By:  Kurt Snyder

Consider my 20 Thoughts for August as opportunities for readers to answer some questions. And there is a whole boat load of them below. So let me hear from you. (I even highlighted them for you – so you’re welcome!)

1. With the success of the 3 rookies in the rotation, Mike Pelfrey lingers on the disabled list, and no one seems to care. Can you say addition by subtraction?

2. Cameron Maybin and his thumb were big issues this week. One reader thought given his injury history and overall inability to stay in the lineup, the Tigers should part ways with him after this season. I am slowly heading in that direction.

3. It would be interesting to know the overall record of the Tiger starters since Pelfrey hit the DL. The Tigers didn’t have to scramble to replace him; they gladly did it.

4. Salty is the most dangerous .189 hitter in the major leagues. Is that safe to say?

5. As we head into September, could you be expecting too much if you foresee any meaningful contributions from Jordan Zimmermann and Nick Castellanos?

6. The timing of the promotion of JaCoby Jones says a lot about the confidence the Tigers have in the availability of Castellanos and Maybin should they make the playoffs. Doing it in August versus September makes him eligible for the playoffs.

7. Speaking of Jones, I am sure his parents were thrilled to death to have to suffer through an interview while their son batted during his first game in the majors. Are you kidding me, FSD?

8. The Tigers hinting at a platoon between Iggy and Aybar makes me wonder about Iglesias’ future with the Tigers next season.

9. The Tigers most important starter? Anibal Sanchez. Until Zimmermann finds his way back on the field, who else is more important?

10. How soon do the Tigers start looking at the calendar to make sure Verlander is the starter in a potential Wild Card game?

11. I wondered when it would happen. But I am officially worried about Miggy’s ankle again. He will someday transition from a first baseman to a DH. It will prolong his career. Is next year too soon?

12. Justin Verlander. We are back to looking forward to watching him pitch. We are back to expecting brilliance. Who expected to be back here … ever?

13. Michael Fulmer’s next start is an important one. But he has shaved his beard like it’s the end of the season. Bad omen?

14. Brad Ausmus. Candidate for American League Manager of the Year? Oh, heck no! But is he an improved manager? A heavily guarded, afraid to say it loud enough for people to hear, yes.

15. On the heels of that little nugget, do the Tigers have a team that could make a playoff run? Yes. Are they a team that can make a playoff run with Brad Ausmus as manager? No.

16. After K Rod, who is the Tigers’ next most reliable reliever? Doubt it if you like, but I think it’s Kyle Ryan. Right now. Not a month ago, but right now. (Yeah, I know Alex Wilson deserves votes as well).

17. The Tigers have stated they will only recall players from the minor leagues who they think can help them when the rosters expand. Do you think they would dig deep for Anthony Gose?

18. David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria really made the Tigers better. Maybe even more now that they are gone.

19. This season has served as an important baby step for Bruce Rondon. Still young and still talented, he needs to now add a mean streak. Despite the big fastball, there still needs to be much more fire behind it.

20. Come from behind victories are good signs for contending teams. It’s one important variable shared by teams you see in the playoffs year after year. They seem to find a way when they are down.


By:  Holly Horning

I often write about the importance of corporate culture – the way people within a group look, behave and think. It defines the group to others and sets expectations. When the group is cohesive in this respect, it bodes well for their reputation and helps them stand out above their competition.

Conversely, if there is no system or common thread within an organization, they really have a weak identity. And chances are that they don’t have the track record they desire. They get lost within their industry.

As a branding consultant, I go into companies to help establish or strengthen their brand. When you identify the variables that make the difference, and show the importance of them, you get everyone on the same page. And when everyone knows what is expected, they start to work as a team and produce on a similar level of standards.

Which is why my ears perked up when I heard a radio interview, followed up by reading the book on the importance of corporate culture in baseball. And given that this week is the start of Labor Day Weekend, what a perfect time to suggest some reading material.

Dayton Moore is the GM of the Kansas City Royals and has a master’s degree in Athletic Administration. After a very successful career with the Braves, he moved to the Royals. Moore is widely credited with helping hone the vision and direction of the Royals which led them to winning the World Series in 2015 and nearly missing out in 2014. It took him less than 10 years to build the winning team – a team entirely from scratch – and on a payroll that ranged from $81 million to $125 million. He’s won multiple awards including several as MLB Top Executive.

Dayton wrote a book entitled More Than a Season: Building a Championship Culture. It starts with a story about a struggling baseball team with little success and how the new ideas he brought to the team helped turn them around. It’s also about the many people who helped support this new path and implemented these actions.

Stories that emphasized having a vision and leadership that are essential to building and maintaining a team. Identifying areas that need to be torn down and completely rebuilt like the farm system and scouting.

But one of the biggest take-aways from his book is about having a system. A system that is spelled out in detail about the identity of the team and the standards and behavior expected.

In fact, the word “expectations” is big in Moore’s book. He uses it a lot because, as he explains, it inspires uniform performance from everyone within the organization.

A case in point is his story about new players who come into the organization. They are automatically introduced to the Royals’ Way of playing ball. They are educated in the methods and the other players are there to show, by example, how it’s done. And they enforce the rules, too.

Everyone plays the same way. Everyone is expected to put equal amounts of effort into their work. Everyone is expected to help their teammates both on and off the field.

It’s telling when you have current players contributing to the book’s intro, dedications and reviews. And given the Royals’ resurgence lately despite a variety of setbacks, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that they are trying to make another run for October baseball.

This is what happens when you have a strong corporate culture.


By:  Kurt Snyder

Since the Tigers left Minnesota after sweeping the Twins, it was easy for the team and their fans to look ahead at the schedule and start licking their chops. The team was coming home to play a last place team in the Angels and a White Sox team floundering under the .500 mark and going nowhere.

But the Tigers are taking opportunities to gain tons of ground and throwing them out the window. Cleveland seems to just be waiting to be overtaken and Baltimore is letting everyone into the Wild Card race. But the Tigers are not at all threatening these teams by beating opponents they should be dominating.

The clock is ticking on this team and this season. They are at risk of watching these vulnerable teams leave town having won series they have no business winning.  Thank goodness Salty pulled one out of the loss column Monday.

Do you hear that train a-comin’? Yeah, it’s the Royals. You know, the World Champs? Kansas City has floundered all summer watching a pennant race in front of them.  But it’s a race that has never really gotten away from them. Cleveland and Detroit have not made significant progress for a while and I am sure the Tigers are starting to feel the Royals breathing down their necks.

There is no pressure on a team coming off a World Championship. And the Royals look like they wanna have some fun and make another run. If no one else acts like they want the Central, I’m sure the Royals will gladly take it.

Of course, the whole situation becomes more daunting for a Tiger team potentially facing more time without Cameron Maybin. The guts, the glue, the fire and the thumb. Oh, that confounding thumb.

I am sure opinions are far-reaching on whether Cam should have even been attempting to steal second base during Monday night’s game against the White Sox. After having winced in pain after fouling off a pitch, he still sucked it up and singled to left. But with that thumb a-throbbin’, is it really a good time to attempt a stolen base?

Am I blaming Brad? Well, when all else fails, why not! Cam’s got a bad thumb already. He clearly injured it even more at the plate. But hey, what do you have to lose? Why not have him try to steal second and potentially finish that thumb off? Did Maybin have the green light? If so, I think I’m waving that off.

This isn’t second guessing folks. I couldn’t believe he was running after tweaking that thumb at the plate. Could any of you?

Brad maybe needs to check his team’s record again with Maybin in the lineup. Or better yet, check what it is without him; since that’s the predicament one more time.


By:  Holly Horning

Ok, I will admit that I had a blog already written for today. But then, I couldn’t escape the Umpire Uproar all day yesterday. It filled many a social media thread and was the hot topic on MLB Radio and tv all day. So I gotta go there. I just hope I don’t get thrown out of somewhere.

Gone are the days of affable Ron Luciano or the chuckles we got when an umpire threw out the organ player because he played “Three Blind Mice” after a particularly bad call. This is serious stuff now, folks! And a possible division title and playoff berth are riding on it.

And the thing that hit me today was how differently all the fans interpreted Saturday night’s Umpire Elimination Challenge of the Tigers’ organization. Fans who saw it totally the fault of the umpire, the players, the manager and even the entire umpires’ union. Rob Manfred also took his lumps.

But after hearing numerous discussions in the media from former players, umpires and GMs, it appears that this may be a case of a lot of men behaving badly. Let’s go wallow in the mess, shall we?

Here’s what we do know and what the experts were saying:

· Umpire Everitt has a long reputation of calling pitches as he did last night. Even the broadcasters thought there weren’t that many mistakes made, however they deemed the pitches as being “50/50” and open to interpretation for the most part. Yes, some of the griping was justified, but some of it also wasn’t.

· It was noted that the Tigers’ dugout was chirping from the first inning. Everitt gave them no warnings at all until the first ejection.

· Several GMs mentioned that from their experience, it’s up to the umpire to issue warnings first to a team’s manager.  He’s supposed to tell him what’s at stake and suggest that the manager communicate this info to his players. Everitt did not do this. But these same GMs also said it’s up to the manager to manage his players and keep them from getting into trouble.

· The GMs also said that at this time of year, umpires must understand the stress that players are under to make the playoffs and how they need to take this into consideration and cut them some slack. They all agreed that umps need to step back here and not impact a team’s ability to stay in contention.

· It was evident that VMart was not going to go quietly into the night. He showed his intent to fight the umpire by immediately putting his hands behind his back (a fine old baseball tradition) as he turned angrily to Everitt.

· Despite Brad’s explanation that he gives veterans some leeway, he was slow going to Victor’s rescue and put consideration of one player over the priority of the team and their stretch drive. His failure to go out right away when he saw trouble potentially could have been responsible for the loss of his DH’s bat.

· VMart’s momma is coming with the soap after what he said to  the umpire. From experience in reading lips, he used the f-bomb at least 4 times including the multi-syllable version considered to be the third rail in cursing. But swearing is not punishable, according to MLB’s rules handbook, until you personalize it to the ump – and that’s when Victor added the word “you” after his curse words. And just in case he didn’t make his point clear, he also threw his helmet out of the dugout which is also punishable.

· Not known was what Wally Joyner said as most of his tirade came during a commercial break. Left to ask is whether Everitt looked to see if the hitting coach had a bat in his hands before he threw him, and his boss, out of the game.

· JD Martinez appeared to be the only good guy in this whole debacle, which unfortunately didn’t mean he’d escape. No swearing, no staring, no angry looks and no questioning the balls and strikes. JD just asked a question in his attempt to help normalize the situation and then was asked to repeat what he said. Baited by Everitt who now appeared to either want his pound of flesh or decided that Brad, Wally and Victor needed a fourth for bridge.

The big question to ask is whether the Tigers considered the consequences of questioning balls and strikes. The rules are clear that this behavior results in ejection from the game.

As all the analysts mentioned Sunday, everyone involved had better hope that one game is not the deciding factor as to whether the Tigers make the playoffs. If it is, Saturday’s game will be remembered and the repercussions won’t be pretty.

But 4 ejections indicate a bigger problem than a single one does. And it doesn’t say good things about either the team or the umpire. What were their motivations? What was the spark that set a whole series of actions into motion?

Was this a failure by the manager and coaches to remind players to stay cool and focused? Was it due to deeply competitive fires burning? Or was it because of overwhelming pressure to gain some ground in the standings? And what was the umpire’s motive?

And in true Totally Tigers form, we’re not supplying the answers. You are. What are your thoughts? Don’t be shy – but please be polite. We don’t wanna have to throw you out of the conversation!


By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Saturday’s segment is a day to touch on as many issues as possible. With 128 (69-59) games behind us, readers have the opportunity to read and think about a number of different topics.

Holly and Kurt don’t share and it’s only for the readers’ benefit. It almost always translates into a wide array of thoughts. Suspect nothing different today.



I can’t help but think how this year would have played out if Rajai Davis had accepted Avila’s new contract offer to stay. He’s stolen 33 bases this year and leads all of MLB in successful attempts. He could have played LF with Maybin in center and the Tigers could have avoided the problems that will eventually come with Upton’s long-term contract and the potential inability to keep JD Martinez when his contract expires after 2017.


With elbow problems since the end of June and inflated stats to match, Justin Wilson needs to go on the DL with no more delay. His ERA for August is now 7.45, teams are hitting .293 against him and he’s giving up 1 run for every inning pitched. Those cortisone shots – fast, cheap and dangerous fixes linked to long-term problems down the road – are not the solution and the Tigers need to shut him down if they want to see him next year.


Amazing to think that three rookies – Fulmer, Norris and Boyd – have been able to step into the starting rotation and do so well. It bodes very favorably for next year. And it’ll be interesting to see what the Tigers do with their 2017 rotation given the surplus of starters, some of them expensive and potentially untradeable combined with the inexpensive and controllable trio.



Well, well, well, J-Up! Welcome to Detroit! We have waited all season for him to arrive and finally he has emerged; looks like Brad’s decision to finally sit him down for a few games may have done the trick.


Thank you very much, Dave Dombrowski! Where would the Tigers be without the 3 rookie pitchers acquired at the trade deadline last season? The fact that all 3 have been important pieces of the starting rotation already in 2016 is quite amazing, to say the least.


The Tigers are taking advantage of a well-timed soft spot in their schedule as they have feasted on the Twins in Minnesota and in the opening game against the Angels. Cameron Maybin’s return has pumped life into the team and is beginning to outdistance Miggy as the Tiger they can least afford to be without. Let’s hope he can stay in the lineup for the remainder of the season because if he goes down again, the show will really be over this time.


By:  Holly Horning

For most of the year, we’ve wondered what kind of a team the Tigers actually are. Rollercoaster performances that would take the team near the top but then drop them back down in the next breath. An offensive juggernaut at times and then periods of time where runs couldn’t even be bought. Pitching that struggled and then became a force.

And in keeping with the pattern, the Tigers have alternated patterns of solid and questionable performance every month. Should we be surprised that their best month, July, has been followed by a month (so far) of drops in the stats that count?

Only with the sweep against the Twins, have the Tigers managed to reach .500 for the first time this month. Yes, a win is a win and we’ll gladly accept each and every one. However, we must temper our analysis that the sweep was against the second worst team in MLB and the team at the bottom of most pitching categories. Add to this the common thought that the Tigers were expected to do better and gain ground this month because their schedule was much easier.

Ironically, in this month of great and unexpected pitching performances, it’s the offense that has gone down the dumper. The same offense that baffles the professional analysts who all wonder why one of the best lineups in MLB has such a hard and inconsistent time scoring runs. In the previous 4 months of play, the Tigers have averaged between 4 and 8 games in which they scored 2 runs or less. Then consider that in just the first 20 games in August, 10 of them – half of them – garnered the same lack of run production.

Sure, there have been injuries. Maybin and Castellanos were key bats lost. But also consider that the Tigers had their best month offensively in July, without JD in the lineup.

Has it just been the loss of Castellanos and a partial loss of Maybin that created this pattern? Even with Upton now producing, the team has still struggled. All contributors to the problem, but they don’t explain all of it.

If you are a regular reader, you know that I compile certain stats for each month. And for August, there are some noticeable differences in certain areas of performance. Let’s take a look and see what else stands out as contributing factors to the difficulties in scoring runs for this month so far.

SITUATIONAL HITTING – Most of the games won have been due almost solely to the HR. Stringing together hits has been the rare exception. The Tigers RISP and LOB have also been noticeably higher.

MIGGY – His individual stats have been solid, but he has been anything but clutch, hitting just .133 with the bases loaded. The pattern seen is that he becomes less and less able to score teammates with each new runner on board and the number of increased outs.

BASERUNNING – Not that they were ever decent, but the running game has, for all intents and purposes, pretty much  been forgotten. A handful of steals but they have lost dozens of bases due to bad baserunning, coaching and instinct. Dead last in both leagues.

GIDP – Just through the first half of August, the Tigers have surpassed all their monthly totals for grounding into double plays. The highest total was 26 for an entire month and through just a little over half of August, they have already hit into 29 of them.

Can the Tigers recover some of their lost ground in August? Courtesy of the Twins, they’ve gained a little in the standings and 1 less game out of the WC race.

Will the pattern of alternating monthly performances continue into September? And will it be enough?

For a month that was touted as being easier and a distinct advantage, the Tigers have really not taken advantage of it very well.


By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Today’s topic addresses the Tigers’ playoff chances should they get healthy. The Tigers have battled their fair share of injuries but become a much better team should some starters return.

Kurt and Holly have not shared their answers to this Thursday question, but both can’t wait to see what the other has to say.

There are still 4 starting players on the DL. Will their return boost the team’s chances enough to gain a playoff berth?


Well, let’s first look at who they are. In the starting rotation, the Tigers have gone weeks now without Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey.  In the everyday lineup, they continue to be without Nick Castellanos and Jose Iglesias; with Iggy being the closest to being back.

Quite frankly, the Tigers miss all of them. However, they have developed quite a bit of starting pitching depth as the 3 rookies have all been asked to contribute and have, with Fulmer, of course, becoming a force.

Sanchez and Boyd have been real wild cards of late. And knowing that they have starters pitching well, the team can afford to wait on Zimmermann. He will be needed most when they begin to reduce Fulmer’s innings.

Defensively, the Tigers need Iggy to return, although I must say, Aybar has certainly held his own and McGehee has been pretty solid at third; nothing spectacular but solid.

Moving on, they miss Castellanos’ bat and with Upton now finally becoming the threat we’ve been waiting for, getting Nick back could really help the offense load up and carry this team on nights when their starters aren’t as sharp. Unfortunately, the timetable for his return is pretty late.

I don’t think there is any question that getting healthy would give this team an excellent chance of earning a playoff spot, especially given the schedule. It’s the weakest schedule of any of the contenders, so the Tigers have a real shot at making a run and getting in.

So there is much to be gained from the starters we are missing. The return of most of these guys gives the Tigers a shot, which is all you can ask for.

In the meantime, the team must continue to take advantage of a light schedule and hopefully get some people back when it’s time play Cleveland again.

But don’t forget the elephant. I am only signing up for a playoff appearance if they get healthy.  Because remember, once they get there, and the games get tight, the team will be overmatched at the manager position. But you knew that.


If you had asked me just a couple of weeks ago, when the Tigers were 2 games out of first place and a game out of Wild Card contention, I would have said “yes”. But now I’ve called in a man of the cloth to help increase the odds because I don’t like what I see.

A lot can happen in 2 weeks and despite what was deemed an easy August schedule, the Tigers are playing under .500 ball, now 6.5 games back (through Tuesday) and 3 games out of the Wild Card with other teams hot on their heels.

But it’s just not losing ground. The Royals have been sneaking up on the Tigers, having won 9 games in a row and a measly one game from replacing Detroit in the standings and Wild Card.

In 10 games out of the month’s 20, they’ve scored 2 runs or fewer. Yes, some of these can be attributed to the injuries but also to Justin Upton’s lack of performance, the absence of situational hitting, the pattern of being unable to score other than via the HR and Miggy hitting .133 with the bases loaded.

Let’s also take into account that half of the players on the DL are pitchers and only one of the disabled is dependable with the bat.

It is rather ironic that currently, pitching is not the problem with the team – offense is. So having Zimmerman back is a positive step forward but how likely is he to return to his old self after taking off nearly 2 months from pitching? His earliest return date is September 10th with only 3 more starts likely.

There is no estimated return date for Pelfrey, who, realistically offers a marginal advantage at best. And as we head into September, it is more likely that with Zimm’s return, Michael Fulmer may be shut down.

Iggy is expected to return this coming weekend and while he’ll shore up the team defensively, he’s not likely to make a significant difference with the bat.

Castellanos may just be the most important teammate to get back. Unfortunately, while the Tigers are saying a “minimum of 4 weeks”, doctors say the healing process takes 6-8 weeks. That would put him at the third to last week of September – and without any ability to garner rehab starts. I would not be surprised if we didn’t see him for the rest of the year.

Pitching has been one of the team’s strengths this month even without 2 of their starters. Quite frankly, their best chance of grinding out wins is for the team to keep Cameron Maybin healthy – they win significantly more games with him in the starting lineup.

Pass the bubble wrap please!


By:  Kurt Snyder

Think back for a minute to last season, the very moment that Al Avila announced that Brad Ausmus would remain manager for the 2016 season.

How did you feel? Was it shock? Rage? Disappointment? Confusion? All of the above? If you’re wondering why there aren’t more choices, it’s because these are the emotions that I felt when Al made injuries the excuse to bring back a manager.

Following the season, a year where the Tigers fell and finished in last place in the Central, there was encouragement again. You see, fans have the ability to set things aside, to focus their energy on something else when things don’t go well.

And even though the retention of Brad Ausmus was met with such negativity, fans were encouraged again as Al Avila made acquisitions that served as diversions. They were encouraging moves to address all the areas the Tigers fell short; in the bullpen, in the starting rotation and of course, in the outfield with the acquisitions of both Cameron Maybin and Justin Upton.

Did you find yourself compartmentalizing the Tiger team? Wasn’t there encouragement as you studied the moves, how they would improve the team and how each piece would fit into the lineup? I was certainly encouraged. But every once in a while, all those good feelings would be tempered when you realized that Avila’s very first move was his worst, and the most impactful.

Personally, I have done it all season. It’s a shame we couldn’t have put the cherry on top of a very talented ball club by installing a change in leadership. I don’t believe the Tigers have or ever had a shot at the World Series with Ausmus at the helm. Never.

But at the end of the season, we will hear the fight. The battle between Ausmus supporters who again felt he had no chance with all the injuries and the other side of the ledger, the people who feel the team never had a shot with or without the injuries.

But you might ask, Kurt, what happened to things starting to feel different? What happened to your new-found encouragement about the team and even Ausmus? Did the injuries temper your enthusiasm? Well sure they did! And I did feel that the team was coming on. I honestly did.

But sometimes you forget about your manager and even praise him a little when things are going right. Until the quote, that is. As the injuries piled up and the Tigers began to slip further and further away from the Indians, Brad shockingly revealed that he doesn’t watch the standings. That he didn’t really even know how far the Tigers were behind Cleveland.  He said that in August with only 40 games to go!

You know the quote. I haven’t stopped shaking my head since Holly unearthed it. It woke me up. It made me realize that all the encouraging signs prior to the injuries was fool’s gold. It was typical of a manager who has befuddled us with how flippant he leads a baseball team.

This is a talented team with a lineup that really should stay completely intact heading into next season. We have a starting rotation that will only get better and more dominant next season. There is a lot to be excited about. But if this season is any indication about how Avila will address his managerial position, then Ausmus will return for another year.

The retention of Ausmus prior to 2016 puts Avila and the Tigers in a very precarious position as we head down the stretch of a season again ravaged by injuries. Avila has sent the message already. The precedent has been set. Injuries have put the brakes on another run, making it real difficult to get back in the race. So why would Avila hold that against Ausmus? Well he shouldn’t.

But when he sits down again to address the weaknesses of this team, #1 is still the manager, and after another season, the position still needs addressing. Injuries are only masking the fact that their manager and his staff will continue to hold the Tigers back as long as he is allowed to lead them.

You must address your biggest weakness. Al did it with the roster. So what’s different about the manager?


By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

It’s Tuesday, so two topics will be tackled by our writers. With the season closing in on the final month, a lot will have to go right for the Tigers to get themselves back into the thick of things. So there are 2 questions to be answered with regards to who will need to perform.

Remember, our writers do not share their answers. So, it will be interesting to see the range of perspectives.

Which offensive player will need to be a difference maker down the stretch and why?


The Tigers need everyone to step it up given that there are only 38 more games to play, the Indians are now 7 games ahead and the Royals are now just 1 game away from displacing the Tigers in second place.

Legitimate arguments can be made for Upton, Maybin and Miggy – and all for different reasons.

Miggy’s hitting with runners on gets much worse as the number of runners on base increases. One of the reasons why the Tigers are failing to score despite their fairly solid offensive stats.

Maybin is the catalyst of the team, already performing at or near his abilities and currently the difference maker – but the understanding here is that someone else needs to step it up and join him. When he’s in the starting lineup, the Tigers are 36-24, 29-35 without him and when he scores a run, they are 24-5.

Ironically, Justin Upton is way more clutch than Miggy but long hitting droughts are an issue. Traditional stats put him in the middle of similar players in MLB but it’s his pitch judgment that is poor with a very high SO rate and low BBs combined with a low OBP.

If you look at the Tigers, they fail to bring in a single run when the bases are loaded approximately once every other game which is one reason why they go through long periods of time scoring 2 runs or less. Miggy, hitting an abysmal .133 with the bases loaded, is the one who will have the most impact on the team if he can figure out how to score more runners.


The Tigers need contributions from so many, so it’s difficult to narrow it down to just one position player to be a difference maker; one who stands alone on top of the heap. And in a couple of cases, there are players who just need to get back in the lineup.

But we have learned enough about the Tigers this season to know that when they don’t have their motor, the team begins to get quiet and lethargic. When they don’t get that kick in the butt, the faces get drawn and complacency spreads throughout the dugout. They need that spark plug, the guy who brings them all together, who makes it fun and quite frankly, relaxes this team.

It’s Cameron Maybin and it’s not even close. Who would have thought he would be so important to the makeup of this team when we acquired him? His acquisition hardly brought a yawn from a lot of fans. But he is the difference maker. And if they do earn a playoff spot, he will have had a lot do to with it.

Which pitcher will need to be a difference maker down the stretch and why?


The answer is a process of elimination. We can’t ask anything more of JV and likewise Michael Fulmer who is likely to be shut down sooner rather than later. Zimmermann is out of consideration because his earliest return will be mid-September and there is no date of return yet for Pelfrey.

Let’s also eliminate the relievers from consideration. Based upon the idea that someone who pitches a single inning regularly or several innings occasionally cannot possibly impact  the results of a game as regularly as much as a starter can.

So this leaves Sanchez, Norris and Boyd. The latter is the least likely because of his rookie status and limited experience. Sanchez shows a glimmer of returning potential but is it too much to ask him to suddenly become shut-down? Or do we go with Norris who is still a rookie and addressing all the adjustments he made in his pitching form due to injury?

Sanchez or Norris? Or both? Let’s flip a coin.


From the very start of the season, I have consistently proclaimed how Anibal Sanchez would be the most important pitcher on the staff. He would be the most important starter. I felt his success or lack of it, would be the difference between this team contending and not.

With less than 40 games to go, there is still no denying his importance, and it hasn’t been until the last couple weeks that he has shown us he can still pitch, still dominate, still win.

But the absence of Jordan Zimmermann from the rotation cannot be discounted. Michael Fulmer, of course, has been the season’s biggest surprise and has really fit nicely near the top of the rotation with Zimmermann injured. But it’s anyone’s guess how or if Fulmer will be used down the stretch and into the playoffs should they get there.

This uncertainty makes the return of JZ even more important. And it’s not just his return we need, it’s the return of his dominance he displayed early in the season.

But time is running out and the longer the Tigers go on without him, the less you can expect of him down the stretch. The man will need time to make a difference.


By: Holly Horning

Despite the occasional wins that permeate the month of August, this is the time now, unfortunately, where reality and the day of reckoning become closer and more significant. Hope and optimism are lessening with each and every day the Tigers drop lower – or don’t gain ground – in the standings and wild card consideration.

And on a day where I’d much rather talk about JV and his marvelous performance stats, or Upton’s two HRs, a bigger – and more permanent – story has reared its head.

A story that followed an earlier story. A story that put the idea of competition at the forefront of discussion. A story that brings concern to the underlying corporate culture of the guys in the Tigers’ dugout – and maybe elsewhere in the organization. A story that makes us wonder what the team-think is.

A story that actually started with another team.

But before we can discuss that recent event – one that got the media’s attention – we need to connect it to the Tigers. If you read our Saturday blog, one of the week’s (and year’s) most alarming quotes came from Brad Ausmus who said after a string of losses and a losing August record:

Really, I don’t look at the standings that often. I try to win on a daily basis…. I couldn’t even tell you how many games we are behind Cleveland. I know the gap’s widened a little bit because we haven’t played well lately, but we’ve got 40-something games. I’ll worry about it when we get a little closer.”

Several days after Brad was quoted, an interview with Indians’ manager, Terry Francona, noted that he keeps track of exactly where the Tigers are in the standings. In fact, his bench coach is in charge of updating him on the scores of games in which the Tigers are playing. And the info is passed along to the players as well who then push a little bit more if the Tigers are winning their game. Francona said that one of the team’s missions is to keep putting distance between first and second place.

This is also the same manager who pulled his starter in the first inning for pitching poorly and sent to the bullpen because Francona stated “We don’t have any games to just give away.”

The same manager who has one of the best win-loss records in baseball (even if you include the stint with the rebuilding Phillies) . Seven years of posting 90+ wins out of 11. Three years of just under 90 wins and 1 season with 81 wins. Two World Series and one of 5 managers to go undefeated in the World Series. And he is the only manager to have done it twice.

And he is also the manager who willingly left the Boston Red Sox, along with the entire Front Office including Theo Epstein, because ownership put profits above play by allowing their marketing department to have input regarding the players the team signed.

Don’t tell me managers don’t make a difference. That it’s entirely up to the players who all have the same levels of motivation on a daily basis. If that’s the case, then why do managers have a place in the Hall of Fame and why do they get paid seven figures?

All teams have leaders who set the tone and bring a philosophy with them. They encourage, they motivate. They also support players and kick butts when needed. And most importantly, they inspire. It is no coincidence that all six teams leading their divisions have managers who are known as true leaders within their industry.

Francona was voted by MLB players last year as one of the top 3 managers in the business. But outside of his resume, what really resonates about his quotes is the sense of urgency. Something that has been noticeably absent within the Tigers organization for years.

It’s not just Brad’s fault. Jim Leyland, for more than a couple of years, allowed his team to coast through September – and sometimes it cost them. A manager who ended up staying past his prime. And a GM who allowed it. The very same GM who had the chance to hire Terry Francona when he left the Red Sox and could have possibly duplicated a Sparky Anderson-for-Les Moss move.

The same GM who also didn’t see the team ageing and the signs that the best rotation in baseball would eventually be no more. The very same GM who hired a manager with absolutely no experience to coach a team with a window starting to close.

And let’s not forget an owner who gave his GM 14 years and 3 multi-year contracts along with one of the biggest payrolls in MLB. It finally took a permanent residence in the cellar to change his mind about the personnel he hired.

From the top on down, the Tigers don’t have this essential sense of urgency in any of their managerial levels. And that’s been one of the biggest problems. Really, in the end, we shouldn’t be surprised by Brad’s quote. You end up hiring those who have the same philosophy as the rest of the organization.

We also shouldn’t be shocked by the statement made by baseball’s elite who sadly acknowledged that the Tigers are close to being one of MLB’s handful of most elite dynasties to never have won a World Series.

And that’s what happens when you think you have all the time in the world to get the job done.