like Ausmus – both solid guys who played many years, around the same age and recently removed from their playing days. At least Omar has three years of coaching under his belt, unlike the current manager when he won the job.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Omar for many reasons but two years as a first base coach is not a solid resume for managing all aspects of an entire team. Neither should the ability to speak fluent Spanish on a team dominated by Latinos be a significant job qualification.

He is still the untested apprentice. Let’s not forget that the Tigers traded Steve Lombardozzi for Alex Gonzalez last year based upon Omar’s recommendation. And Omar has served as the team’s base running coach for 2 years. Not exactly sparkling resume highlights.

Now, if Vizquel had graduated to bench coach, that might be a different story. Logically, that should be his next move, not manager.

But if the Tigers are smart, they would take a sneak peek and evaluate his skills further this year. Make him the interim manager for the rest of this year. Test-driving a coach-turned-interim manager is what a lot of teams do.

See how the players respond to him, see how he handles the egos and personalities, see how quickly he learns, see how he motivates and see whether he can manage instinctively.

And maybe if he’s not yet managerial material, Al Avila can possibly recommend to any new manager that Omar would make a fine bench coach.

CHECKING IN ON AN OLD FRIEND

By:  Kurt Snyder

It’s 2:15 am in Las Vegas and I can’t let Holly down; so I should get full credit for at least getting something out there to read today.

I have been quietly following the escapades of one ex Tiger this season, someone we could have surely used this year. But he has done very well for himself in the pocketbook, but other than that?

So I harken back to the very first blog I wrote on this site, which I am reposting below, just as a reminder. My only question is: How’s that winning working out for you Max?   The winning still isn’t coming so easy now is it?


Max Scherzer turned the heads of Tiger fans everywhere when he said 2 very puzzling things while he was introduced as the new crown jewel ace of the Washington Nationals.

He went there because he wanted to win and that he doesn’t play baseball for the money. To which Tiger fans in unison proclaimed: “Then why didn’t you sign with the Tigers in the spring?”

Because just in case you haven’t noticed, the Tigers have been winning consistently for years. And the resigning of Max Scherzer would have gone a long way to reaching the ultimate goal.

But the Tigers saw this day coming and many realized it when David Price came in the door. He was the new Max Scherzer. They were going to make Max an offer that they were not sure he was going to take and having Price wouldn’t leave them high and dry if Max did leave.

But Max didn’t leave to go win. He was winning here! He left for $210 million dollars. He left for the money. The Nationals haven’t been raising World Championship flags. The Giants have. The Cardinals have. And if he would have stood on the podium with the SF or the StL emblazoned on his cap, you could understand, I came here to win.

But Max, don’t feed us this nonsense. You wanted out from the shadow of Verlander, which, by the way, you were already. And you wanted $210 million dollars. But thank you for making it easier for us to say good bye.

As my mother used to say to my dad, who would laugh hysterically every time: “At least he can feed his family now.”

QUESTIONS NEEDING ANSWERS

by:  Holly Horning

 In case you haven’t read our mission statement (click on the “About” link above), part of the purpose of Totally Tigers is to offer articles that the mainstream media is unable or unwilling to address.

Our goal is not to report the news – you can get that anywhere – but to present information or concepts which give different or unique perspectives.  We scratch below the surface in order to offer ideas that may explain why the players and management do what they do – or don’t.

The best compliment we can receive is for readers to tell us our blogs leave them thinking.  And hopefully today’s blog will do that.  It is an exercise in asking only questions and not providing answers.

Maybe those solutions will come along in time – or maybe they will forever remain shrouded in mystery.  But they are questions based upon patterns seen.  They are questions that potentially have roots in why the Tigers have performed the way they have, and made the decisions they did.

Without further adieu, here are this year’s most pressing questions so far. Once the season is over, there will be more.  And we’ll cover them, too.

  1. Despite rumors with no real proof, how involved is Chris Ilitch in running the Tigers?
  1. What exactly did Brad Ausmus say to Dave Dombrowski in the managerial interview that “blew  him away” and won Brad the job over all the other candidates?
  1. Save for David Price, why have 10 starting Tiger pitchers this year gotten injured so they either missed multiple starts or gone on the DL?
  1. Why have the Tigers resisted for years to adopt the strategies of analytics, sabermetrics, scouting  and Front Office job specialties that the majority of other teams have been employing for awhile?
  1. Why does VMart always place his hand on his ear flap when approaching the plate? And why  does he always point to the same section in the stands when he scores a run?
  1. Why do the Tigers consistently have one of the highest totals of injured players in MLB for the past  4 years?
  1. Were all of this year’s significant injuries a factor in allowing Ausmus to remain as manager?
  1. While known as a trading whiz, was Dombrowski not very good at judging managerial talent?
  1. Is it a coincidence that Justin Verlander has had the least run support (games vs. seasons) from his team for the past 3 years which started immediately after he signed his contract extension?
  1. With at least 4 starting pitchers, including Price and JV, having issues with Brad, could this be one factor in the overall poor and inconsistent pitching this year?
  1. Was it the refusal to change strategy or budget limitations that prevented Dave Dombrowski from improving the bullpen over these past 4 years?
  1. Was it the sole reason or a contributing factor that Dave was fired because he was talking to  other teams about a new job while still employed by the Tigers?
  1. Are the Tigers making decisions as a team or are players primarily focused on their own  performances?
  1. Are the Tigers too traditional in their approach to building a winning team by not considering factors outside of the physical skills?
  1. Would Dave’s depletion of the farm system and inflexible payroll structure have resulted in continued disappointment and diminished returns if he had stayed?

“I never learn anything talking.  I only learn things when I ask questions.”   

– Lou Holtz

MIGGY, MANAGEMENT AND MONEY

By:  Holly Horning

We receive great questions from readers. Some of them require longer answers than our Saturday blogs can accommodate, so I’ve decided to pull one of them to answer today when there is the ability to provide more space and analysis. And this topic is very timely.

Bob I. emailed us his concern about Miggy’s return to the lineup from the DL. As we all saw, in the very first inning of his return, Cabrera aggravated his injury – grabbing the back of his leg and grimacing. And given that Ausmus or Rand never even left the dugout to check on him was head-shaking.

So Bob wants to know more about when to bring a player back from the DL when the team is out of contention. And it’s a great question because it involves the priorities of the owner, team, manager and the player. Let’s dig in…….

We all saw Miggy working out with the team earlier this month – running tentatively and, as we say out West, still with a “hitch in his giddy-up”. But fans were shocked to hear the claims that he was perfectly fine and ready for action. What we saw visually conflicted with what we heard.

And the other reason for our concern is based upon Miggy’s injury history dating back to 2013. Groin injuries, bone spurs, broken foot bones – none of which ever factored into a team decision to pull him from play. Fans have a right to raise the red flag.

Let’s add further evidence – given that fans have watched a number of other Tigers, from JV to VMart to Avila, hobbled and playing in pain over the past couple years. The visual proof stands out as a distinct pattern among MLB teams and was the subject of significant media speculation and concern.

After all, it’s not just that we love Miggy and everything he does. There’s the matter of that little contract that could take him through 2025, each year at $28 million to $32 million a pop. Everyone would like to see him make it there gracefully. And logic tells us that when you have something that’s really unique, valuable and very expensive, you take extra special care of it, right?

So here’s where it gets complicated. While fans may operate from a compassionate point of view, the powers that be may not necessarily put it at the top of their priority list. There are agendas and goals still to be achieved these last 45 days and they are in direct conflict to what may be popular opinion.

Let’s start with Cabrera. Miggy loves to play the game. He needs to play the game. Of course, he’ll want to return despite not being 100%. He’s a gamer. And although he won’t say it publicly, he has to be itching to continue his quest for another batting title. There’s also the desire to add a 12th consecutive season of at least 25 HRs and 100 RBIs.

Then there’s his manager. With the Tigers closer to last place than near the top, he’s obviously concerned with his managerial record, prolonging his job and avoiding the cellar. All more likely when you have Cabrera in your lineup. But we’ve also seen where Brad has had a hard time convincing his players what to do.

Ausmus probably has little to no influence over Miggy. Earlier in the year, we watched the torture show called Victor Martinez and his knee at the plate. The manager was unable to get VMart on the DL and a midnight meeting with Mr. I and Dave Dombrowski had to be called before Victor acquiesced.

Another factor is the Tigers’ medical team. We have no idea what their professional opinion may be but it’s likely that they hold little sway in the final decision-making process unless their prognosis contains serious consequences. As employees of the Tigers, they are seen as one voice out of multiple ones yet not the primary decision-makers.

But now we address what is probably the most influential and loudest voice in determining whether Miggy stays in the lineup or not. And ironically, because the Tigers are generally considered to be out of contention, it gives more weight to playing him.

The driving force may just be about attendance and revenue. The Tigers are caught up in a vicious cycle of having a huge payroll that is primarily sustained by big attendance numbers. Currently, the Tigers have not yet hit the 2 million mark and turnstile numbers are down over last year and even 2013.

Attendance (ticket sales, food, parking) is 40% of the team’s revenue. That’s a huge chunk of change! And this is why the team will never officially say they are out of the wild card running.  They won’t throw in the towel. There is the need to keep hope and excitement, and thus attendance, alive.

And that all-important viewership figure is also down. Not good news when you are prepping for re-negotiations of two major media deals which could bring in a record number of dollars. No, the dream must continue to spin – and that dream must include Miggy. He is the star of the show.

Officially, he is the face of the franchise. To paraphrase an infamous line from Field of Dreams, “If you play him, they (fans and media) will come.”

Is there a conflict of interest between playing and protecting Cabrera? Based upon what we’ve seen and what we know, yes. But the most important question, yet unanswered, is to ask who is really watching out for Miggy’s interests.

IS VMART REALLY HELPING MIGGY?

By:  Kurt Snyder

Last spring, there were two things the Tigers needed to do, without question, to compete for another division title. First, they needed to bolster their bullpen;  the deficiencies were obvious. We could not go into another season knowing the bullpen could potentially keep us from a championship. We had been burned before, so we all figured we would finally learn. Well, we know what has transpired with that one. It’s part of the reason (maybe) that Dave Dombrowski now works for the Boston Red Sox.

But one of our readers, Frankie, brought to our attention something about the Tigers that bothers him.  And it had to do with the other move we all knew the Tigers had to make last spring, and that was to re-sign Victor Martinez. There wasn’t a soul in this town that didn’t believe we had a choice. I, for one, fell into that category. I felt VMart was too critical to the lineup and we could not afford to let him walk.

But, Frankie brings up an interesting point. There are very few teams in baseball who have full-time DH’s. Three come to mind for me; VMart, David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez. The biggest question is how much do full-time designated hitters restrict your lineup, limit your choices, and in essence, handicap your team?

Well, let’s look at the Tigers. In the spring, VMart was coming off the best year of his career. He wanted to return to Detroit. Mike Ilitch loved him and wanted him back just as much, so a deal got done and we were all satisfied that the team did what needed to be done. It was a must in our minds.

But Victor spent the first half of the season recovering from knee surgery and really has supported the argument of fans on the other side of the coin who thought it was a risk signing him until he was almost 40, given the continued risk of injury.

But we are talking about the Detroit Tigers here and aren’t the Tigers one of the worst candidates for a full-time designated hitter? Just now, Victor has gotten healthy enough to begin spelling Cabrera at first when the need arises, which if you really analyze the need, it should probably be at least once a week.

Cabrera needs to DH more. Cabrera needs to come off the field more. If we are ever going to win a world title while we have the best hitter on the planet, his body needs to be preserved. So this is Frankie’s point, and it’s a valid one. Victor Martinez may be keeping Miguel Cabrera from staying healthy, because Miggy gets so little rest.

Of course, it’s a tremendously easy argument to make in a year that VMart has been fighting injuries for much of the season, after having his best season in 2014. Quite easy, in hindsight.

But the argument is very sound. The Tigers’ one common thread riding shotgun next to bullpen weakness, has been injuries to Miguel Cabrera; and having a full-time DH who rarely is able to help get him off the field for a night may be the difference.

Victor Martinez may continue to decline and we may have seen a 2014 season that we will never see again. So, next year, near the top of the new manager’s list should be finding a way to DH Victor less and DH Cabrera more, so Miggy is left standing at the end of the year, ready to let it all hang out in the playoffs.