AS TIME GOES BY


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.

14 thoughts on “AS TIME GOES BY

  1. After the Fiser trade, I read in a Washington paper that the Tigers were going to trade either Fister or Porcello to make room to sign Miggy and Max. DD decided to trade Fister because his agent told The Tigers he would not sign a extension and he was not liked in the clubhouse. He was not a cancer, but didn’t fit in with the team.

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  2. Maybe Chris Ilitch, running the day-to-day operations, is not a chip off the old block. With today`s win and dating back to Aug. 26, 1992 (the day Mike purchased the Tigers) Mike sits 238 games below .500. With all the playoff appearances and accolades, what legacy will Mike leave behind? How will the Mike Ilitch ownership era be judged?

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    • A long conversation, but MO is that Mr I never thought he had the right man running the show, someone not to trust to put his money in the guys’ hands. After 10 years he thought the right guy was DD. This from whom, before the internet era, did not have a chance to follow what happened inside the house. So I think overall he did a good job.

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  3. Tunnel vision, for sure. I thought Ausmus did a decent job of managing this weekend: put on some plays! – bunts, stolen bases, plus good roster management, better lineup, good bullpen usage – even the Lowe outing – with an 8-run lead that was safe. On the other hand it was just Chi, 6-18 last 24.

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  4. The new “Tiger Way” seems to be as secretive as the investigation into JFK’s assassination. Perhaps the team will allow media and fans a glimpse into this unknown handbook by the year 2066. On another note, has anyone else noticed that the players all seem to be in the dugout throughout the game? Do you think that mgt. put it’s foot down?

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    • Hi, Ray – Al Avila did say the book would be kept within the organization only. It is generally considered propriatery information and thus excluded from public eyes. And yes, the players are in the dugout now. Early in the season, they were leaving the dugout but after a team meeting following a disastrous losing streak, they are now back. On a related note, after that team meeting, Ausmus wore the official team uniform the very next day. The habit lasted one full day before he was back in a generic shirt. Even this weekend, he did not wear the special uniform. Thanks for your continued comments! – Holly

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  5. Mike Illitch will never win a World Series… He intentionally let Tiger Stadium rot, making no repairs, so the City of Detroit was forced to build him a new stadium… Mike Illitch took the Tigers off the field that Ty Cobb played on… So, the baseball Gods have cursed his ownership… It’s that simple…

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  6. First to worst. Those 3 words get me every time. My expectation is the opposite this season! Anything less and they need to reset course and clean house. Chris Illich needs to make this team his own. Honor his father’s goal, not his method. If he then entrusts Avila to do that, I have a few concerns particular to the points in this post about what we are seeing so far.

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  7. I am a strong supporter of Mr. I as he has always shown his passion to win. His impatience has hurt, at times, not allowing his minions plot a proper course of action for his teams. A win now mantra only lends itself to one making panicked decisions for problems that may require more measured responses. I have little confidence in Chris Ilitch.

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  8. Loyalty may be a factor but IMO the mindset of “Better the devil you know”is another component. What else explains A.A.’s ascension & Leylands ongoing involvement? They could have cleaned house, changed culture, incorporated technology & analytics when D.D. was let go. Whether Mr. I’s actions speak to timidity or blind faith remains unknown.

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  9. Amazing timing Holly. The papers are gaga over the weekend sweep and your column comes out busting the chops of Mr. I and DD. Neither tasted well in my cereal bowl this morning. I have, and will continue to back the last 15 years blueprint. We’ve been at odds on this previously- your dissection and stats (well done btw) does not change my mind-sorry.

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    • Hi, Jerry – Sometimes we are hamstringed by the timing required between games,writing and publishing. Unfortunately, this blog had to be written before yesterday’s game was completed. But in some ways – we agree. My blog was more about the frustration as to why this team has had such a hard time reaching that consummate goal because I do see that the overall blueprint is good in theory but something(s) are holding the team back. Thanks for your thoughts! – Holly

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  10. Winning franchises have a history of developing talent from within and add missing pieces that fit the “team personality” as needed. Tigers did that in ’84 and Pizza Man destroyed that team within a couple years. The Tigers have consistently been looking for a magic bullet for the past 10 years and have traded away many home-grown assets (Miller, etc) that impatience demanded.

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