By:  Holly Horning

Last week, I started a series of blogs on my observations and conclusions, so far, about the Tigers since 2006. This is about the long-standing direction of the team and why, despite the immense talent, they have been unsuccessful when everything was on the line. The premise for these points of discussion are all based upon Mr. I’s well-publicized desire to win the World Series.

This series is meant to uncover, examine and discuss why their path has never achieved the desired goals and why it’s been 32 years, second-longest in the AL Central, since the last one.

In the media, most portray the process of winning as simply getting the right players. But we know there are many more factors that play into creating a successful team – and franchise. And those factors are tangible and intangible. Just ask Theo Epstein, who has managed to break baseball’s two longest curses because of his vision and strategy.

The Tigers have poured more money into signing players than any other team, save for the Dodgers. Are there beliefs and corporate culture issues that have been holding them back? That’s a primary premise of these blogs.

If you missed the first two installments, catch them here:



Today, it’s up to you to carry the conversation. So let’s begin some great dialogues as they relate exclusively to issues surrounding Dave Dombrowski, the former GM. Over the coming weeks, we’ll also address Al Avila and the Front Office, managing, coaching, the corporate culture and other topics.

Dave Dombrowski may be the Tigers’ former GM but make no mistake, his vision and actions still impact the team and will continue to do so for a number of years. Additionally, our thoughts about Dave as a GM will continue to evolve over time. Early years where he saved the Tigers and turned them into a highly-competitive and successful organization. He was the necessary cog who understood what it would take to bring quality players to Detroit.

This was followed by some years characterized by the inability to get over the hump. And then a downturn in performance and cracks that eventually became visible in the master plan – and finally, unsustainable.

As we move into the Al Avila years, expect the way we view and rate Dombrowski’s performance to continue to change. As Al establishes a track record, we’ll naturally compare his skills to those of his predecessor.

This is a series that is dependent upon you, the reader, to weigh in. My statements are only meant to be the starting point. These thoughts are meant to inspire analysis and carry us all through the month, season and coming years.

Please pick one topic and start the conversation. Don’t forget to come back later and respond to others who have posted.

1. No GM could touch Dave when it came to trades. Ian for Prince. Miggy to Detroit. Fulmer, Norris and Boyd. But outside of that, and the options afforded by a high budget, his vision as a GM did not extend beyond the roster to enhancing other parts of the organization.

2. Year after year, Dombrowski was, for all intents and purposes, given an unlimited budget. Was he overrated because he had more resources than most GMs? Would he have been as successful in his role working for a team on a very limited budget?

3. While Dave was a master at trading, his m.o. for contracts was questionable. He is responsible for giving out 6 of the top 10 most expensive contracts in baseball history and signed a number of Tigers to overly-long and expensive contracts that may end up hindering the team for some years.

4. In his 14 years as GM, Dombrowski focused exclusively on building the roster. He made no improvements or advances to the farm system, technological advances, support staff or new philosophies adopted by the rest of baseball. He left the Tigers in an antiquated position and has forced Al Avila to play catch up on how the game is now being played.

5. Dave ended up as an outdated GM who refused to incorporate new philosophies such as the importance of the bullpen, speed, defense and analytics. His beliefs maintained a system of dependence upon big, slow players with great bats and poor gloves that is characteristic of how baseball was played 2 decades ago and not characteristic of how winning teams play today.

6. The first visible sign that his policy – signing pieces instead of developing a cohesive team – was not working, was the trade for David Price. A one-year rental that saw 3 Tigers (2 young and cost-controlled) shipped out. Long-term resources were now being used in the hopes of short-term gains.

18 thoughts on “THERE, I SAID IT – PART 3

  1. I tend to agree DD was overrated. Let’s see what he could do in a place like Tampa or Milwaukee. He compiled a 1082-1123 record as GM, good for a .491 winning pct. The postseason berths were great but just couldn’t win the biggest prize. Compared to Campbell’s 1733-1605 .519 win pct.record and 1 title and Lajoies 599-534 .529 win pct and 1 title.


  2. The old saying money can’t buy happiness or championships. However, it does give one options. The new tiger fiscal realities mean the tiger team will have greatly reduced options to change their team quickly. Scouting has been so weak. The players they select deep in the drafts don’t seem to be developed very well or are missing the mark.


    • Good point. They were always free to sign the less expensive players if they wanted, as well as the higher priced. An open checkbook doesn’t mean they shouldn’t scrutinize the product before buying.


  3. All this analytics, and sexy, speed and defensive style BB has cycled to the top (again) in the last few years. BB has ALWAYS shined the brightest light on the bat and Pitching. And the two top winning franchises have used those 2 components to win the most world championships. And THEY have NEVER had very strong minor league systems.


  4. Holly, agree with everything you say, but is it possible that with Avila[Dombrowski trained] still here and with most of Jim Leylands still advising and with his minions in key positions….don’t you feel that a complete change is necessary at this point. I don’t trust Avila to have the gumption to tear this team down and trade the stars.


    • Lost in this discussion, but covered in previous TT articles,is the impact Mike Illitch had on DD’s, and now AA’s decisions with those 6 contracts. You can’t go against your owner and still have a job. Perhaps his inability to talk his owner out of signing these players is something we can criticize DD for, assuming he was ever st those signings.


  5. Those 6 top 10 contracts of all time probably played a serious role in the funding of the scouting department which would impact the quality of the ML players drafted. Many never made an impact in the majors. Those contracts may have impacted the coaching and training facilities as well. As AA trades off these contracts, will money flow into the MLs?


    • I think the Tigers are in a very tough spot. If AA does trade the big contracts (Verlander, Cabrera.. I consider VMart untradeable), where will the revenue come from to put back into scouting and the minors? It would have to be from TV money before the contract is re-worked because Comerica will have many empty seats.


  6. The position the team is in today is a result of DD’s one dimensional thinking. His focus on a single linear factor, the roster, enabled Mr. I’s penchant for big names, big bats, & the resulting big contracts to flourish. The bill for this folly has arrived, & the minimum payment due is costly.


  7. I would have to believe that a farm-grown player would reach the Big Team with a built-in loyalty to the Tiger system for giving him that chance. Too bad that part of the organization was neglected. We have seen what youth and speed and exuberance can do on a baseball field. Lets hope that the farm teams become a priority, starting now.


  8. For all the valid criticisms here, DD’s way probably would have yielded a ring or two had he not neglected bullpen depth. That has always been his Achilles heel.

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