By:  Holly Horning

I was sorely tempted to go sit in the lobby of the Gaylord National this week which sits across the Potomac from my home and is a 10-minute drive. (Or, 2 minutes via bass boat.) But being the only woman staking out the grounds, as I saw on TV, made me hesitate. Well, that and my clients who somehow feel I should be paying attention to them instead.

But my desire to go there made my husband shake his head. The same motion he makes when he sees me watching or listening to some in-depth program that focuses on a specific baseball issue.

And that was the case last weekend when I listened to a satellite radio program about how the Cubs built their team and vision. The story was a 2-hour report that traced the evolution of the team since Theo Epstein came to Chicago. And in all the interviews with Theo, Joe Maddon and a host of others responsible for the building, what hit me was that their focus wasn’t primarily on the players.

To them, it was all about crafting a precise vision covering a number of years, creating a specific culture, getting people to buy into it, filling in the details and enforcing/rewarding performance. Theo and Joe talked about how important it was to hire the right behind-the-scenes people and make sure that everyone was on the same page re goals, methods, beliefs and actions. The athletic talent, of course, was extremely important, but seen as secondary.

Which, of course, brings us to the Tigers. A team that practices the opposite. A team that has stubbornly maintained the same philosophy for years but changed their players frequently. So frequently that rosters often turned over 50% more years than not. A roster that now only boasts Justin Verlander as the sole remaining original player from 2006 yet still employs a disturbingly large number of non-athletic employees for decades.

Unlike the Cubs, the Tigers are not on the same page. They have been a team of contradictions for years now. Maybe decades. And if you believe the man who ended both baseball curses with the Cubs and Red Sox, the Tigers need to do some serious work addressing these, which include:

1. Building Comerica – a park that screams for speed and defense – but filling it with big, slow ballplayers with power bats and iffy gloves.

2. Hiring someone with no managerial experience yet expecting him to take the team to the World Series (or at least the playoffs) in his first year. Second year at the latest.

3. Declarations about how the team needs speed yet benching (this year’s AL stolen base leader) Rajai Davis, last year because he wanted to be able to run on his own.

4. Hiring a new GM who doesn’t replace a single Front Office executive and instead rehires former and much older employees.

5. Introducing an analytics department but keeping coaches who don’t use or buy into it. One advisor, (the coaches’ former manager) Jim Leyland, is on the record as being firmly against the system.

6. New departments, software and programs are created in stark contrast to the ageing and old-school employees who don’t use them and are on the record regarding their preferences for older methods.

7. A new GM who wants a new direction yet he brings back former employees and managers who are from the old system.

8. Hiring a recently-retired baseball player as a first-time manager who is good with rookies to manage a team filled with experienced veterans and highly-paid stars.

9. Tons of money spent on signing players but nothing spent on advancing or updating the organization beyond the roster.

10. Willing to pay out some of baseball’s largest contracts yet unwilling to spend on the bullpen for many years.

11. An owner who desperately wants to win but keeps meddling in the GM’s business and insisting on signing players to long-term contracts that further handcuff the team.

12. The same owner who states that a ring is the top priority yet he keeps management and personnel despite their track records of not having achieved the specified goals. Loyalty became more important than winning.

13. A publicly-expressed desire to improve speed on the basepaths and defense yet a continuation of signing slower players with poor defense metrics but possessing star power.

14. An owner who wants stars on the team yet does nothing to promote the retired Tiger stars of the game either at home or for the Hall of Fame.

Can you add to this list?

24 thoughts on “NOT ON THE SAME PAGE

  1. Mr. I said when he built com. Park build biggest park, get biggest sluggers and out Homer all. Thus fryman,louis Gonzalez are gone and wrong ‘juan’ Gonzalez and Palmer are here. And defence don’t count in modern conditioning ‘steroid era’.


  2. “Could you add to this list?” Not before next season’s opener comes around, Holly. From my perspective, you have said it all, and said it well!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s going to take a lot more than an every five-year championship reunion and a cheap Fantasy Camp recognition marketing ploy to affectively promote and honor Tram, Jack and even Lou for a number retirement ceremony. It’s unbelievable that the Tigers refuse to this!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have to respectfully disagree with # 10. It seems they spend on the bullpen every year – Papa Grande, Benoit, Nathan, Lowe, Justin Wilson, KRod. The problem is that they went for the best available at the time without getting silly. Lets see how the Yankees and Giants feel about their closers who make $250k + an inning in 3-4 years.


  5. The fact that Holly is still “sitting on the sidelines” developing visions, cultures and messaging skills for her customer base is proof positive that the Tiger’s management group doesn’t understand the seriousness of their dilemma. How else can one person provide so much professional insight about the issues facing this team on a daily basis without fielding calls for help!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Valid points outlined and discussed previously. May I take devils advocate approach? Is there any positive that could come from the path they are currently on with these decisions? i.e., If we win the World Series next year, will the two hour interview be about all the things you listed here being the right way to go?


    • Dear Devil – 🙂 I don’t believe that discussion will be focused on the points above. If anything, either it will be about how they broke the rules and won despite the misalignment or that several unseen and new factors emerged which managed to overpower the other issues. Great question and conversation-starter – thanks! – Holly


  7. 15. An organizational culture that allows Miggy to barely run to first base on a ball hit to the infield. On many teams that would be a bench-able offense, why not on the Tigers?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Before jogging to 1B became his norm, I thought Miggy ought to start doing just that. Protecting that fragile ankle should be a higher priority for the Tigers than having him serve as a poster boy for team hustle. He is neither lazy nor disengaged, and is a model for his teammates in other ways, such as being a nonpareil student of the game.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Check out any mega star and you see the same. This is a society thing that krept into baseball over the past decade and a half. The guys are allowed to do what they want without repercussion because of the money and public fawning all over them. You can’t bench Miggy, Papi, etc. A “player’s manager”, won’t even address it behind closed doors.


      • I agree. Pathetic and sad. Seems like there is a protected class of baseball players who aren’t required to hustle. Hard to handle when you are sitting in the stands at Comerica and see it in the flesh. Why not let everybody walk to first base on a ground ball?


  8. Whoa Nellie! Ya got it covered Holly! What radio station was that-sirrus I imagine? I too disagree on #10, DD continually over spent there and was terribly “unlucky.”


  9. Holly, I just perused the Tigers list for their invitees to their yearly Christmas bash to be held in a couple of weeks. It seems that you and I and the rest of the contributors to this site are not on the list. I find this highly puzzling.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. #12 — must be something in the water. WCF had the same problem with the Lions, although he didn’t seem to be as passionate about “the ring” as Mr. I.


  11. They didn’t “hire a new GM” they gave the title to a guy who had been in the organization for 14 yrs. Is it really loyalty or is it a lack of insight that stops them from looking externally for new talent? When you can’t see the forest for the trees, you can’t grow & upgrade management strength & that’s a problem.


  12. You make it sound like tigers were ran by incompetent people who made mostly poor decisions. Somehow these buffoons managed to post the 6th best record in mlb since 2006 and have 60+ wins more than the next AL central team. Being in top 20 pct of teams in any sport over extended period is nothing be ashamed or apologize for.


    • Hi, Scott – It’s a comparison between two teams and how different they are. And it’s up to each fan, player and all within the Tiger organization to determine how they feel about the past 10 years. You may feel great about the record, but maybe Mr. I doesn’t. Today’s blog was an analysis and not any kind of a judgement. Thanks for reading! – Holly


  13. These insights should be required reading for upper management. Those executives who hold decision making power bare the most blame for wasted opportunities and wasted resources. Constructive criticism by Holly if they care to break out of the mold of denial and blame shifting.

    Liked by 1 person

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