ONE TOPIC – TWO TAKES

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Totally Tigers has discussed and analyzed team leadership this past season, with much of the scrutiny often focused on our manager.

But it’s time to address our GM, who now has one year under his belt as the maestro hired to make beautiful music in the form of a World Championship; something Dave Dombrowski was never able to do.

Both Holly and Kurt take a stab at the following question without sharing until right now.


How would you describe your confidence level after one season with Al Avila as GM?

HOLLY

Unfortunately, my level of confidence is lower today than it was a year ago. In 2015, it was now overdue in bringing in a new voice after Dave Dombrowski’s 14 years of work resulted in exactly 1 World Series game win.

And despite his retention of Brad Ausmus, I was heartened by Avila’s handling of Bruce Rondon, creation of an analytics department and development of a Tigers’ Way manual. During Hot Stove season, I liked the way he revamped the bullpen, found a new closer and signed Jordan Zimmermann.

As I always do, I give new management a one-year grace period. Results aren’t seen as quickly and it takes a while longer for GMs to get up to speed given the nature of their work as well as the natural delay in seeing the results of their labor. I believe a more accurate assessment comes after the second winter of roster tweaking.

But being asked to review his first year, I’d say that his roster moves were a mixed bag. Of course, Zimmermann’s issues were not directly his fault and the Pelfrey signing is most likely a result of his agent, Scott Boras, who only deals with owners and not GMs, pushing Mr. I. The Upton signing is also more likely to be a result of insistence from Mr. I as well.

The bottom line is that half of the overall moves made were decent but the other half were questionable. The question to ask is whether we should have expected more from a GM in his first year or cut him a little slack.

Retaining Brad for his option year is understandable, although disappointing to fans. Again, the GM always takes the hit for the owner and in this case, there are just too many stories out there that this short-term retention was a Chris Ilitch move.

My biggest concern is the move, or should I say “non-move” in allowing Ausmus to keep almost the entire coaching staff. We have yet to see if other coaches are going to “retire” or “leave to spend more time with the family” in order to dispel controversy. If everyone remains, this will tell me that little of any substance is going to change and that the same philosophy will remain intact.

For the Tigers to be #29 or #30 in base running, or ranking near the bottom in other categories for more than 1 year, and not addressing them with fresh perspectives, doesn’t give me any real confidence that the decision-makers are out to solve some long-standing problems. It tells me more that it is “business as usual.”

I still hold out hope that Avila makes some bold moves over the winter which will tell me he’s serious about breaking with the past and looking to adopt new strategies that will resolve long-standing patterns of play.


KURT

Why as a new GM in 2015, didn’t Avila put his stamp on this team by hiring his own manager, in a season when the pressure was still on to win it all? Why after a last place finish and the opportunity for a fresh start did he choose to just stay the course?

He must have seen more in his manager than the rest of us, declaring his reasoning and moving on to quickly put together a very respectable haul of player acquisitions, plugging almost all of the glaring holes in the roster.

2016 did end with a second place finish and a better record causing some to strangely focus on how the team had improved over last season. But if we were to ask Al Avila, this season was not to be judged on those parameters. It was to be judged on winning. Playoffs. A championship.  Anything short for Mr. Ilitch would be another wasted season.

So how did the acquisitions turn out?

Well, Jordan Zimmermann has certainly had better years, when he actually pitched an entire season – Fail.

Justin Upton has had comparable seasons, finishing with an incredibly dominant final 6 weeks. But he started and lingered through an equally incredible, long strike-out filled, production drought – Fair for most of the season.

Mark Lowe – Fail. Justin Wilson – Fair. Mike Aviles – Fail. Jarrod Saltalamacchia – Fair, but not all bad. The success stories all revolved around Cameron Maybin and Francisco Rodriguez; players who may or may not be back depending on the decisions of our GM. If I missed anyone, it’s only because they didn’t do anything memorable either; oh wait, it was Mike Pelfrey, the decision based on gut, not the highly acclaimed analytics.

So in Al’s initial season as GM, he didn’t exactly make the grade or instill much confidence; a feeling that was cemented even more by duplicating his managerial decision from 2015.

12 thoughts on “ONE TOPIC – TWO TAKES

  1. Eat Sanchez’s salary, whatever it is and let him go, he needs a change of scenario. Same goes for VMart, try to save some $$ keeping him in the organization, maybe start as a coach in the minors. That frees up two spots on the roster. Get a 1B/DH who can platoon with Miggy and allow him to get off his feet once in a while.

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    • Sure, we’d like more flexibility at DH. but it’s premature to eat VMart’s salary and give him a coaching position. Notwithstanding his shortcomings, he was our cleanup hitter, with 27 HR, 86 RBI, and a .281 BA. That ain’t chicken feed! Unless we can get some salary relief by trading him, I say let’s use him in a DH/Pinch Hit role for another year.

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      • I agree that VMart had solid stats, but the since he is such a liability on the base paths, at the very least he needs to be moved down in the lineup. He is an automatic out once he is on base, leading to too many double plays or missed opportunities. His pop in the 7 slot would be nice. move JD, Upton and Nick up.

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      • Very true John, VMart’s numbers are good, but the highest point of the iceberg is Miggy, and he’s the guy who will take the Tigers to the promised land, if ever. He’s the one to be protected, if he’s not allowed to rest, Miggy will yet have good numbers, but not great. IMHO VMart is not able to do that anymore, behind the fact that I love VM’s effort and leadership.

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      • The problem with keeping Vmart is that Miggy is going to have to take over as DH sooner rather than later. He struggles to make it through a full season and we can’t have two DHs. Victor is breaking down so quickly that even just DH’ing causes him to be injured periodically. Love the guy and have the utmost respect for him, but in terms of the team, he needs to go.

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  2. The question centers on AA not the players performance. Keeping BA is maddening, no coaching changes to FIX your teams woeful deficiencies is NUTS. So my confidence is “on empty.” We fans are over “all in addiction.” You played the 2017 “transition card” Al retaining the staff. Now be BOLD with the squad.

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  3. Avila was never really a “new GM”. They had the opportunity to make bold moves but settled for changing the nameplate on the office door. He’s a member of the old guard. None of his decisions have been inspirational or encouraging. Confidence? Zilch.

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  4. I think the scouting department has failed the Tigers for years. Perhaps revamping it is something best done quietly, so I don’t necessarily blame Avila for not broadcasting changes. But I sure hope he is adding new blood and shedding deadwood there.

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  5. I’ll give Al the benefit of the doubt on Zimmermann. Until 2016, he had been a steady workhorse, so I’ll go with Incomplete. Upton, for all the money and his streakiness, I give him fair with his toenails on the line. Salty and J, Wilson C-. Complete and utter F for Aviles, Pelfrey and Lowe. Wouldn’t want to bring that report card home…

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