By: Holly Horning
Who built the pyramids of Egypt? Does Roswell, NM hold the remains of an alien and UFO? Was there more than one lone gunman involved in JFK’s assassination? Who shot JR?
And why did Dave Dombrowski trade Doug Fister?
All examples of life’s great mysteries which have no rational explanations and continue to defy logic to this day. Oh, except for JR. At least that one’s solved.
When it comes to the Tigers, let’s add to that list. For an owner who decided in 2001 that he really wanted to win a World Series, Mike Ilitch has sure taken his time. An owner who hired wunderkind, Dave Dombrowski to come in and build a winner. An owner who started spending money in earnest in 2003 – and never stopped – in order to make that dream happen a little faster.
An owner who increased his payroll almost every year and signed players to exorbitant contracts. An owner who openly declared this past winter that he’d spent whatever necessary in order to realize his dream. An owner who now has a payroll just south of $200 million and one of the largest in baseball. And while we do know that payroll has no correlation to winning, spending vast sums of money is definite proof of one’s intent to win.
And an owner who told new GM, Al Avila, to (sic) “put the foot on the pedal, hard.”
Yet, given all of this, why does there continue to be no sustained sense of urgency by anyone within the Tigers’ organization? Given the initial strategy of cutting to the chase and going out to buy most of the talent, why has it taken 13 years and counting? Why have the Tigers continued to dawdle as they see their best window of opportunity get increasingly smaller?
Let’s examine the pattern:
· A GM who was given almost a decade and a half to bring a ring to Detroit. Mr. I gave him 3 long-term contracts in which to get the job done, making him one of baseball’s longest-tenured GMs.
· A manager who spent 8 years guiding the team in which the Tigers won only 1 World Series game. And in a year where baseball’s current winningest manager (and undefeated in World Series games) became available, he was not snapped up despite Leyland’s year-by-year contract.
· A team that had baseball’s best starting rotation for 3+ years. Now, only 1 remains.
· A Front Office that, despite stats supporting the importance of an effective bullpen, continued to assemble one of MLB’s worst using the same formula year after year.
· An organization that spent so much money on players but was consistently one of the very last teams to incorporate important tools like technology and analytics. Consistently behind in baseball’s trends putting them at a competitive disadvantage.
· A team that always learned the hard way in October that fundamentals and smart base running were key, yet never developed results-oriented programs addressing them.
· A GM, despite an ageing owner and several key stars, hired someone with no managing experience whatsoever. Quite a long-shot to believe such an incredible learning curve could be mastered in a rookie year.
And now this year, there is no discernible proof that a sense of urgency is being practiced.
· A manager who took the team from first to worst is retained for yet another year.
· A starting pitcher allowed 2 full months of starts before he is pulled.
· The bullpen continues to live at the bottom of MLB’s rankings.
· An outfielder plays almost every single day and has yet to produce anything of substance.
· Known factors such as base running and non-existent situational hitting continue to impact games negatively.
· Even players, more often than not, don’t play with a sense of needing to win.
I know I am not alone when I wonder why a team that states so often its intent to win a World Series, offers mixed signals. A team that talks and spends a lot, but doesn’t practice what it preaches.
And maybe it’s because this organization is so tethered and loyal to many of the old ideas, practices and people. Factors that may contradict the overall goal of Mr. I. And the reasons that just may be the very things holding this team back. Has a fear of change or tunnel-vision taken over the corporate culture of this team? Does loyalty win out over…..winning?
That’s a question for Mr. I, and Al Avila, to answer. What we do know is that performing the same things over and over produces the same results. Maybe adopting some change will help the Tigers avoid practicing the definition of insanity.