By: Holly Horning
Yesterday, I focused on the differences in the mental game between the Tigers and the Royals. Today, I want to take you indepth and discuss why the Tigers don’t have, may not want and probably won’t get on the same page when it comes to duplicating the Royals’ successful strategy based upon their physical formula.
And a good chunk of it all has to do with Ilitch Holding’s overall business strategy.
You see, baseball doesn’t live in a bubble. It isn’t immune from the daily business decisions of each owner and his management team. What you see the Tigers doing – trades, signings, etc. – are made in tandem with business strategies developed for the Tigers and the bigger picture concerning the Ilitch companies.
For example, you are never going to see the Tigers trade Miggy even for a dozen top prospects. Getting rid of your franchise player would create a significant financial drop in revenue, attendance and merchandising numbers. It may be a sound team rationale, but it would be bad for business.
Any decision is almost always going to be based around what generates more revenue for the team and corporation. For Miggy to be moved, the Tigers would have to have another franchise star who would replace him in moving the turnstiles.
This is because baseball, like any other sport, is built to embrace the masses. And if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably not part of this group. You’re not a casual baseball fan. You love the sport and take pleasure in observing the nuance of the game and when players complete a technical skill to perfection. You are also in the minority when it comes to what the majority of fans want to see in a game.
Unfortunately, stats show that the majority of baseball fans prefer the “quick hits” and thrills that baseball can provide: dominating hard-throwing pitchers, home runs, thrilling catches and other exciting moments. Speed and power essentially, not so much the finer points.
And this brings us to the differences in strategy between the Royals and Tigers – and why they have intentionally chosen different paths.
As we know, the Royals subsist on excellent base-running, speed, impeccable defense and “small ball.” The Tigers are all about “big and flashy” with their dominant power throwers and big bats.
Offensively, the Tigers had better stats in almost all categories than the Royals did. More home runs, more slugging, higher team batting average, etc. The Royals, of course, were more successful in scoring those runs but did so through “small ball” fashion.
Ironically, a year in which the Tigers hit the cellar was yet another year in which their attendance exceeded that of this year’s World Series champs. Even last year, when the Royals went to the World Series, their attendance sat at #25. Most years, they attract half the fans that the Tigers do. The masses have spoken.
Also look at the team’s intentions regarding the importance they place on attendance. Since Kauffman Stadium was built, the Royals have gradually reduced seating. The Tigers, on the other hand, have systematically increased the number of seats at Comerica over the years.
So if “powerful” baseball attracts more fans as studies indicate, it naturally requires a different type of player. Outside of pitchers, teams who dig the long ball are made up of players who are bigger and stronger overall. And logically, these bigger physiques tend to be slower running and fielding. Just one look at the Royals’ roster of height and weight will confirm that they are a much leaner team, are substantially faster – and hit much less for power than their Tiger counterparts.
The Royals are also a team build upon the farm system. The Tigers, as we know, no longer have much of one as for years it was used as currency to buy the established players in its drive for that ring.
Having players come up together through the minors allows them the advantage of familiarity, bonding, team play philosophy and so much more. The Tigers have one home-grown player of any consequence. JV. The Royals have 10. Even if they wanted to, it would take years for Detroit to assemble a successful team from its farm system.
But let’s also look at the men who make the decisions. The owners. And yet again, we have a huge difference in backgrounds, styles and motives.
David Glass, KC’s owner, is the former Chair of WalMart and still sits on its board. It is said that he brought the dominant financially savvy strategies with him. Other than the Royals, he owns no other businesses.
Mike Ilitch is a billionaire who owns 12 companies. Some of these are connected to other business venues and create yet additional streams of revenue. Let’s also not forget the 5-neighborhood mega development in the works which was planned around his existing businesses.
All of his companies feed off one another and require the masses to help generate revenue. So while the Royals may make decisions based solely upon their needs, the Tigers cannot. They are part of a much bigger picture.
So will the Tigers try to duplicate the Royals’ formula? Highly unlikely but they may attempt to include some of the aspects without sacrificing their true identity. But they are built the way they are for a reason.
Keep all of this in mind during the coming year as you wonder about why a move was or wasn’t made. Chances are it was made for reasons that go beyond the game.