MANAGING EXPECTATIONS – PART TWO

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:

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/hit-by-a-bus/

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:

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/managing-expectations-part-1/

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.

DOMBROWSKI PRIDE STIFLED PROGRESS

By:  Kurt Snyder

Dave Dombrowski had us snowballed. He sold Brad Ausmus to us, packed him up in a nice pretty box and we took him home with us. We had a brand new guy. We had a fresh face. We had a breath of fresh air with new ideas. And since it worked in St. Louis, why couldn’t a former catcher with no experience work out here in Detroit, too?

It sounds like Brad, a smart guy who studied at Dartmouth, probably aced Interviewing 101. Dombrowski didn’t need to hear from anyone else. Brad would certainly take this team where we’ve been trying to go for decades.

But, it was clear to all of us in the 2014 division series, after a miserable managerial showing in Baltimore to end the year, that Ausmus didn’t have the instincts to lead a major league baseball team. We didn’t need another year of that to solidify our feelings.

Lucky for Brad, Dombrowski kept him around for a 2015 season ravaged with injuries and inadequacies that helped to mask and distract everyone from the same instinctive shortcomings the manager had demonstrated in year 1.

The unfortunate luck with health and underperforming pitching acquisitions helped to save Brad’s job. And Avila felt he wasn’t getting a fair shake. But Al made a mistake of his own in evaluating Brad’s second year performance while ignoring his first.

But 2014 did happen, and all glory would shine on the Tigers for winning another division title. But after the embarrassing Baltimore sweep, all signs quickly pointed to a necessary time of fessing up for Dave to admit guilt; to admit responsibility. He needed to end an experiment that had gone so terribly wrong.

But Dave Dombrowski had a hint of arrogance about him.  And it may be that Dave just didn’t want to admit that he had made a mistake with his hire, and instead of acting on it, he did nothing.  I believe he let it ride with his manager the same way he continued to let it ride with the bullpen. As important as it was to improve that pen, it was always swept into the corner, to be dealt with later. There was money to be spent ‘more wisely’ elsewhere.

It’s the one dominant thing that bothered fans most about Dombrowski. The legacy he left will always include the fact that he often neglected the bullpen.  But Dombrowski was always confident in his decisions and frankly, maybe a little stubborn in thinking we could get by with what we had. And you can draw parallels with that line of thinking in his evaluation of Brad Ausmus.

Brad has proven this year that little had changed from 2014. And if it had to come down again to who had the better manager to win a playoff series, I doubt it would have gone very well. And we would be sitting here in the same position, wondering why Brad Ausmus is still the manager of this baseball team.

So if you want to place blame, you can point to Dombrowski. Pride got in the way of performance. It’s why the theory that he was looking at other jobs makes so much sense. He could start fresh and at the same time not have to admit a huge mistake. He never admitted one mistake while he was in Detroit, and he wasn’t about to admit he blew it with Brad.

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS – PART 1

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.”

HIT BY A BUS

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.

DEADLINE DEALS SAVED AUSMUS

By:  Kurt Snyder

There is never one single element that contributes to a disappointing season. Losing seasons can be pinned to poor pitching, poor hitting or poor defense. They can be attributed to injuries especially when you were counting on big contributions from the players that you’re missing. But poor seasons can also be attributed to the performance of your manager.

It’s a popular opinion among many that you can’t pin the blame on the manager whose team was continually ravaged with key injuries, poor pitching performances and a team that led the league in hitting into double plays, for instance. This describes the 2015 Tigers; a team that never got going.

But Brad Ausmus, as the manager, is the guy who knows this team the best. He knows where the weaknesses are and the strengths. And as bad as the bullpen got this season, there were still strengths out there. They just were not used properly.

You can safely attribute losing baseball to player performance and health. But you cannot compound the problems with poor managerial performance. The manager cannot be part of the problem, and still compete.

If he is, that’s any easy call. You go out and get another manager who knows how to get the best out of your players, and whose instincts demonstrate a proper feel for the game and the ability to make the right decision at the right time.

So for the better part of 3 ½ months, between the middle of April and the end of July, we watched this team flounder, for all the reasons mentioned above. And because Ausmus was just as responsible for the losing as anyone else, the Tigers could never get going.

The flaws the team struggled with all season left little room for error. And Brad Ausmus did himself no favors. The last thing the team needed was a season’s worth of managerial incompetence. And on July 31st, the Tigers earned the opportunity to be sellers at the trade deadline. They had to give up on the season, because they had shown no pulse, no indication that they were going to come around.

The Tigers began to dump the very pieces that they thought would take them to the playoffs once again. But an interesting thing happened on that day that Price, Cespedes and Soria left, it turns out. The Tigers may have given up on a season, but they gave life to their manager. The trade deadline has proven to have saved Brad’s job.

All the losing would continue after July, but it would be for lack of talent. There was nothing more to be won or lost and they would play out the string. Nothing that Ausmus would do until the end of the season would have much impact. He could now hide in all the rubble instead of having to stand in front of it and explain why the pile was so high.

So, there were no more expectations.  All the criticism of Brad Ausmus began to quiet. Why wouldn’t it? Miggy professed his support for Brad and others followed suit when Bruce Rondon’s “effort” came under fire. Players applauded and endorsed Brad’s decision to send him home. They began to rally around him.

It wasn’t until Friday that I began to wonder if the Tigers were going to make a change at all. It’s why I took the position I did in Saturday’s blog. I sensed the atmosphere was changing. And I had the perfect opportunity to take the position based on what we were hearing. It suddenly seemed possible Brad could stay.

Do I agree with the decision? Absolutely not. The decision now makes me question the kind of general manager we have, not just the kind of manager. I know what we have in a manager and I had hoped that Al would fix it. But, this is a poor start for him.

And I wonder again what our team ownership and management really think is possible for the Tigers in 2016. If they are concerned about their ability to make the kinds of moves with the pitching staff that are required to compete again, well, I share that concern.

If they thought they could improve the team enough to compete for a World Series right away in 2016 again, than I believe they would have fired Brad. They would have brought in an experienced manager who has been there and who would give them a better chance to finish the job and win a title.

But I think the Tiger organization is planning for 2017. It’s the reason Brad is back. There isn’t a surplus of managers you can bring in to help you win. But if you don’t think you can win anyway, then apparently  Brad will do.

WE THOUGHT YOU’D NEVER ASK

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.

THE USUAL SUSPECTS – PART THREE

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:

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/the-usual-suspects/

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/09/20/the-usual-suspects-part-two/

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!

ONE TOPIC – TWO TAKES

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.

NOT FOR LACK OF EFFORT

By:  Kurt Snyder

Just when the task to rebuild this Tiger pitching staff already seemed daunting enough for 2016, we now introduce another unknown. Bruce Rondon, if you missed it, was shut down and sent home for the rest of the season due to “lack of effort.”

Really?

Oh yeah, really. Why not? We have seen every possible disappointment associated with the Tigers this season, why not another? But this one is especially disappointing as Rondon, without a whole lot of pressure, had been given a real opportunity to give us a taste of the future.  Well, be careful what you wish for.

For over 3 years now, Bruce has been considered the closer-in-waiting for Detroit. Unfortunately for him and the team, he had to take a major step back when he went under the TJS knife last year. Incredibly, but not advisable, Rondon was throwing triple digits again in spring training, just a year removed from his surgery.

Rondon has been a polarizing figure on this team. He has shown signs of brilliance, followed by loss of command, followed by more dominance. First you love him and get excited about his future, then you find yourself shaking your head wondering why he can’t consistently dominate with the tools he possesses.

Inconsistency has been his enemy and the biggest road block preventing anyone from really considering him ready to take the reins in the ninth.

But you have to work for it, too. And apparently the Tigers have seen signs of quit in Bruce Rondon. But as much as a lot of fans in Detroit are quick to overreact and suggest we get rid of him, that’s probably the worst thing we could do. We cannot discount the ability that he has, and you have to do everything you can to get him right.

My dad always used to say this about pitchers, “Never give up on a good arm.” Well, that’s what Rondon has, not a good arm, but a great arm. And while this episode would seem to lessen the value of Rondon, I am sure a lot of teams would gladly get in line to take on the challenge or opportunity to get Bruce’s head on straight.

Why? Because you “never give up on a good arm.” It seems you can never have enough guys who can throw hard. And in today’s game, every bullpen has at least a few pitchers who can throw 95 mph fastballs. But there are only a handful who can throw triple digits.

This is why the Tigers can’t overreact to what has happened with Rondon. He’s got a valuable arm, but it’s what’s in his gut and between his ears that leave everyone concerned. These are factors that, if not corrected, will certainly determine whether he will ever be able to be counted on to take on an important bullpen role.

Drive and intestinal fortitude are traits ingrained in a pitcher entrusted with the ninth inning. And if Bruce doesn’t have it, he had better find it. But even so, I would be very careful about letting him go prematurely.

Dave Dombrowski, in his 14 years as GM for the Tigers, loved pitchers who could throw hard. And he drafted big, strong pitchers with big arms.

In the trade for Doug Fister, if anyone remembers that gem, Dombrowski insisted that the deal include Washington’s Robbie Ray and according to Dave, he was someone the Nationals didn’t want to part with. He was one of their most prized minor league pitching prospects.

But the Tigers sure didn’t give him much time. Heck, they barely put his name on his locker before he was given up on and traded away. And now he is showing signs of being a pretty good major league pitcher, with a bright future. Why the team gave up on him so quickly may have been more about Ilitch’s persistent pressure on the Tigers to win, giving them no time or ability to develop a pitcher they gave up so much to acquire.

Well, they can’t make the same mistake with Bruce Rondon. It’s just unfortunate that Al Avila’s task to rebuild his rotation and bullpen just got even more complicated.

TWO TIMES TWO FOR TUESDAY

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.