By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

One by one, the Tigers and Al Avila are checking the boxes. Needed a closer. Got ‘em. Needed outfield depth. Got some. Needed a #2 starting pitcher? Well, we’ve got that now, too.

The free agent signing of Jordan Zimmermann is a big one for the Tigers; a piece sorely needed for the starting rotation.

The best part about all of this is that Avila shared what his shopping list was for the off-season and he hasn’t wavered from his needs; he has only fulfilled them.

What do the writers at Totally Tigers think? Well, read on!

1. Evaluate the Zimmermann signing.

Holly – Jordan is ranked by most as the #3 starting pitcher available and the Tigers got him for a reasonable 5 years at half the price that Price will probably receive (with 6 or 7 years). So yes, I’m thrilled – especially since the Tigers got him for essentially what the Nats offered him a year ago.

I’ve had the chance to watch him often as I’m based in DC. Excluding Max’s recent arrival, I felt JZ was the most dependable of all the Nats starting pitchers. He’s a bulldog and total professional.

While all signings involve some risk, including this one, this is something that had to be done. The money doesn’t break the bank and the Tigers are in desperate need of pitching, especially guys who can eat innings.

Zimm was the best possible solution. Max won only 1 more game than him last year and if you compare Zimmermann’s stats with the Tigers’ starting rotation, he would have been the top pitcher last year in wins, ERA and WHIP despite his “down” year.

Given the Nats’ poisonous atmosphere among pitchers last year, I would think Jordan will be able to focus and perform even better this coming year.

Kurt – What choice did the Tigers have really? Without getting into the risks associated with the Zimmermann signing which are already well documented, you have to look at the choices.

To get a starter for the top or near the top of your rotation, you look at Zimmermann or you go up a notch to the $30 million-a-year club. A place the Tigers could not afford to be. If that was the case, we would have signed or tried to sign David Price.

What I like most about the deal is that it’s for 5 years when in the past you would have to sign a pitcher of this caliber for at least 7 years, which is a huge risk. I understand the reasons the Nationals didn’t hold onto him, but I also understand why he was chosen by the Tigers over anyone else.

Acquiring starting pitchers never come without risks and I really do have concerns about the TJS and the declines Jordan had during the 2015 season. But looking at the level of pitcher we were looking to acquire, he was the best one. And the gamble is worth it.

2. What does this most recent trade say about Al Avila?

Holly – I really like what I see so far. The Tigers have been the most proactive team so far in all of MLB since the Hot Stove season started. Al is receiving rave reviews in the national media, even from the critics who tend to be anti-Detroit.

The man had a plan – and was very proactive in getting out there before his top choices were taken. Especially significant is that he made his moves before other players were signed and the price bar was set for everyone else.

How many GMs can say that they already have their closer and top choice starter already in the fold? And to have it done even before the Winter Meetings are held?

It also says something positive about the Tigers for Zimmerman to sign so early and quickly. The national media feels the Tigers got a really good deal – juxtaposed with stories about Dave Dombrowski willing to outbid everyone else by $30 – $40 million dollars for a top pitcher.

So far, I don’t see any resemblance between Al and his former boss, which could be a very good thing.

Kurt – Al is sticking to the plan. There isn’t anything to question so far. And when asked what’s next, he spelled out the rest of the plan. They will sign another starter and they will acquire 1, 2 or 3 pieces for the bullpen.

The signing of Zimmermann is just more evidence from a man who does what he says he’s going to do, and frankly his full disclosure is refreshing.

Al knew what level we needed to operate on when it came to starting pitching acquisition #1 and Jordan was the best at that level and Avila went out and grabbed him.

He then made it clear that the next starting pitcher they acquire will not be as expensive but will still be a quality pitcher. So, I have no reason to question him; that is exactly who we will get.

The Zimmermann acquisition continues to validate that the plan is being followed without wavering. Avila impresses more every day and I can honestly say that I am pleasantly surprised.


By:  Holly Horning

Once a Tiger, always a Tiger. At least that’s how it seems for Detroit’s former managers and coaches.

Trammell and Gibson have found their way back. So have “retired” managers like Jim Leyland. And also former MLB managers Dave Clark and Gene Lamont.

Add to that list now, Lloyd McClendon.

While not an unprecedented move by Detroit, the timing is what is raising fans’ eyebrows. Despite the fact that the Tigers have rehired and retained 3 other former managers, speculation is that Lloyd may be making that drive from Toledo to Detroit this year.

But is there really a master plan to insert Lloyd into a managerial position in Detroit? Let’s look at the reasons for hiring him.

As in the majority of businesses, people most likely to get the job are the ones who have connections with the employer. In this case, McClendon is not only a former employee, but he has ties with Dave Littlefield (who hired him) going back to Pittsburgh. He is also a good friend of “Bull” Durham.

He’s known Al Avila for years and brings with him an already-established level of work experience and communication. He’s a known commodity and will get up to speed more quickly than other candidates, especially important given that Larry Parrish ran Toledo for 15 years. He knows and understands the organization, corporate culture and people. No significant learning curve here.

But Lloyd also has a reputation for handling young talent very well. Perfect for the minor leagues. And given his managerial background, consider his experience with both Pittsburgh and Seattle as “value added.” Who better to manage a AAA team than someone who knows what it takes to make a major league roster?

The Mud Hens finished 2015 in last place and haven’t had a winning record since 2009. Could McClendon possibly see this new job as an opportunity to return the majors down the road if all goes well?

In 7 seasons as a manager, Lloyd had only 1 winning season. He must understand that other managerial jobs will not be forthcoming anytime soon and thus being realistic about his next career move.

Given his managerial record, it’s highly unlikely the Tigers are considering him to replace Brad as manager. If the Front Office had considered him to be a strong candidate, they would have given him the job back in October 2013 instead of hiring a long-shot outsider with no managerial experience.

But maybe, just maybe, Al Avila is also preparing for a worst case scenario in 2016. Ausmus is moving into his lame duck year and it will become apparent halfway through the season whether he will be staying or not. It is a general policy in MLB that GMs will extend a manager’s contract well before the end of the season if they will be retained.

It’s always been my theory that Avila’s decision to retain Brad was primarily based upon establishing his power within the organization and waiting for the right managerial candidate to come along. And this is where McClendon may actually serve an additional purpose.

He could possibly step into an interim managerial position should things go south this year. He’s managed in the Bigs, knows most of the players and could help calm a clubhouse and transition a team should Ausmus leave.

Having options is always a good strategy when situations don’t go as expected. Lloyd could end up being the solution to at least one or more issues Al Avila may have to address this year.


By:   Holly Horning

So nice, we had to publish twice.  Midwest Nice, that is.

A reoccurring theme within the Tiger organization that is a stumbling block in their pursuit of that elusive ring.  The tendency to lag behind other teams in useful advances within the game, gravitating to hiring quiet forces instead of dynamic leadership, and practicing long-term obligations to players, coaches and managers beyond the expiration date.

This is the corporate culture of our favorite team and its impact is seen regularly.  This was first published in June and still rings true – except for the name of the GM.

My day job often finds me teaching protocol, defined as the recognition and understanding of etiquette, behavior and legal standards crucial to developing successful relationships and achieving the desired business and social goals.

While most of my clients need this for diplomatic dealings or international business travel, understanding protocol is also essential within the geographic regions of the US. But within this country’s border, I call it “Cultural IQ.” Having lived in the Midwest, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Southwest, I can testify that the ways each region’s residents communicate, process information and communicate are vastly different from each other’s.

I remember leaving Michigan for college on the East Coast and having the natives tell me I needed to adopt tougher ways. I was “too nice” they said. I was told I needed to move faster, be more direct and make decisions more quickly. Today, the only way people can ascertain I’m from the Midwest is by the way I pronounce the letter “a.” That, and asking for a “pop.” (Be very careful asking for the latter on the East Coast as it may get you something else.)

On the other hand, I occasionally take my husband, a born-and-bred Manhattanite, back to Michigan. But I have to pack some duct tape just in case because his NY mannerisms travel with him. He found meeting people was an amazing experience because the people in Michigan were so nice – almost “too nice.”

So why am I regaling you with this story? It’s because I think the Midwest Manners (or Cultural IQ) are a factor (out of many) in why the Tigers haven’t won a World Series in decades. The owners and management have been too nice, too safe and too slow in making the necessary changes that could have sped up the process and results.

We all know the stories of East Coast teams like the Yankees who have been downright ruthless in pursuing those pennants and rings. Owners like George Steinbrenner and Edward Bennett Williams of the Orioles. Only here can a manager like Davey Johnson be fired one day before he wins Manager of the Year.

On the other hand, those 10 teams in the AL and NL Central tend to have reputations as “nice teams” with calm and steady management. And many have said that Boston’s failure to win a World Series for decades was because Tom Yawkey was a “gentleman owner.”

We all should be proud of Tiger ownership. Mr. I runs a first-class operation with the highest levels of professionalism. Negative comments by management and players are few and the exception to the rule. Employees stay forever and turnover is low – all positive signs of a well-run organization. Players put Detroit near the top of their lists for teams they want to join.

But moves over the years have overall been conservative and slow in the making. We’ve had a manager here for 8 years who was never able to achieve that victory parade – and with one of baseball’s highest payrolls. And never officially “fired.” What are the chances an East Coast team would have maintained that level of patience?

Joe Girardi is the longest tenured manager in the AL East at 7 years with the Yankees.  But then again, he has won it all for them. Otherwise, managers change frequently with 3 – 4 years as the average length of stay.

But given this cultural indicator, are we surprised that certain facets of the Tigers have not resolved themselves over the years? Players who remain despite a clear expiration date stamped on them. Yearly bullpen blowups. Lack of offense in the playoffs. No ruthless closer who mows down opposing batters. Tough and controversial decisions were not made.

And let’s not forget a collection of managers who maintained auras of calm, cool and collected going all the way back to a Mr. Anderson. Maybe now is the time for Mr. I and Dave to channel their inner-Sparky.

Maybe it’s time for the Tigers to leave their Midwest Nice and make a fast, bold and decisive move like the one accomplished back in 1979. Firing Moss and hiring Sparky worked out pretty well for them, didn’t it?

We’ve just seen two managers let go because they were hovering around the .500 mark. Another one with a similar record – and naturally from the East Coast – is expected to be let go shortly. I don’t think a similar move by the Tigers would raise many eyebrows. At least not on the Right Coast.

Let’s hope at this point, that reality and desired results win out over being “too nice” for Mr. I. With the Tigers at the fourth highest payroll in MLB, his “Cultural IQ” shouldn’t keep him from making a faster, bolder and more decisive move while there is still a season to salvage.


By:  Holly Horning

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  We here at Totally Tigers are way too focused on the Big Meal to churn out a brand new blog on a major holiday.   However, we are reprinting one of the most popular ones from August which is still as relevant today as it was then.

And on this day of Thanksgiving, Totally Tigers is thankful for its readers.  We truly appreciate those of you who read us (hopefully everyday) and leave your comments and suggestions for future topics.  We are truly blessed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the biggie……

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

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


By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

The Tigers broke the ice over the last week and made two trades, addressing both their bullpen closer vacancy and their outfield depth. They were not the flashy variety, not by a long shot.  The philosophy for this season certainly and maybe from this day forward, has changed.

But were these moves good for the Tigers? This town is used to the Brink’s truck rolling up to Comerica Park and unloading expensive new bags of goodies. But instead, 2 Men and a Truck could have delivered this cargo.

So what do you make of these trades? What do you make of Avila’s approach? Kurt and Holly will take a look.

1. What do the two trades the Tigers have completed so far, say about Avila’s strategy?

Kurt – First of all, the 2 trades were not for expiring contracts or rentals. Both players have club options for a second year return, should we so desire. There is no risk of losing them after one season.

Secondly, we didn’t sell our souls for these guys. They were brought here in return for lower level minor leaguers the Tigers could afford to let go with the exception of Ian Krol. But he was someone on the major league roster who just wasn’t working out for us. Krol was becoming a project for Detroit and frankly, we need relievers who can help us in the pen, not hurt us.

The bottom line is they were low risk, but potentially high reward trades that preserved our minor league talent. Up until now, the minor leagues have  just been a holding tank for trades; but not anymore.

Under the new rule, there is a clear mission to acquire talent while still preserving the minor leagues in the efforts of building on it, not depleting it. This is Al’s way, certainly not Dave’s.

Holly – Acquiring KRod and Maybin are decent and solid trades. Not exciting as Tiger fans are used to but then again, the big, splashy trades and signings in past years didn’t get the job done which really is all that matters.

Avila performed due diligence as it was reported he inquired about every closer being made available and then went out and got someone who was not officially on the market. And the talent given up didn’t sting or make anyone wince.

Al appears, for the moment, to be creative and cautious in how he acquires new players. There’s no overpay and no depleting the farm system. In fact, it appears he is trying to rebuild the farm by protecting promising talent.

It’s apparent that the secondary needs were completed first in order to give the Tigers a solid idea about where their payroll stands so they can now go after the primary targets – starting pitching.

Al is saving every penny he can in order to have as many available options for acquiring the needed starters. And wisely, some of the money involved in these recent trades is deferred or paid by the other team, which will not add to the current concern over the second highest payroll commitment in baseball.

2. Which strategy do you prefer, DD’s or AA’s?

Kurt – Dave Dombrowski’s decision to sell and not buy at the trade deadline in 2015 was not something Mike Ilitch was accustomed to doing. For 14 years, DD’s philosophy was to use his minor league system as a field of sacrificial lambs; talented prospects were used to acquire high-priced and high-profile major league stars, mostly at the trade deadline.

Unfortunately, we did it so much, there was nothing left to offer teams; so the Tigers were given no alternative but to sell. Sure Al Avila could have followed in the footsteps of Dombrowski and offered up the very talent he received in the trades of Price, Soria and Cespedes; and he most likely would have received some very good players; the expensive, high risk variety.

For a long time, I was very supportive of the Dombrowski way of doing things. The Tigers have been winning a lot with this method and a lot of high-profile major league talent has looked good in the home Tiger whites. But these moves, though exciting, did not result in a championship, and their failures slowly eroded our chances for winning one in the near future.

Now, who knows if Al’s way will translate into a championship? That’s anyone’s guess, but the free-wheeling Dombrowski approach did nothing but poach our future. So it’s imperative that we now buy into the new order, making Al’s way certainly worth the trip.

Holly – The book is still out on both men. Dave’s true evaluation as a GM with Detroit won’t be finalized for at least another year and Al has just started to make his mark.

They really are polar opposites from what we’ve seen so far with Dave overpaying and depleting the farm system while Al appears more prudent and aware of the long-term implications. We’ll see which one has more sizzle and which has more steak.

Dombrowski has been about the immediate and made moves that hinged on today with little regard for the future. With Detroit, it was all about acquiring players and there was no focus on the factors that contribute to success. While they had one of the highest payrolls, the Tigers were years behind everyone else in analytics, scouting, computer programs and physical performance departments.

In less than one month, new GM Avila announces the installation of an analytics department and within a couple of months, an overhaul of the farm system and scouting programs. He did more in 2 months to strengthen the entire organization than Dave did in 14 years.

Avila is not going to be the GM who makes sexy and exciting moves – and that’s OK with me. But I see him looking at the big picture and making moves for now and the future which is what teams like the Cardinals practice.


By:  Holly Horning

There were high expectations for this team in 2015 given their payroll, Cy Young Award winner, MVP and an elderly owner pushing for a World Series.

But the team was hit with yet another year in which a rash of injuries occurred – sidelining some of their best hitters and pitchers. And one of the reasons given for their disappointing finish in 2015.

And shortly after the season ended, the Front Office broomed all the trainers and fitness coordinators.

What???” you say? Oh, sorry – I forgot to mention these introductory paragraphs were about the Washington Nationals.

It is eerie how similar the teams in Detroit and DC are. Two parallel stories, especially when you compare the managers, a past year riddled with injuries and accusations of underperformance.

Catch up on my earlier blog describing the same paths but different destinations of these two teams.

It is amazing how two teams with the same goals and similar stories (except for the final standings) can do their own analyses and come up with polar opposite decisions and actions. And today, it’s about addressing fitness and injuries.

The Nationals had a year that was plagued by injuries to both their starting rotation and lineup. Many of the injuries were extended or exacerbated from rushing players back from the DL. And others were injuries undiagnosed until it was too late. The Front Office also believed that lack of proper conditioning contributed to the increase in injuries. Sound familiar?

But the Nats decided to do something about it. They hired a British soccer health expert to revamp how the Nats will address training, conditioning and the overall physical health of their players. Their new director was responsible for overseeing a 50%+ drop in soft-tissue injuries in his previous work.

Let’s now look at the Tigers. There have been 3 years of above-average injuries. Miggy has not been healthy since 2012. VMart’s great 2014 was sandwiched in between 2 years of injuries.

How can a team be surprised to learn the best hitter in the game was playing on TWO injuries including a broken foot in 2014? How could management bear to watch their two top hitters grimacing and limping around the bases? How can Victor injure his leg twice while doing routine exercise?

In 2015, the Tigers used 12 starting pitchers – the most since 2002. They had the fewest starting rotation starts in 13 years and a full one-third of last season was pitched by guys called up from the farm.

Sixteen pitchers out of 23 last year suffered from injuries. A total of 22 out of the 40-man roster were unavailable to play at times due to injuries of varying lengths.

There were starters coming into the year hurt. Others pitched inconsistently or were bombed consistently – only to finally find out that injuries were the root cause.

Then there is the case of Justin Verlander, the third most expensive pitcher in MLB, taking trapeze lessons over the winter with his girlfriend. A sport best performed by short men with significant proportionally-larger shoulders and arms, not guys who are 6’5″ and lanky.

And the injuries most likely to occur from trapeze work? Damage to the tri-ceps. You simply can’t make this stuff up.

What is unclear is whether the Tigers require players to get approval before participating in another sport or dangerous activity. Most teams do.

But someone needs to be in charge. You’ve got 2 of baseball’s most expensive players, 2 franchise faces – and their overall health and performance are not being adequately monitored and addressed. The investment – and the future – are not being protected.

The Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS), finds that each team addresses and manages injuries differently. Some are consistent in their philosophy, others aren’t. Some address players’ health seriously, some don’t because they see it as “part of the game.”

And in all the years PBATS recognizes the best medical staffs in the game, the Tigers won only once – in 2006. Coincidence?

A further look into Detroit’s training and conditioning program shows a bare-bones approach and program. A trainer and assistant, 2 strength and conditioning coaches and a part-time performance coach.

More than half of the other MLB teams have an entire department dedicated to maintaining peak physical performance of their players, complete with directors, chiropractors, sports psychologists, physical therapists, massage specialists and rehab coordinators.

Now that Al Avila is in charge, let’s hope he casts a fresh eye on the organization and evaluates and expands on the key pieces that keep teams in contention. Physical health is a top priority.

Oh, and so is nutrition. But I’m saving that topic for a blog in the near future. Stay tuned……


By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

The Tigers finally broke the seal on their off-season with the arrival of a closer for next year and the acquisition of an outfielder we have all seen before.

So, what are your thoughts on the moves? Are the Tigers better than they were a week ago? Are they worse? What concerns do you still have, if any?

Our writers share what they have on their minds as the activity ramps up.



Dave Dombrowski took quite a risk by obtaining Craig Kimbrel. Did he put the cart before the horse by obtaining a top closer despite having no decent starting pitching? If he doesn’t sign a minimum of 2 top pitchers, this could be the equivalent of putting NASCAR wheels on a minivan.


It’s known that Billy Beane traded Josh Donaldson, this year’s MVP, because of personal, not performance or business reasons. I’m amazed that more hasn’t been said about a GM who allowed his personal feelings to override his business acumen by trading such a talented player. The A’s went from 2nd place to last with baseball’s 4th worst record.


Rumors say that the Tigers are exploring a return of Doug Fister to Detroit. If they prove right, how will the reasons for his original departure be rewritten? What will his return say about Dave’s decision – and about Al Avila?



It was my feeling going into the off-season that the Tigers would have to make most of their hay on the free agent front with little to offer in a trade. But so far they have managed to do the opposite. A couple of shrewd deals have brought the Tigers an experienced closer and a still young and athletic Cameron Maybin to strengthen the outfield. This is a better team already.


The acquisition of Maybin is a big deal and the only real question is where in the outfield he will be plugged in. You can’t have enough speed in that outfield. Maybin brings both speed and defense to a team that can’t have enough.


Centerfield seemed set going into the off-season, but I didn’t feel the same way about our leadoff spot. Cameron Maybin will certainly make a bid for the top spot in the batting order, it’s just a matter of whether he will replace Gose in center or fill the left field spot. Gose struck out way too much to continue to lead off and really belongs in the 9 spot because of it.


By:  Holly Horning

I’ve been singing Sheryl Crow’s song a lot lately. And after the acquisition of Francisco Rodriquez, I can’t get it out of my head.

Unlike most fans, I find the ascension of Al Avila to the GM job, interesting. I don’t buy into the “guilt by association ” mentality in reference to Al’s work under Dave. Just because someone works with another, doesn’t necessarily mean they see eye-to-eye or work in the same fashion.

Often, counterparts are hired in order to give balance to the discussions and decisions. Look at how Ronald Reagan and his VP, George Bush, were so completely different. (Sorry, I live in the political epicenter of the world and these references are a nasty habit.)

But I’ve already started seeing some differences between the GMs and, knock on wood, I see instances where Avila has gone down his own path. Let’s put his decision on Brad Ausmus on the backburner for now. If you haven’t read my earlier blog offering explanations for that action, catch up on it here:

But Avila, in his very first act, broomed the minor leagues. It tells us he wasn’t happy with the results or the people running things. It also tells us that the minors are getting ready to be overhauled.

And quite frankly, we should trust Al in this department. He grew up in the Dodger system in its most recent heyday, with his father, Ralph (a legendary scout), Al Campanis and Tommy Lasorda. He became a scout at an early age, rose quickly through the ranks and developed a ground-breaking scouting system focused on Latin America.

His vision resulted in him discovering a young lad named Miguel. On his advice, a young GM named Dombrowski signed this kid. Years later, he also saw potential in a player released by the Astros and recommended the Tigers sign him, too. Less than 2 years later, this rightfielder was named Tiger of the Year.

And that is a major difference between Al and Dave. Dave didn’t grow up in the sport and doesn’t have “scout” on his resume. He came into baseball as an administrative assistant. And given the current arguments about our manager, we all know that direct experience with a skill produces the best results.

And Avila changed the mindset of the Tigers by establishing a bona-fide analytics department. For years under Dave, almost all of the other MLB teams established one but Dave firmly refused. Goodbye Old School.

Compare, too, how both men handled their recent acquisitions of closers. Dave with his huge overpay for Kimbrel while also giving up 4 solid minor leaguers. In contrast, Al trading for a guy who cost much less and giving up only 1 player (so far). MLB analysts are saying overall that Al completed the smarter trade.

But Avila brings more to the table than just his scouting abilities. Born in Cuba, he is MLB’s only Latino GM. He has the ability to understand and bond with Spanish-speaking players unlike any other. And why is this important? Athletes who do not have English as their primary language are able to describe their feelings, needs, concerns and abilities in much more detail if they can converse in their native tongue.

It is also said that Mr. I and Al are close. So close that Avila is treated like a son. Maybe the differences between the owner and Dave made it difficult to communicate at times but just maybe Avila’s stronger relationship will allow him to be more direct with Mr. I about the needs and priorities of the team.

I’ve also noticed a pattern about our new GM. He talks about players’ talents beyond what the stats say. I don’t remember Dave ever discussing the “soft skills” his new acquisitions brought to the table. And that could be due to Dombrowski’s old school ways.

Al, on the other hand, talks about personalities, leadership skills and experience. He mentions the importance of players mentoring each other. He talks like a manager who is focused on gathering the right mix of people, not just a group of skills.

And that could be the most significant difference between the two GMs. One who made decisions based on paper, which never quite worked out. The other who digs just a little deeper.

So let’s see how this plays out. This could be the beginning of some new winds of change blowing into Comerica.


By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Wednesday’s move brings to mind an old Steve Martin movie, The Jerk, where he celebrated the arrival of the new phone book so he could see his name in print. “The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!” he shouted for all to hear.

Well, Tiger fans are certainly all over the streets proclaiming, “The new closer’s here! The new closer’s here!” Right?

Or are people not sure about the move to acquire Francisco Rodriguez? Sounds like a good topic for a Thursday, don’t you think?

Was the signing of KRod a good move?

Kurt – Well, I have to admit, my immediate response was no. But after I absorbed it, I immediately changed my mind.

I think the reason I initially thought no was because we have been brainwashed as Tiger fans for, I don’t know, 14 years? Every trade deadline deal, every off-season move was expected to be a big splash. We have become so enamored with the acquisition of the big name, the expensive star, that it clouds our thinking.

Anything that doesn’t set baseball on its ear is a disappointment to Tiger fans. Well, welcome to the post-Dombrowski era where we protect our farm, and make safe but prudent moves while still improving the club and filling an important need.

Al Avila has made what appears on the surface to be a very smart, solid and big picture move. We didn’t break the bank for a closer who restricts us in any way. We have a reliable closer. Check the box. And there is still plenty in the kitty to spend on more pitching, both in the pen and the rotation. And that’s a big deal. It really is.

Rodriguez brings a lot of experience, he turns 34 next year, and frankly, people think that’s a negative, even though we spent $10 million a season for a 40-year-old Joe Nathan.

We got Rodriguez relatively cheap and didn’t have to mortgage our farm system to do it. His last 2 seasons were All-Star seasons, proof that he has successfully changed his formerly-dominant style of pitching.

KRod is not the kind of pitcher he once was. However, he still gets guys out, but it’s with a crippling change up not a dominating fastball, one that now only occasionally hits 90 mph. But the guy knows how to pitch, and I think this is a good start to the off-season.

Holly – I think it was a good, solid and reassuring introductory roster move by Al Avila. We now have our first established point about how the Tigers and their new GM are approaching the season.

Let’s talk about KRod first. A younger (well, in comparison to Joe), established pitcher with a great track record who also understands he’s lost some velocity on his fastball and has adapted quite successfully with a change-up said to be one of the top two in the majors.

Looking at stats from last year, I don’t give a W-L record a ton of weight because much of it depends upon what the entire team does. What I do look at is the reliever’s individual performance that is solely dependent upon his work.

And I like what I see, especially when I compare him to Soria.  Last year, KRod finished 8th in all of MLB for saves while Soria finished 25th. The WHIP is also impressive – Rodriquez allowing less than one runner on base for every inning he pitched. It was a miniscule .86 which put him at #2 in all of baseball last year. Soria ranked 16th.

Hitters did not fare well against him either. They were hitting .189 off of KRod last year which ranked him 7th while Soria ranked 17th in this same category.

And the Tigers exercised some restraint and got a top-quality player at a better price, unlike Dave’s M.O. Still on the expensive side but almost half the price of Joe Nathan and a very manageable 2-year contract. Soria is rumored to want much more and a longer contract.

But most importantly, this move signals that the Tigers are still very serious about winning. They have a top closer now (knock on wood). And the move was smart and didn’t involve spending more than any other team and taking a big hunk out of the farm system.

And I think this hints at where the savings will be spent – starting pitching.


By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Hey folks, while we contemplate the constant speculation about which players will go where and for how much, let’s take a break until we have something more concrete to analyze.

And while we wait, how about a little fun? As fans, we all have our favorite Tigers. And we would love to share ours with you. But it seems wrong to have to pick just one. So we will spice it up a little by listing our favorite players at each position from 2 different eras; from 1900 to the mid 1960’s and from 1968 to the present.

Now this is where Holly has the advantage as she has legitimate favorites from the first era while Kurt is forced to list players he has just plain heard of or seen on reel to reel film.

Like that Ty Cobb guy for instance. I wonder if he had Holly’s favorite number. Either way, it should be a pretty compelling comparison.

So read on and when you’re done, feel free to share your list. It’s a fun topic for sure.


Hughie Jennings
Sparky Anderson


Ty Cobb
Sparky Anderson


Schoolboy Rowe
Justin Verlander


Hal Newhouser
Jack Morris


(NA – true relievers per se didn’t emerge until the 1960’s for Detroit)
John Hiller


Willie Hernandez


Birdie Tebbetts
Bill Freehan


Mickey Cochrane
John Wockenfuss


Hank Greenberg
Miguel Cabrera


Hank Greenberg
Miguel Cabrera


Charlie Gehringer
Dick McAuliffe


Charlie Gehringer
Lou Whitaker


George Kell
Aurelio Rodriguez


George Kell
Aurelio Rodriguez


Billy Rogell
Alan Trammell


Harvey Kuenn
Alan Trammell


OF (Historical)
Ty Cobb
Sam Crawford
Harry Heilman

OF (Modern Day)
Willie Horton
Al Kaline
Mickey Stanley


OF (Historical)
Ty Cobb
Sam Crawford
Bobby Veach

OF (Modern Day)
Kirk Gibson
Al Kaline
Ron Leflore


(DH – Duh, no Historical)
Victor Martinez


Willie Horton