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.

16 thoughts on “THERE, I SAID IT – PART 5

  1. Number 3. Looking back on the Leyland Tiger years, disguised under individual performances and winning seasons, he managed ballplayers, not “teams.” Also, understanding Mike Ilitch’s work ethic and loyalty, he wanted the son of a Midwestern factory worker to manage his team and bring a title to Detroit. It WOULD’VE made a wonderful story.


  2. Leland was a product of the steroids era. Players just hit homers and not much else. All managers did was write the ‘arnold types’onto the line-up and watch and wait till they ‘ran into one’. Brain numb and dumb. No analytics needed. Just stroke the sluggers ego’s. He’s just a product of his times.


  3. Holly, I can’t add one thing to your thoughts on Leland. They are absolutely on the mark. The time has now come. The owners need to broom EVERYONE associated with the old regime and move on: that includes Leland, Avila, Ausmus. etc. This will cost much financially and hurt fan loyalty, but for the long run this must be done NOW!


    • Not sure it will hurt fan loyalty. Might even bring the attendance numbers back up to where they were 4 years ago if they throw Ausmus into the bus leaving town.


    • Tom-I agree. I’ve been calling for a good house cleaning for quite a while. No other course will net the real prize-a WS victory! Isn’t that what all of us Tigers lovers want???


    • Hi, Nick – Hee, hee you may be right, however I put the majority of the blame for how long JL has stayed and the power he wields on the people above him on the corporate ladder. He would not have as much influence as he does if someone above him hadn’t consistently placed loyalty above performance and turned a blind eye to that windown gradually slipping away. Just to be fair though, when I go down to Spring Training, Leyland is the nicest of all the Tigers down there. He spends a huge amount of time with the fans – chatting, pictures, answering questions, etc. Thanks for the necessary injection of humor today! – Holly


  4. I’m enjoying this series immensely Holly. An important subject that deserves in depth scrutiny. Yet, each blog has troubled me. IMO, ALL reasons and stones thrown MUST be viewed Holly with just how extremely difficult it is in BB now to win the WS. Count the number of winning teams since 1984. Just saying.


    • Hi, Jerry – Thanks for the kind words. And I do understand, and have written about how much harder it is to win that elusive ring. It is a footnote to the disappointment we’ve felt with such tremendous talent on the team. But I also can’t help but notice that the Tigers, after the Indians, have spent the longest time waiting in the Central for that WS title. And it makes me wonder why…… Thanks for continuing the dialog! – Holly


  5. Leyland & his Praetorian Guard! He was touted as “knowing how to push the right buttons”. The reality? He kept pushing the same buttons. Obstinate & inflexible = arrogance. His fingerprints are all over this team & it’s time for a good hand washing. There’s no future if you’re stuck in the past.

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  6. Spot on as usual, Holly but it is not time to part ways with JL, it is about 8 years late. Not an Ausmus fan, too much like JL lite but how can we or the Tigers possibly see what he can do if Geno and JL are still really calling all the shots? Hey, the Lions are 7-4 so maybe there is hope (prob 8-8 finish, but…..) 🙂


    • Hi, Doug – Actually, we are both in agreement. I did mention that JL should have been replaced no later than 2010 and as Kathy above mentioned, 2008 would have been ideal. I question whether the powers that be ever considered what 2012 and 2013 would have looked like if they had snapped up Terry Francona when he was available. Thanks for continuing the dialog! – Holly


      • I love to remind everyone that we could’ve snapped up Francona in a heartbeat when he got the (unfair) boot in Boston. Where would we be today? 1 or 2 WS rings??? We’ll never know, due to ownership complacency.


  7. Re Francona & Maddon, I have not seen any evidence that either would have signed with the Tigers if the Tigers offered them a contract. There has to be MUTUAL interest. I know TF has some history with the Tigers so okay, so ok maybe but JM seemed to have already made up his mind about the Cubs, but we as fans seem to assume more than we should.


    • I view Francona as ‘highly likely’in taking a hypothetical Tigers offer in the past. However, I feel that Maddon would’ve passed. Heck, the Cubs had him wrapped up BEFORE he even left Tampa. How’d that happen with the non-compete clauses? Epstein was crafty & did an end-around. Credit the Cubs.


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