By:  Holly Horning

Avila’s announcement of Brad’s retention before the end of the season may have been based more upon a pre-emptive strike strategy, damage control and lack of available candidates than support for Brad’s actual managerial ability.

I’ve been blogging all week in an attempt to dissect Al Avila’s decision to retain Brad Ausmus. In the business world, what sits on the surface is often a superficial distraction to cover up the reasons why decisions are made as well as to lay camouflage for actions planned down the road. Baseball is big business and plays along with these rules. In other words, all is not what it may seem.

Most are in agreement that Saturday’s announcement was unexpected. (Although now I have to give Kurt credit in his blog on Saturday for sensing the changing wind.) The reasons are numerous and outlined in Monday’s blog:

I’ve modified Tuesday’s blog statement with additional reasons which may support other potential hidden agendas for keeping Ausmus. This time the focus moves from political goals and power plays to three other factors that conveniently support Brad’s return. If you haven’t read Part One, catch it at:

Avila’s statement, a week earlier than expected, and contradictory to his original statement of waiting until the season is over, could have been made in order to avoid the media spotlight and intense analysis that would start immediately after this Sunday’s last out was made.

If Avila had waited and made an announcement to terminate Brad’s contract next week, how many in the media and public would have claimed those rumors from weeks ago really were true? The bad press would resume again anew.

And what if he waited? MLB protocol says teams shouldn’t be making headline news during playoffs so Al would be forced to wait until almost November, all the while having to involve Brad in the upcoming November meetings preparation. And the charade and keeping him hanging would not have been fair to either Brad or the coaches.

But even though Avila may have escaped a media maelstrom, the Tigers have taken a number of negative hits in the news since July. The sell-off of Price, Cespedes and Soria that officially announced the Tigers were no longer in the running. The news that Avila was hired before Dave was fired. Reports that Dave was seeking other employment opportunities while still employed by the Tigers. The firing by phone, the cold announcement of Dombrowski’s departure and the absence of Ilitches at the presser. Reports of Mr. I’s unhappiness with the manager. And the pièce de résistance, Avila’s decision to release Brad at the end of the year.

Time for damage control, and what better way to undermine the rumors than to do the opposite of what the media reported. And a first step to getting the wheels back on the bus.

So why is this important? Anytime your organization takes a hit, your perceived value drops – with fans, media and the players. And when enough of these shabby stories hit the news, the belief that your organization is unstable only grows. Fans drift away – and most importantly, potential free agents start to think twice if they want to be a part of this organization.

The Tigers understand what it is like to be unable to attract name players and how important it is to maintain a polished reputation. And they will need a number of new FAs this winter. Preferably ones they don’t need to bribe with additional payroll dollars to come to Detroit.

But the final rationale for Al’s announcement may simply be the lack of candidates currently available. Potentially, he saw the need to update everyone on Brad’s status because he did not yet see a viable manager on the horizon.

You can’t fire your skipper without having your replacement at the ready. And players won’t come to your team if there’s no manager in place.

There’s a chance that the ideal candidate may become available between now and spring training. Maybe the Tigers prefer to wait for the right guy instead of grabbing someone currently available. Remember, any new manager is going to insist upon at least a three-year contract. Keeping Brad may be the team’s short-term solution until the right opportunity presents itself.

The Tigers do have precedence in firing a manager when a better one comes along. Does the name “Sparky” ring a bell?

Tomorrow, the questions continue as we explore the impact money, team vision and a secret the Front Office may want to keep from revealing.


With the jaw dropping announcement of the return of Brad Ausmus as Tiger manager next season, Totally Tigers will take a detour from our weekly routine and track this story all week, while it’s still bubbling on the surface.

So on this Tuesday, instead of our usual joint blog, there will be two separate blogs! One from Holly and one from Kurt. This will be a fun new twist. So enjoy!

By: Holly Horning

The announcement that Ausmus would stay may have been based more upon political goals and power plays than Brad’s actual managerial ability.

There were three different journalists all claiming sources who told them Brad would be leaving so there appeared to be at minimum some discussion of this possibility in the Front Office. However, the rumors of Ron Gardenhire coming in were highly unlikely.

The Tigers could have hired Jim Leyland’s best friend anytime over the past year. Additionally, given the report that salary and contract length were never discussed and the expected MLB-suggested formal interview process was bypassed made this aspect of the rumor highly suspect.

But where there’s smoke, there’s usually a fire burning somewhere and the rumors and eventual outcome simply highlight the many contradictions this final announcement has created.

As I wrote yesterday, there are few answers at the moment but asking questions allows us to explore the possibilities that remain hidden on purpose. One question to always ask is “Who benefits from this move?” Over time, we may learn more about the factors at play.

The first concern has to do with why Dave Dombrowski was released from his contract. It has been extensively written that hiring Brad was his Waterloo. But now that Ausmus is staying, apparently with Mr. I’s blessing, we now return to wondering what went south between Dave and the Tigers’ owner.

One also has to question which of the stories about Mr. I to believe. Is he really a meddling owner? Outside of the usual stories about certain player signings (Prince Fielder), it now appears he’s been on-board with both GMs’ managerial selections.

Which now brings us to Al Avila. If the information about the reason for Dave’s departure appears to be incorrect, we now have to question the 3-day time-lapse between Avila’s acceptance and Dombrowski’s release. Could Al’s official statement about the roster being the reason the Tigers failed this year be seen as placing the blame on Dave? Many have criticized Al for taking the job in advance of the firing so one can logically wonder about his relationship with Mr. I.

Yet another reason to consider regarding Saturday’s unexpected decision is whether Avila sees Ausmus as a convenient pawn to serve some short-term goals rather than as the long-term solution. With Dave gone, leaks within the organization have allegedly surfaced for the first time in 14 years. Was Avila’s announcement an attempt to punish employees, exert his power by taking away their credibility and stop the information leaks?

Was it also an attempt to stabilize the reputation of the organization after it took a number of negative hits in the media including the player sell-off and departure of the former GM?

Could Al be putting Ausmus in a position of scapegoat in case things go wrong next year? Could Brad be that buffer of blame? Could he also be managerial filler until the right candidate comes along?

There are lots of chess pieces still in play. In Thursday’s blog, I’ll introduce even more factors that have to do with money, players and an issue the Tigers may want to hide from their fans.

By: Kurt Snyder

Brad’s opportunity to manage another season with the Tigers more resembles the opportunity rookie managers get with teams in transition, in year one, not expecting to win right away.

And it bothers me because we have been so used to a Mike Ilitch owned team aggressively pursuing a championship. But holding onto a manager who hasn’t exactly set the house afire (well maybe he has) just isn’t consistent with a franchise aggressive to win.

Teams in transition don’t go after the big time experienced managers. Mainly because they know they aren’t quite ready to win a title. Any manager can lose, not all of them can win. So the combination of all the changes needed to be made to this roster and the return of Brad Ausmus, spell transition to me. They don’t spell, we are close. It certainly has to be on Brad’s mind, at least until he sees what moves the team is able to make.

This team is not a couple starters and a reliever away from competing for a championship. They need so much more. And it could take a couple of years. And year 2 (2017), may be when the Tigers will be ready. They will have transitioned and will be ready for that “it” manager who knows the way. This move proves they are not close. There is really no mystery to that.

We can’t be blinded by the star power on this team, because most of those guys suffered from injuries that really debilitated the Tigers  this year and exposed our weaknesses more than they would have been without the injuries.

So, when the season ends, and the roster begins its turnover, this theory will either be proven or discounted. Remember, most are dumfounded by this move to retain Brad, so it’s going to take a while to get to the bottom of “why.”


By:  Holly Horning

Wow. That is still my first thought two days after the announcement. In a strange year with many disappointments, here we come full circle with an extra heapin’ helpin’ of strange and disappointing moves.

I have spent the time since Saturday’s announcement (initially a text from Kurt which I thought was a prank) thinking about what to write for Monday’s blog. And I also learned a valuable lesson. Don’t write a blog in advance. You may remember I was assembling a 4-part blog on viable managers with the best group saved for last.

So I will condense my blog with the final results comprising 4 paragraphs. My final list for top managers, based upon all the criteria outlined in the previous 3 installments are:

Terry Francona – Now that Cleveland’s GM has left, and given a contract clause that allows him to opt out, one of today’s most successful managers (with 2 undefeated World Series titles) may just want to head back to Detroit where he was once the Tigers’ third base coach and worked with Al Avila. This year, he was also voted by Front Offices, scouts and players as one of the top three managers (in numerous categories) in the game today.

Joe Girardi – Rumors have been rampant this year that the Steinbrenners have put the team on notice that not going to the playoffs this year will result in some changes being made in the off-season. And Girardi’s name has come up often. In typical NY fashion, patience is not a hallmark of this family and a 3-year hiatus from October baseball is unacceptable for the second highest payroll in baseball.

Don Mattingly – He has survived new owners and a new GM with sniping by both sides over the past couple of years. Everyone, including Mattingly, is unhappy. The GM has replaced Mattingly’s third base coach with his own hire, Ron Roenicke, who is widely assumed to be the manager next year. Even if the Dodgers do well in the playoffs, he will, barring some miracle, be gone.

Keep these managers in mind because one or more of them is going to come into the equation within the coming months. Will the Tigers have missed out? Will we be wondering what could have been? We’ll explore these questions and more, should they play out in the future.

But in the meantime, back to reality and Avila’s decision to keep Ausmus. In all honesty, I can find no logic to the action. As much as I tried, I can’t connect any of the dots. And I don’t think anyone can – at least not until the dust settles and time allows for more information to come out.

The media, both local and national, were stunned along with the fans. When was the last time every single journalist was shocked? The media universally had Brad listed as the most likely manager to be released. It was just Friday when one of the most trustworthy and well-respected journalists in the game offered an in-depth analysis confirming the many reasons why Brad would be leaving. No one, and I mean no one, had Ausmus pegged as staying.

For those new to our blog, I must clarify the belief held, at least by me, that it is a rare for one person or one issue to be responsible for a team’s poor performance. It is usually a couple of factors combined with either poor decision-making and/or the intangibles at play. But in baseball, as in any industry, when your team goes from first to worst in one year, it does reflect primarily upon the person(s) in charge.

And that person is almost always let go – unless they are new and have just signed a 5-year contract or the person who owns the company. In my research, I could not find another baseball team who kept their manager after going from first place, a division title and playoffs to the cellar and achieving the second worst record in their league all in less than one year. It appears the Tigers are the first to do this.

But the one thought that kept nagging at me was that this move, for lack of a better word, smelled. And I believe that it happened because politics of some type are in play here. Maybe I’ve lived in DC too long, but often when something happens that is totally unexpected, there are other hidden factors at play.

Which brings us to this week. Given this significant news story, Kurt and I are breaking tradition and writing about this event all week. Unless something bigger happens. There’s so much to discuss.

And for me, it’s not about providing answers. I don’t think anyone has the answers – yet. Maybe never. I’m going to be asking questions. Lots of questions.

Afterall, one of the purposes of our blog is to pose queries that make us all think. Totally Tigers doesn’t want to be that quick hit of carbohydrates that rushes through your system and leaves you empty an hour later. We aspire to be the complex protein that stays with you all day.

So during this coming week, I’ll address a topic or two every day about the possible factors at play here. They’ll include:

– Why are there multiple contradictory reports in the media?

– How is the fall of Dave and the rise of Al connected?

– Why do team statements not ring true?

– Has the team considered the impact on fans, attendance and profits?

– What really is the Tigers’ timeline for winning?

– Are the Tigers doing damage control?

– Why did everyone in the media get this all wrong?

– Has “failing up” hit the Tigers?

– What are the experienced analysts saying?

– Who’s really at fault?

– What part did money play in this?

… And more. As the season winds down, we at Totally Tigers are just getting revved up. There’s lots to cover this week – and in the months leading up to the 2016 season. And we’ll be covering it every day.


By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

We are down to almost a handful of games now for the Tigers and it is almost decision time for our general manager. Al Avila’s first task will be to decide the fate of Brad Ausmus.

The popular opinion is that he is gone. But let’s analyze this assumption with some specifics. There are strong opinions, but Brad could head in one of a number of directions following the season. Any guesses? Let’s start with our writers, but then it’s your turn.

What do you see Brad Ausmus doing in 2016?

Holly – Whatever it is, it won’t be with the Tigers. I expect Al Avila to announce two days after the season ends and two days before the playoffs begin (Tuesday, Oct. 6th) that Brad has “been relieved of his duties” because the Tigers are “going in a different direction.”

I expect Ausmus to stay in baseball but cannot believe that with everything that has happened this year, combined with a “first to worst” finish, will earn him another job as a manager.

At least not in the near future. It doesn’t help that the team ranked very well in offensive categories and had the fourth largest payroll in baseball yet finished in the Central Cellar.

From my experience in analyzing personality types for corporate clients, Brad appears, unofficially, to be a linear thinker. Left-brain dominant that feels most comfortable dealing with facts and stats.

These types tend not to demonstrate creativity easily or change their strategies on the fly. His alter-ego would be Joe Maddon who is classic right-brain dominant.

These qualities don’t make for an effective manager who often has to change in-game strategy and understand how to work with the intangibles, including personalities and motivation. Everyone wants to be a manager but really, few are qualified to be successful at it.

But from interviews I read, players say he is very user-friendly. And given his laid-back demeanor, Brad would make an excellent coach. Supportive, understanding and approachable. I can see him working along-side young catchers and pitchers to help them advance their skills.

But I could also see him working for a Front Office focused on the statistical approach to the game. Can’t get more linear than that! He’s undoubtedly smart but his strengths sit with numbers and reports, not in managing people.

Dave Dombrowski may know players’ physical talents, but it now appears he didn’t understand the importance of matching people skills. He did Brad no favors by hiring him and I wish Brad the best in finding a job that utilizes his strengths. Leo Durocher is still correct in his assessment about what happens to nice guys.

Kurt – Was Brad ready to be a manager? My immediate answer is no. Brad needed experience, and he needed to get it at a lower level, where he could afford to make mistakes. He needed to cut his teeth on a smaller piece of meat.

The last thing he was ready for was the major leagues. But should we blame Brad? If someone’s going to offer, especially a city where he spent a major part of his career as a player, why not accept?

Brad had the opportunity to manage a team loaded with talent. He would inherit a team used to contending for a championship. So you would think that this kind of opportunity would be a whole lot easier than starting with a team used to losing.

Well, not in this case. This team was not a candidate for a rookie manager. They were a candidate for continued experience, a skipper that could take them the rest of the way after the departure of Jim Leyland.

But get ready for the jaw dropper. A lot has changed since the end of July; and we are about to learn a lot about our rookie general manager, who just may have a soft spot in his heart for the position Brad is in. After losing 3 high quality pillars from this team at the deadline, all pressure and most of the blame has been removed from Brad Ausmus.

Players have begun to rally around their manager; and the decision to send Bruce Rondon home has been endorsed publicly by several Tigers.

So I sense something happening here. We have a rookie GM, who is still “evaluating” his manager. And with the pressure off, the little moves, the popular moves, may save Brad Ausmus. We are about to find out a lot about how strong our “rookie” GM is.


By:  Holly Horning

It appears the managerial market is heating up given the reports of Manny Acta and Dusty Baker interviewing this week. Just not with the Tigers.

Which brings us to Part Three of our managerial candidate countdown. In Part One, we named the candidates who will not be considered due to their resumes, personalities and/or alleged difficulties. Part Two addressed candidates with a combination of better/consistent behavior but less stellar track records, often with little experience.

In case you haven’t read the first two installations, catch them at:

Today, we look at a list of viable candidates with higher degrees of success and managerial experience. But it’s not enough to simply look at their track records. There are other issues that need to be considered and they all huddle under that umbrella known as the “right fit.”

In most cases, this is the most important category for owners and GMs because they desire to hire someone with whom they look forward to seeing and interacting. Ticking time bombs need not apply. The right fit means fewer problems that need to be addressed – and fewer messes that need to be cleaned up.

So what are these factors of fit? They include:

– Personality

– Corporate Culture

– Ability to work with developing players, veterans and/or superstars

– Baseball philosophy

– “Old School” or “New School” characteristics

– Team direction (development over time, rebuilding, contender, fast track to playoffs)

– Investments (money poured into new departments such as analytics)

So, if we were to analyze the needs of a new Tiger manager, we could comfortably say Mr. I and Al prefer a manager who fits somewhere in between the laid-back and overly extroverted personality. The new guy would not be a boat-rocker but would be highly diplomatic and professional in all his interactions and comments.

He would also need to work equally well with developing players such as McCann and Norris while also successfully motivating Miggy and JV. And given the large Latino representation, have some cultural background in common or at least bring in coaches who do.

Any candidate must have managerial experience and clearly understand that the Tigers have no time to waste in getting back into the playoffs. And finally, a balance between the traditional ways of managing the game with a dash of “new school” tactics, too.

Al Avila has finally updated the Tigers by creating the new Analytics Department and hiring 4 employees. While a new manager doesn’t necessarily need a background in these stats, he will need to willingly sign into using them.

During the next month, the membership in these lists will change somewhat as teams improve, some tank, some win a playoff berth – or don’t. Owners will also give out pink slips for teams who make early exits from October baseball.

Some managers will sign contract extensions. So will some GMs. And then again, more GMs may be fired which will put the team’s manager in jeopardy. And there are some owners who operate from an emotional viewpoint, so potentially a few new candidates may pop up unexpectedly.

When I started this list over a month ago, there were a couple of candidates who appeared to be close to termination. And I was licking my chops (OK, but with some guilt over their potential misfortune) over the possibility that the Tigers might have pounced on them. Sadly for us, their teams have rallied and these manager appear less likely to leave. They were moved from Most Likely to today’s list.

So without further adieu, let’s tackle this list of “Getting Closer…..”

Bud Black – He lost his job because of a new GM and an owner’s unrealistic expectations. Big on analytics, he was well-liked by most but his record, even with this team, doesn’t comfortably support his resume with a more-accomplished organization.

Terry Collins – Rumblings all year about the owner’s unhappiness with Collins but the Mets gained steam and now sit comfortably in first place. But where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire and the rumblings continue. If the Mets don’t do well in the playoffs, they might make a change.

There is pressure to succeed given the team’s still rocky financial footing from losses due to the Madoff scandal. Collins was born and raised in Michigan, still has a home and relatives there and also has Tiger management connections.

Rick Renteria – He interviewed with the Tigers before losing out to Ausmus and fired because Joe Maddon became available. But he has only 1 year of experience – and it’s a losing one. I don’t think the Tigers will revisit hiring managers with little to no experience.

Ron Roenicke – He’s re-emerged as the Dodgers new third base coach. And hired by the Dodgers, not the manager. He bleeds Dodger Blue so expect him to stay there. More on him later….

Mike Scioscia – Who wouldn’t love having him in Detroit? A complicated tale of baseball’s longest-serving manager with one team and a strong W-L record but currently in third place during one of the Angel’s weaker years.

But he refused to use analytics which resulted in Jerry Dipoto leaving the team. An owner who is unpredictable but presumably is tight with his manager who was allowed to bypass his GM. Scioscia is signed through 2018 but can opt out of his contract after this year.

Buck Showalter – Quite frankly, Buck is exactly the type of manager the Tigers need. No-nonsense, inspiring and respected by his players. He’s got the charm of the old-school manager but practices modern-day strategy. And they say no one can match him in managing a pitching staff. He’s the perfect fit, especially regarding personality and corporate culture for the Tigers.

The Orioles owner is the X Factor. He is notoriously unpredictable and once again, gutted the team after last year. His GM, and I’m serious, tried to escape last year to the Blue Jays but owner Angelos blocked the deal. This is the same owner who fired a previous manager one day before he won Manager of the Year. We can only hope his whims overtake him again within the next month.

Tim Wallach – Like Renteria, Wallach also interviewed to be JL’s successor. Well-liked, he is the Dodgers’ bench coach but unfortunately, he has no managerial experience. The Tigers may not want to return to that formula. But it appears he may be available again due to no fault of his own. This story to be continued…

Matt Williams – Matt will be looking for a new job after this season. We’ve already learned that Dave Dombrowski interviewed for the GM job with the Nats so expect a full turnover in that team. While he’s had two winning seasons, this season has been a big disappointment and rumor has it the players don’t like him. Not sure the Tigers want to repeat the old formula of expensive-team-filled-with-superstars-who-couldn’t-get-it-done.

We are inching closer to that essential list of finalists – and why they should be considered the top contenders. On Monday, they will be revealed in Part Four of this series. Stay tuned!


By Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

After Wednesday’s win over the White Sox, it’s now official. We are back to celebrating JV days! Verlander is back! Unfortunately, for the most part, the other 4 days aren’t really worth watching.

But we must power through as fans, we must stay the course. But are the Tigers?  Should we question their motives as they sit here as one of the worst teams in baseball?

Well that’s for us to answer and for you to read. So let’s get to work and answer this little nugget.

The Tigers are currently one of the top 10 worst teams in MLB. With only 9 more games to go, do you think it is their intent to stay within this group for the advantages it brings?

Kurt – Is it difficult to motivate your team given how awful the season is ending up? Of course. But, are we suggesting the Tigers are tanking it for a better draft position or a better return on a free agent signing that doesn’t cost them a draft pick? Is that what we are doing here?

The Tigers seem to have had more walk-off wins over the last couple weeks than they have had all season. Does that sound like a team that’s quitting to stay in the bottom 10?

Does the play of Ian Kinsler both at the plate and in the field suggest an example of a player not giving everything he’s got so the team can continue to lose? Every ground ball anywhere in his vicinity has been slickly gobbled up and zipped to first. And he continues to lead the league in multi-hit games. So Ian hasn’t called it a season quite yet, has he?

Any wise reporter worth their salt wouldn’t dare ask Justin Verlander if the Tigers intend to stay in the bottom 10. If there is anyone on this team giving it all he has to return to form and win ballgames again, it’s JV. He should be applauded for how he has worked and for how much he has progressed in this lost season.

I have never been of the mind in any sport other than say basketball that a team would give away games for the sake of putting themselves in a better position for drafting or signing players. The NBA smells like that every year. It’s why I don’t watch pro basketball anymore.

Sure, the media can suggest it and it makes a good story but obviously my answer is no, it is not the Tigers intent to stay in the bottom 10. They may not be able to avoid it, but they won’t work to stay there.

We have players who have openly shown their disgust over how this season has gone and giving away games would not be consistent with their behavior. Just the comments by the Alex’s, Wilson and Avila, are proof enough that they have no intention of justifying the kind of attitude and lack of desire that Bruce Rondon has been demonstrating.

There is pride in the Tiger locker room. All the signs point to at least that.

Holly – I don’t think anyone in management is telling the team to lose, but I also don’t think they are giving motivational speeches in the clubhouse. Nor do I think the majority of players are taking these remaining games seriously.

The social media threads have been burning up with comments questioning game strategy this month. Specifically, why players like McCann, Miggy, Davis and others were sitting on the bench in a couple close games when they might have made a difference.

And then there was the double-header double-loss in which MLB’s 47th ranked starting pitcher one-hit the Tigers, despite a year filled with struggles and an ERA north of 5.00. He faced just one more than the minimum number of batters and pitched a complete game in just over 2 hours. He made 91 pitches and it was noted that most of the Tigers were swinging on the first pitch. Whether intentional or not, most are in agreement the Tigers weren’t trying very hard.

It’s no secret in baseball that teams take into account their standings at the end of the year and the rewards they may reap by placing in the last 10. A number of teams, including the Astros recently, have realized that the quickest way to get back on top is to add onto your losses.

Teams with more losses receive better draft picks. They have protected first round picks if they sign free agents who have received a qualifying offer. They also earn a number of other advantages – bigger draft budgets, ability to shift money to impact other rounds, a larger international free agent budget, high selection in Rule 5 draft, a top waiver claim position for 7 months and fewer penalties.

The Tigers used this to their advantage (when rules weren’t as favorable as they are now) back in 2003 when they had 119 losses and grabbed a pitcher named Justin Verlander. They were back in the World Series 3 years later.

Through September 22st, the Tigers rank second worst in the AL and overall at 9th worst. But there are 7 other teams who could conceivably displace them and shove them out of the bottom 10. Any smart GM will be keeping an eye on how those other teams are performing.

What a great way for the Tigers to replenish their depleted farm system. Not to mention trying to score another pitcher like JV.


By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Brad Ausmus was greeted lustily with a round of boos when he came out of the dugout last Friday night to remove Justin Verlander with a 3-1 lead and 2 outs in the ninth inning. Verlander had pitched yet another marvelous game as he continues his return to form.

Brad made his decision and signaled for the pen long before he reached the mound, which he has learned, is the easiest way to successfully remove JV from the ballgame.

We know what happened next. Next batter. Boom! Tie score. So our questions for this Tuesday revolve around that decision and the crowd’s reaction.

1. With 1 out to go, should Ausmus have allowed JV to finish Saturday’s game?

Holly – Absolutely, for a number of reasons – the first being Ausmus’ infuriating and inconsistent policy on removing pitchers. He is quick to pull JV after only one measly hit that inning, yet on Sunday, Brad allowed a pitcher to stay in and give up 13 hits and 3 walks in just 4 innings.

Then there is that eternal dumpster fire known as the BP. JV has been the Tigers’ best pitcher since the All-Star break and leads MLB in ERA. Two-thirds of the way through the ninth, JV still had great numbers, he was locating the ball well and his pitch count was still below his usual number.

But the final reason for allowing Justin to stay in is based upon the Tigers no longer being in contention. These games, especially with the larger crowds on the weekends, should be more about what the fans want to see at this point. JV should have been given the opportunity for a complete game, which would have been one of the few bright spots in a bleak year.

And after getting little to no run support in most of his games, he’s been cheated out of a good number of wins. Friday just supported that unfortunate pattern and it’s really not the best way to treat MLB’s third most expensive pitcher.

Kurt – My initial emotional reaction was yes. But after seeing how the inning began and given the dominating stats that Perez had against Verlander, it was the correct call for Brad to pull the plug.

Tiger fans have been quite disappointed with how the season has fallen apart. And there has been so much controversy over the managerial performance of Brad Ausmus that we all assume that everything he does is wrong. But this time, it doesn’t happen to be the case. I am in complete agreement with the decision.

Sure, all of us, selfishly, wanted Verlander to finish that game. Fans at this point will take any ‘feel good’ moment to grab a hold of in a season full of horrors. And JV’s return to form is probably the biggest story to date on the pitching side of the equation.

But personally, I can’t say I had a problem with the decision after grabbing ahold of my emotions.

2. With the end of the season approaching, is it OK for fans to be booing?

Holly – Personally, I don’t condone booing and I’ve never done it, save for the occasional time watching the games in the privacy of my “she-shack” -the female version of a “man cave.”

But, quite frankly, booing can serve a useful purpose at the stadium if used properly. It should never be focused on shaming one of the home players which just ends up being counterproductive.

Expressing displeasure should only be used to provide feedback to ownership and management as it relates to overall play and strategy. Is it OK to boo a player who strikes out with the bases loaded? No. Is it OK to express disappointment with an overall lethargic team who appear disinterested and “phone” it in – or a manager who takes out his top pitcher too early in the playoffs? Yes.

Was it OK for fans to boo Ausmus’ decision to pull JV one out away from a complete game and victory? Absolutely. Used in the right situations, booing really is sending a very clear message of dissatisfaction to those who control the money and decision-making.

Can you imagine what might happen in 2016 if fans had stayed silent this entire year? It could very well be a rerun of the “same old, same old” – with maybe even the same results.

Kurt – Unfortunately, Tiger fans don’t get the opportunity to have our manager and ownership stand out on the field alone and get their just desserts.

Players have to realize that booing is not directed at them in particular. Fans booing at the end of a poor season are letting out their accumulated frustration for a team that was expected to do so much more.

I believe the reaction to the removal of Verlander was not a reaction to a single act, but a culmination of disappointments we have endured over the course of the season. I am sure most educated fans can look at the reasons and understand that removing Verlander was the correct call.

Should fans be booing? I don’t know. Players understand, I think. I certainly wouldn’t be booing guys like Ian Kinsler and JD Martinez and Miguel Cabrera. But they all hear the same thing don’t they? But they only need to look at the standings to understand why fans are a little surly.


By:  Holly Horning

Last week, I started our foray into identifying a master list of managerial candidates the Tigers may be considering to replace Brad next year. To make it interesting, I started the analysis with candidates least likely to receive a phone call. If you missed Part One of the series, catch up and read it here:

What will turn out to be a four-part series, we will gradually work our way up the managerial food chain in three more installments. Each blog will hopefully bring us closer to the ideal candidates the Tiger will consider.

As stated in the first part of this series, there are a number of factors to be considered in identifying which managers are most and least likely to earn interviews. I’ve excluded coaches due to the lack of info about them and Mr. I’s rumored desire to hire a manager with experience.

In addition to the resume, candidates need to match in multiple categories, such as personality, corporate culture, managerial record, ability to work with developing players, veterans and superstars, as well as their practicing baseball philosophy.

Also consider how they will fit in with some of the new programs Al Avila is introducing. For example, the new analytics department is already off and running with four employees so any new manager would need to be on board with using it.

Remember that as we approach the end of the season, the membership in these lists will change somewhat as teams improve, some tank, some win a playoff berth – or don’t. Some managers will sign contract extensions. So will some GMs. And then again, more GMs may be fired which will put the team’s manager in jeopardy.

This will be especially true in the last two installments of the candidate lists. So far, there have been a couple of managers who have slipped from “likely” to “less likely” due to their teams upping their performance and ranking in their division.

Then again, there are a few owners who seem to operate on whim so potentially one or two more may find themselves suddenly on the outside looking in.

Last week, I categorized the first group of candidates as “Not a Chance.” Today, let’s label the second group as “Slim to None.” Later this week, we’ll work our way up to those most likely.

Ready to jump in? Let’s analyze a group of managers who simply don’t possess the factors Mr. I and Al desire in a new manager.

Fredi Gonzalez – Earlier thought to be on a short leash given the Braves’ firing of their GM, he and his coaches just had their contracts extended.

Dan Jennings – His track record is all of one year, and it’s a losing one, too.

Pat Murphy – Currently Interim Manager, his resume is a whopping half-year and on the losing end, too.

Bryan Price – As the Reds’ manager, he’s had two seasons with losing records which include losses numbering in the 80’s.

Robin Ventura – Despite one winning season, he’s expected to be fired at the end of this year. Much has been written about his laid-back demeanor being the reason why his team has not done well. Mr. I is probably thinking “been there, done that.”

Walt Weiss – He holds the Rockies worst record in managerial history. ‘Nuff said.

It is speculated that this year will be one of the biggest years for managers to be fired – and for them to be hired. Let’s hope the Tigers don’t move too quickly – or too slowly – in finding the best candidate. Let’s also pray that they are willing to consider solid strategists instead of going with the safe and familiar.

Stay tuned for Part Three later this week……….


By:  Kurt Snyder

Baseball has been woven into the fabric of Detroit for as long as I have been alive. The 1968 World Champion Tigers were known for being the comeback kids, constantly coming from behind to win ballgames all the way to the World Series.

The 1968 Championship was considered to be very important for the city as it was one year removed from the race riots that had turned Detroit into a war zone in 1967. The team seemed to bring people together at a time when they needed it the most.

The 1984 Tigers represented a team primed to win under the guidance of a manager who 5 years before, predicted theywould indeed win it all in 5 years, and then they did. And the way they won was the complete opposite of how the ’68 team won. The Tigers seemed to always be leading and they led the division the entire season, blowing through the playoffs to a convincing World Series victory.

The 1987 Tigers represented a team that should have won a championship but didn’t. The division was hotly contested down the stretch, even to the last week, as the Tigers battled Toronto through 7 scintillating 1 run ball games, the last 3 won by the Tigers, with the Blue Jays magic number sitting at 1.

But all the air went out of the balloon in the playoffs as the Tigers’ present for winning the division and having the best record in baseball was to start the playoffs in Minnesota’s Metrodome.

Then along came 2006. It was a pivotal season for this franchise as the Tigers came from nowhere to go all the way to the World Series. Again, they had the best team, but could not finish the job.

It’s kind of where everything started for today’s Tiger fan. Baseball until 2006 at Comerica Park was not all that fun to watch, but it was a brand new park and people enjoyed going to the games. There was more to do it seemed than the days of Tiger Stadium, where the game was all you had.

But the 2006 team got this town excited again. Even after having lost the Series, the Tigers seemed primed to go after it, year after year, and fans were just waiting (and still are waiting) for it all to come together.

It was great for the franchise because the 2006 season introduced baseball to a new group of fans. It had to be what Mike Ilitch envisioned when he built the new park. He needed to expand his audience. He needed the young people.

But in order to get them, they needed to win first and entertain as much as possible once the fans entered the gates. Its smart marketing and the Tiger brand is huge in this city, maybe bigger than it’s ever been.

But today’s Tiger fan is much different than they used to be. Winning will always bring people out of the woodwork. When the Pistons won their back to back titles in 1989-90, the Palace was filled with people who knew little about the game, but wanted to be there, because it was the place to be. It was a fun atmosphere.

And I think that same type of fan has dominated Comerica Park since that surprising 2006 World Series team made everyone stand up and take notice. People have been flocking to Comerica ever since because it has been the place to be.

But, I am still waiting for the day that I am surrounded by people who are truly engaged, truly into the game; fans who are interested in whether the team wins or loses. They sport Tiger jerseys, almost posing as actual fans as they spend the majority of the game talking, looking at their phones or heading back up to the concession stands for another drink.

Do we blame the electronic age? Do people constantly need to be entertained? That’s partly it, yes. If people didn’t constantly need to be entertained at sporting events, we wouldn’t need mascot races, and t-shirts shot into the crowd, and music played for every batter who walks up to the plate.

We wouldn’t need merry-go-rounds and Ferris wheels and bars and places to go when people aren’t watching what they were supposedly there to see.  The game used to be enough.

Tiger fans, at least the ones who attend the games, seem to know very little about baseball, but they are having a great time there nonetheless. And maybe that doesn’t bother Mike Ilitch. As long as the fannies are in the seats, who cares why they are really there?

But I have one more theory. The closer you are to the field, the more into the game you become. The farther you are away from the action, the more disengaged you are. There have been games I have lost interest because I was so far away.

Comerica Park is a beautiful ballpark, but it’s one of the worst places to watch a baseball game, and it’s obvious that today’s fan doesn’t really care that much.


By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Readers are starting to bring the questions again, mostly because the future of the Tigers is bringing so many out and so much doubt.

And among the questions is one about Miguel Cabrera. Miggy has been in a bit of a funk and readers are wondering why and what might be going on with him.

So this week we are taking on Tom Z’s question about the league’s best hitter.

What is happening to Miggy at the plate, specifically his offensive drought?

Kurt – Well, if this had been the middle of the season and this drought was going on, I wouldn’t think much of it. We’ve seen these droughts before with Cabrera. But after seeing Miggy hit for so long now in Detroit, they are usually nothing more than a blip on the screen.

But this has not been a typical season, not by a long shot, on all levels. The Tigers are not headed for the playoffs and they sit at the bottom of the division, a situation the fans and certainly the veteran Tigers are not accustomed to experiencing.

But there is another thing we have learned about Cabrera over the years as we have been blessed to see a future Hall of Famer perform. Miggy is as humble as they come.  Miggy hates losing.

Sure, he may joke around a lot on the field with the opposing team and with fans, but it has nothing to do with how he feels about winning and his personal performance. I would be willing to bet Miggy cares far less about winning another batting title than the fans do.

It was a reason for all of us to keep watching, to see Miggy grab that title. But I think the losing is bothering Miggy and his defense of Brad Ausmus is just a part of it; comments we can ignore.

It is like a code of ethics with players on a team in turmoil. When the manager is criticized, you can guarantee they won’t say anything to fuel the fire under the manager’s feet.

So what’s up with Miggy? Well, I don’t think much. But, he more than likely is having a tough time with the position this team is in and some of his swings lead me to believe that he still is not completely healed from the calf injury.

But, in the grand scheme of things,  every year the Tigers don’t win a championship for Miguel Cabrera is a shame; because he seems to care so deeply about winning and would probably give up all the personal accolades in exchange for a World Series.

The most critical of fans demand 100% from these players every time they run onto the field, given the huge amounts of money they make playing this game. But the money aside, competitive fire still burns in the stars of this game, and human nature effects that competitiveness when there is no trophy to be earned in the end.

Holly – MIggy’s troubles started in earnest at the beginning of September but you could see his performance at the plate started to diminish in late August.

The good news is that it doesn’t appear to be injury-related. The bad news is that it seems that this train-wreck of a season has finally gotten to him. He’s a different person offensively – unfocused and swinging at pitches outside the plate.

Simply, his mental game has disappeared for a number of reasons. Miggy is experiencing his first losing season in 8 years and mentioned that it’s difficult to be in this situation and hard to be motivated when there’s no post-season goal.

There’s also been much drama going on. Players got traded, Dave Dombrowski got fired and reports started to circulate about Ausmus following him out the door. The Tigers also took a dive into the division cellar where it appears likely they will finish the season.

But now we’re seeing players who are frustrated and lashing out or feeling that they need to step in and stabilize the ship. On a daily basis now, players defending a beleaguered Brad or expressing their opinions about losing and laying blame all around, except with themselves. A PR nightmare that isn’t finding support or sympathy – as VMart is currently discovering.

And this is where I get upset all over again because of yet another example of the lack of leadership. The players are now focused on trying to right the ship and shut out the noise because there is no one else doing it. Say what you will about Jim Leyland but he knew it was his job to absorb the distractions and protect his players so they could perform.

But he’s not here anymore and Brad is sitting back while the players go to bat for the team – and protect him. No wonder Miggy can’t focus at the plate – there’s just too much noise and chaos.

But Miggy shouldn’t be excused entirely. He loves to play the game and flourishes when the scenario is positive but life, and baseball, aren’t like that. The greats of the game have always figured out how to thrive in the face of adversity and Miggy needs to learn from this year so he can lead by example when it really matters.