By: Kurt Snyder
After having watched Theo Epstein do the unthinkable in taking the Cubs to the World Series, it begs a question. How did he do it?
The Cubs have finally exorcised their 1945 demons, by returning to the Series, with one more goal to attain; to get that 1908 demon put away as well.
What an incredible assignment for Epstein after he left the Red Sox. After the Cubs finished last in his first 2 seasons in Chicago, Epstein has taken the Cubs to the World Series in 5 years.
Mike Ilitch brought Dave Dombrowski on board in 2002, who almost immediately let go his current general manager Randy Smith and current manager Phil Garner after the Tigers lost their first 6 games. The Tigers went on to an American League record 119 losses in 2003; but 3 years later reached the World Series.
Sorry to bring 2003 up again, but as we wonder in horror what will happen to our team next season after the proposed roster shake up, we have to remember the days of 2003. It’s those days we don’t want to see again, not the days coming where we potentially say good bye to familiar Tiger favorites who have helped to collectively win a total of zero championships.
That’s really the bottom line, isn’t it? Most of the last 11 seasons have been entertaining. Winning is fun, but when you can never win the last game, it can become mind numbing. Getting to the World Series is one thing, winning it is another.
And both Mike Ilitch and Dave Dombrowski have received a heapin’ helpin’ of praise for keeping the Tigers on the map and making Detroit a destination of high profile stars of the game; giving Detroit fans an exciting product, lacking only one thing, a World Championship. Appearances in 2006 and 2012 brought great excitement but excruciating disappointment in the end. So what’s the plan to get back there? Is the current formula out of whack?
Ironically, outside of all the high priced free agent signings and trades for expensive stars, Dave Dombrowski may have done his best work just prior to leaving the Tigers. It was the trades of big time stars for big time prospects that have left the team in great shape with their starting pitching.
You would think it was something a new GM would do when arriving to help dig a franchise out of the rubble. But this was done on the way out the door, not on the way in.
While here, it seemed Dombrowski was given a bag of money every season by Mike Ilitch and was told to spend it any way he liked. That’s the way it seemed. But the message never seemed to be, let’s build a champion. It was more like, we have to win one right now.
So under those conditions, Dombrowski had quite the task. It was a Plug-n-Play approach. If we didn’t win, go buy a bat. Go buy a pitcher. Go buy a closer. Even when you thought it was Dombrowski’s decision, Ilitch seemed to always swoop in with one more dream scenario.
Fans loved how Ilitch stayed involved, but collectively, the risky spending has gradually brought us to where we currently sit, asking ourselves, what do we do now? And really, they were the same questions asked before last season. Then in came Jordan Zimmermann. In came Justin Upton.
Plug-n-Play was put back in motion. More and more signings. Never a whiff of the kind of deals Dombrowski executed at the end of his reign in Detroit.
So enter Al Avila. Enter Chris Ilitch. It’s apparent these 2 have talked. It sounds like Chris has stripped Al of the keys to the vault and has been told to, you know, do more of what that Dave guy did.
I mean, look what he did for our starting rotation. Sure, we didn’t want to lose Cespedes and Soria and Price, but look what we ended up with. A legitimate future. A stable of young pitchers sure to offer that coveted sustainability in the starting rotation.
So was Al asked to try on that hat for size? It appears so. Plug-n-Play mode has done nothing for our quest for championships or sustainability. So, the Tigers look like they will finally address their depth. Shed some money for some youth. Talented youth that only stars can bring.
When you look at the Cubs, you see a young team that was only fortified with veteran stars when they appeared ready to make the giant step. It’s a team that has that sustainability. Their youth has become stars before our eyes. And when that happens, that’s when you know you have done things correctly. They appear like they cannot be stopped. And they look like they are here to stay.
Let’s try on THAT hat for size.