By: Holly Horning
Let’s continue the series of blogs based upon my observations and conclusions 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 and stated goal to win it all in October.
This series is meant to uncover, examine and discuss why their path 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 three installments, catch them here:
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.
So let’s begin some great dialogues as they relate exclusively to issues surrounding Al Avila, the current GM. Over the coming weeks, we’ll also address the Front Office, managing, coaching, the corporate culture and other topics.
Please pick one topic and start the conversation. Don’t forget to come back later and respond to others who have posted.
1. Avila’s first year as GM was a mixed-bag of results. I don’t put an immense amount of weight on first-year results because it’s not yet indicative of a true track record. But what happens after a second year will be much more telling.
2. Al may have worked for Dave Dombrowski, but he’s no Dombrowski clone. In just his first year, he’s introduced an analytics department, developed a manual for standard performance, directed the introduction of a software program and filled the bullpen with more than ageing, retread/rehabbed arms. He is digging deeper into the organization for solutions to improving performance. But it’s going to take time.
3. It is the GM’s job to take any hits for the owner, especially when it comes to trades and signings that go south. There is plenty of evidence that Mike Ilitch had the deciding hand in the signings of Upton and Pelfrey. But Al’s reputation will be cemented after this year in the players he gets in return for reducing payroll by trading some high-profile veterans.
4. Almost every new GM hires their own Front Office, pulling assorted executives from outside the organization when they take over. If Avila wants to effect change, why is he keeping everyone? Why is there zero turnover? Why is he re-hiring people who worked for the organization years ago?
5. In the mantra to get “younger and leaner”, why does the GM’s actions not apply to the coaching staff as well? (Insert your own Lamont joke here.) I can understand the retention of Brad Ausmus given the revised direction of the team, but the Tigers have the oldest coaching staff by far of any organization. We’re talking 2 decades older on average. It just doesn’t make sense to introduce an analytics department if your manager is the only one who is going to embrace it and understands how to use it.