By: Holly Horning
Let’s continue the series of blogs based upon 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 and stated goal to win the World Series.
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 four 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 former manager, Jim Leyland. Over the coming weeks, we’ll also address the Front Office, Brad Ausmus, 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. In typical Tigers fashion, Leyland has reaped the loyalty rewards of always staying or returning to the team. He spent 18 years as a player and minor league manager for Detroit before returning for another 11 years – and now going on 12. He’s survived more than a handful of several owners, GMs and managers. Over 30 years – and continuing – with one team is highly unusual and not seen in modern day baseball. And that loyalty is part of the overall problem.
2. JL was a good solid choice for a manager back in 2006 as the nucleus of the team was in its infancy and needed guidance from someone experienced. Also good for a team that had started collecting high-priced star players who needed to have their egos managed effectively. But as the team evolved, their managerial requirements needed changing. Leyland should have been replaced in 2010 at the latest.
3. Track records are indicative of a person’s likely performance. Despite managing immense talent on the Pirates, Marlins and Tigers, Leyland’s managerial record is barely over .500 – standing at an unimpressive .506 . His records with the Pirates, Marlins and Rockies were all under .500 and he won only 1 WS in 22 years. He won multiple division titles with both the Pirates and the Tigers but couldn’t advance his teams much beyond that. A manager with so much talent on his roster should have done much better than what his record indicates and the GM should have seen that he was unlikely to be successful when it came to October baseball.
4. JL is a profound opponent of sabermetrics and analytics and so are many of his former coaches, who are still with the Tigers. Why would Al Avila introduce an analytics department and introductory software program when Leyland, a special assistant to him, and many of the coaches don’t buy into it? In many ways, the game has passed him by and there are no signs he’s updated his thoughts about what it takes to win today.
5. Despite Leyland having the title of “special assistant”, make no mistake – he is the power behind the throne. Mr. I begged him to return as manager in 2015. And it’s no coincidence that every single one of his friends/players/coaches dating back to the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s has been kept on the Tigers’ payroll or brought back after being fired elsewhere. He’s outlasted numerous top Front Office executives and despite a change of GMs, he has surprisingly stayed on when it’s routine to replace everyone. The Tigers will not be able to move forward successfully until they cut ties with their past.