20 JANUARY THOUGHTS

Kurt Bio PictureBy:  Kurt Snyder

Welcome to February! January didn’t exactly set the world on fire for Tiger fans, did it?  We added a new centerfielder to the mix, but we are still trying to remember how to spell his name. And that was the highlight.

But there were still plenty of things that made me think and wonder about what is to come. So as you patiently await the kickoff of Spring Training, check out my 20 Thoughts for January.


1. With Mikie Mahtook now on board, does this help shore up the centerfield position? Does the move make a platoon more or less likely?

2. Has the induction of Pudge Rodriguez into the Hall of Fame stirred up all our frustrations about players the Tigers have failed to recognize?

3. How would you feel if the Tigers retired #7 to honor Pudge’s induction into the Hall? My blood’s boiling already just thinking about it. He built a great HOF resume in Texas and stopped in Detroit on his way to the Hall. He was a leader and a key component in the run to the Series. Consider it acknowledged.

4. On the injury front, the top 3 Tigers I am the most concerned about are: Jordan Zimmermann, Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera.

5. If I had to pick a Tiger veteran who would take a noticeable downturn in his career in 2017, I would choose VMart. Injuries aside, it has to be coming.

6. If I had to pick one of the younger Tigers to have a breakout season, I would choose Nick Castellanos. He was heading there last season until his injury cut things short. I look forward to him taking another step this season.

7. Baseball has tragically lost another great young talent in Yordano Ventura. As a baseball fan, watching young players grow into stars is one of the many things that contribute to my love for the game. Losing them so tragically makes you feel heart-broken and cheated all at the same time.

8. The irony of the tragedy came full circle upon learning about the death of former major leaguer Andy Marte, who was killed the same day.  His final at bat came during a game that Ventura started. Knowing that still makes me shudder.

9. Even though I have never subscribed to the theory that owning 2 professional sports franchises can sometimes cause a conflict of interest, I do now believe this: The diminished role of Mike Ilitch within the ownership body may have helped shift the organizational interest towards hockey and the new arena. What’s more important to Chris Ilitch, the development of a fading hockey franchise or the continued hunt for a World Series?

10. Given there will be some highly anticipated turnover following the 2017 season, is Brad Ausmus’ job at all tied to a playoff appearance?

11. Depth … we got any? Well, we have alternate starting pitching options, but the confidence level in those options is not real high. Position players? Again, not much talent in the wings. The Tigers are so due for some surprises … some unexpected development from a Stephen Moya or a Dixon Machado.  And we are talking big leaps…

12. Who is the most important reliever? Who offers the most potential star power? Who offers both talent and trade value in July? It’s Bruce Rondon. (Carryover from December 2016)

13. Every Tiger veteran is so critical toward any potential run this coming season. But it all starts with the catalyst, Ian Kinsler. When the Dodgers made the deal for Logan Forsythe, I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that Kinsler was no longer in the trade conversation. Just being able to watch Iggy and Ian for another year is pure baseball joy.

14. Here’s a highly unexpected revitalization to consider. Anibal Sanchez returning to form and becoming a key component again in the starting rotation. When is the last time he was really healthy? Is he done? He’s definitely one to watch.

15. How crazy would it be for Anthony Gose to emerge again and head north with the Tigers in April? It’s not impossible. Actually, if there is room on the bench, speed and outfield defense are his strengths; sometimes hard to turn your head away from those 2 attributes that the Tigers will lack again in 2017.

16. If the Tigers are indeed heading for a sale, who else other than Tom Gores would be an obvious suitor? (Carryover from December 2016 and still a topic for conversation)

17. I was pleased to hear that Spring Training will be shortened beginning in 2018. I know it’s only 2 days, but it signifies how the Commissioner is still surveying the game in an effort to improve it.

18. Do we have another Michael Fulmer in the fold? Who among the Big 3 other than Fulmer has the best chance to make a large jump this season? Norris? Boyd?

19. Would the Tigers consider eating some salary when they decide on their Opening Day roster coming out of Spring Training? And who would be first in line? Will Mr. Michael Pelfrey please stand up?

20. The quietest guy in the room this off-season has been Brad Ausmus. Given the Tigers’ inactivity this off-season, how much pressure will be on Brad to deliver? Not a lot. (Carryover from December 2016)

OPEN MIKE!

microphoneIt’s Tuesday folks, which means it’s your day! Tuesday is the day for you to be heard. Today is the one day during the month where you get the opportunity to comment on the Tiger topic of your choosing. It’s time once again for “Open Mike!”

As usual, this is the one day of the week where we open up the comment parameters for you, so you can really get those juices flowing. Comments on THIS DAY ONLY can be expanded to a maximum of 8 sentences. So let ‘er rip!  Pick a topic and let us hear from you. We know there’s a lot on your minds…

TRADING TRENDS & TREPIDATION

Holly Bio PicBy:  Holly Horning

This has been a very strange – and very different – Hot Stove season this year. It’s been quiet – and boring. And not just for the Tigers.

We were forewarned in the late fall that the names available would not be as stellar as in years past. That this was going to be an off-year in terms of blockbuster deals and flashy, expensive players.

But despite the yawns the Hot Stove season has generated, big things have been happening within baseball. A sport that changes so slowly, sometimes the evolution goes unnoticed. But not now. New trends have emerged that are sudden and alarmingly rapid.

First, the growing hesitation by teams to offer long-term contracts. Followed by organizations now loathe to offer contracts of more than 2-3 years to players already in their 30’s. GMs are now realizing that it’s not good business sense to lock down a player who has started the decline in performance and who will become generally untradeable within a year or two.

But the biggest trend we’re seeing is the overall reluctance to part with top prospects. Teams now are showing a death grip on their most promising players and refusing to cough them up. We saw more deals not get done this year because, in the end, the prospects were more important to the future performance of the club than the established player.

There were only a couple of teams willing to deal from their farm systems, led by – surprise, surprise – Dave Dombrowski. And that was because Dave moved to the Red Sox when their farm system ranked near the top with one of the largest collections of promising players.

Ironically, one of the most significant events that undoubtedly inspired teams to take a closer look at their trading habits can be traced to the Tigers. The infamous moves by former GM Dombrowski in which he traded David Price and Yoenis Cespedes and received one of the most notable hauls in pitchers Matt Boyd, Daniel Norris and Rookie of the Year, Michael Fulmer.

These Tigers’ moves were roundly recognized as brilliant and many within baseball took notice. Many analysts believe these were the catalysts that inspired the majority of teams to refuse trading their top pitching prospects in the 2016-2017 Hot Stove season.

But there are other reasons, too. A noticeable jump in pitchers’ contracts and the new focus on hanging onto young, club-controlled talent. Teams save a ton of money by developing their own players, keeping them for pennies and then allowing them to leave around the age of 30.

There are teams like the Mets with a starting rotation that has just only jumped to $11 million for 2017. The Indians pay out $14 million for their rotation. And the Tigers? $71 million.

See the problem with this?

The Tigers are now encountering the perfect storm where they have a depleted farm system and no longer have the capital to trade for top pitching prospects. Salaries are skyrocketing. Which means only one thing.

The Tigers need to start developing their own players. And in a hurry.

But unfortunately, if you go back at least 10 years, Detroit does not have a good record of drafting and developing, especially starting pitchers. Other than Justin Verlander, the only other pitcher worth mentioning is Rick Porcello. The rest of their all-star rotation over the past decade was developed by other teams.

An issue of concern is that Al Avila kept the entire scouting and drafting departments intact when he took over the job. In fact, he re-hired some older scouts who used to work for the Tigers way back when. All of them the same guys with the aforementioned track record.

Will these same people suddenly change their methodology and start making different decisions? Will the new analytics department kick in and be a game-changing element? Will the Tigers break their long scouting drought?

There’s no doubt about it – they must. It’s a whole new era in baseball.

THE 2017 SEASON: CONSIDER IT A BONUS

Kurt Bio PictureBy:  Kurt Snyder

Strikeouts. Poor base running.  Poor outfield defense.  A lack of minor league depth and talent. These are the burdens the Tiger organization must carry as they enter another season.

Roll them all together and place them in a bowl with a $200M payroll and well, you understand the need to change. It’s not a good mix. It’s not a reliable recipe for winning. It’s taken a long time to realize it and equally as long to accept. But it’s all very real.

When my college-aged kids get overwhelmed by their studies, exams and almost endless projects to complete, I always advise them to bite them off a piece at a time. Looking at the whole pile of work can be intimidating. So you have to break things up. That’s why Al Avila has a project that could take a few years to address; it’s not gonna happen overnight.

To continue to win is not just about spending anymore, it always seems to come back to building the farm system. The Yankees have done an incredible job with it over the last few months. But they have done it in a truly Yankee way, trading away stars for highly-ranked prospects, followed immediately by spending again to quickly get back into a role of contention. I think it’s been brilliant.

They have supplemented their farm with guys that, well, won’t be in the farm long. Some were identified as stars right away and will immediately make big time, big league contributions in 2017. A couple of them have already. They have a catcher who could be an immediate All-Star.

Just last season, it looked like New York was heading into a cash-strapped period that would not allow them to contend for a while. But they did wonders at the trade deadline and even made an interesting run at a Wild Card spot, a run that did eventually fade down the stretch.

I’m sorry to have to bring them up, but they are now a model to watch. Imagine that, the Yankees having a formula to admire instead of despise.

But let me cure your nausea and quit the Yankee talk for right now. If you are a Tiger fan, the Yankees have never been a favorite topic, but we do have to recognize a big spending franchise that has been very crafty in their adjustments.

So how do the Tigers begin their own creative makeover? Well, given the market, we are kind of on hold.

Those countless non-roster minor league signings that took place over the last couple of months appeared to represent acknowledgement of a trade market that would not yield prized prospects for veteran players from the Tiger core. Avila asked for a lot, and I am glad he did.

We thought this was going to be the season that popular Tiger players would begin to pack their bags in favor of restocking the barren farm system. It wouldn’t be stocked just for restocking sake. Quality depth and potential would be expected in return. Well, that didn’t happen. Not yet anyway.

The continued transition of this franchise will be evaluated again at the end of July. If they are realistic playoff contenders, you leave the team alone.

Leaving this team alone, for the most part, ahead of this next season has to be a big sigh of relief for those who have carried the Tigers for the last several years. Justin Verlander has been vocal about not wanting to break up the band and not wanting to rebuild. Ian Kinsler seems to crave another shot. These guys still feel they have a run in them.

The Tiger core will descend on Lakeland with a new lease on life. Any turnover from last season will come from rookies who make a statement during spring training and head north with the big club, most likely supplementing continued needs in the bullpen and outfield.

The infield is completely set. The corner outfielders are completely set. The majority of the starting pitching is ready to roll. It’s a good team. But, once again, we will all hold our breath and hope fundamentals and poor health will not continue to hold this team back.

We all dream for more disciplined hitting from our team. We all dream for better base running that doesn’t cost us runs. Even a small amount of improvement in these critical areas in combination with all the Tiger talent opens possibilities. They can contend if they don’t beat themselves. Easier said than done? Well, sure! But we still have to say it. You have to hang your hat on something.

It’s a team with one more shot; a bonus if you will. So JV, Ian, Miggy and VMart have a responsibility. They must lead. They must project laser focus and a sense of urgency.  Another opportunity for this core group has indeed presented itself.   But they won’t get another.  That would seem to be enough to motivate a team that often struggles to find it.

QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, KUDOS & CONCERNS

Holly Bio PicKurt Bio PictureBy:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Saturday’s segment is a day to touch on as many issues as possible.  It’s hard to imagine that we are on the doorstep of February already and soon Tiger pitchers and catchers will be headed to Lakeland. So there is much to contemplate as Spring Training nears.

Kurt and Holly don’t share their Saturday topics and it’s only for the readers’ benefit. It almost always translates into a wide array of thoughts.


KURT

KUDOS

Congrats to former Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly, who will be honored this season for leading the Twins to 2 World Titles; a statue will be erected in his honor. Congrats to David Ortiz, who will be honored by the Red Sox this season through the retirement of his #34. Boston will waste no time in honoring one of their greatest players who helped lead them to 3 World Titles.

COMMENT

The Tigers announced this week that Jack Morris will no longer be part of the TV broadcast crew. I can’t get behind a common opinion that Morris was one of the weakest of the color analysts. Without ranking strengths of the 3, I thought Morris brought the most to the broadcasts; a successful pitcher’s perspective is an underrated broadcasting attribute.

QUESTION

Did the Tigers overpay for Alex Avila? This week the Toronto Blue Jays signed former Tiger catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a minor league contract that could be worth $1.5M if he makes the team. Salty certainly didn’t help his cause hitting just .110 for the Tigers after August 1st in 2016, but Alex will have a hard time providing the deep threat that Salty brought off the bench, as so many of his 12 home runs were game changers.


HOLLY

QUESTION

Why have the Tigers not made more of an effort to get more left-handed bats into the lineup for more than a couple of years now? Analysts keep referring to their unbalanced right-handed lineup and how it limits them in creating consistent run production. They also said this is why the Indians dominated them last year given that they have a stellar starting rotation and bullpen of dominating right-handed pitchers.

CONCERN

It appears that Al Avila can keep a secret given the news that Vmart had hernia surgery almost 4 months ago. But while the Tigers typically downplayed the seriousness of it, other reports say it is identical to the surgery that both JV and Miggy had. But my greatest concern is why the Tigers seemed to have cornered the market on hernia surgery with 3 players now having had it in such a short time period.

COMMENT

No one should be surprised that Kirk Gibson was retained for the broadcast booth in ’17 despite poor audience feedback. Even if you disregard the Tigers’ infamous loyalty factor, no team is going to fire anyone who is battling significant health concerns which would shower the team with a virtual storm of negative publicity. Even the Red Sox, mired in last place with the second highest payroll, did not fire John Farrell who was experiencing serious health issues.

ODDS & INTANGIBLES

Holly Bio PicBy:  Holly Horning

Let the predictions begin! As we move into the latter part of January and going into February, we transition into the season of predictions. Oddsmakers, both the professionals and those within baseball, give their prognostications on how well each team will do in the coming season. And in the vast majority of cases, everyone gets it wrong.

Sure, there is a value to this work, outside of the industry itself and the increasing number of people placing bets. The reports that fill the papers and TV can offer a hint of a team’s ability. They can be one of many sources that will offer information about your team. Just don’t go by their reports alone.

But you know what? In all honesty, I tune these reports out. I refuse to read the articles. I stick my fingers in my ears and go “la, la, la, la, laaaa” loudly when they come on TV. Call part of it superstition, part not wanting to adopt that mindset, but call the other part a failure to include the non-measurable aspects. The intangibles. Just as important – and maybe even more at times – as the skills you can quantify.

How else to explain their importance than the story of a general over 250 years ago who took a team of ragtag non-professional soldiers and managed to defeat a country with the best army and navy in the world. The same principles also help explain the Amazin’ Mets, the ’87 Twins and also the ’11 Red Sox, but for different reasons.

We always talk about how a team looks “on paper.” You see the player’s historical performance. You look at his stats from last year. For more, you dig into the sabermetrics/analytics to get a better understanding of how a player ranks against his direct competition, his efficiency and his strengths and weaknesses.

All quantifiable factors based upon physical skills. Stuff that is black and white and easy upon which to hang your hat. Stuff you can understand. Easy stuff.

But there are few teams, if any, who win it solely because of the physical talent. The winning teams have more. They have aligned their physical strengths with their mental ones. Something Theo Epstein knows a thing or two about.

The teams that win consistently have their you-know-what together. They go beyond the roster and reinforce the organization from top to bottom in order to turbo-charge their team’s performance.

It starts with a good foundation within the organization. Developing a defined winning culture and instilling it in everyone. It means bringing in real leaders with a clear message and getting everyone to buy into what they are saying. Motivational people. People who inspire players to listen to them and to perform at their highest levels – and consistently.

It also means developing a big tool bag of goodies that help you stay one step ahead of the competition. Software programs, analytic departments, specialized coaches, top medical and training staff, sports psychologists, nutritionists, mentors and more.

And then you’ve got the supporting staff – the owner, GM, Front Office, Scouting and all the departments that have a say on who gets to go on the field now and down the road. And in the clubhouse, it’s about getting the right mix of people and personalities. People who will complement and support each other. At least of handful of them with the highest levels of mental fortitude to keep the team focused and effective.

As we’ve seen recently, your team can be unanimously selected by oddsmakers to win the World Series because you have the greatest amount of talent out of any team. But that team spends the entire year out of first place and ends the year with a pitcher choking the team’s star player in the dugout.

It’s only later that we learn it was a dysfunctional clubhouse with clashing personalities and an ineffective rookie manager. And a team with too many health concerns that don’t get resolved.

But a year later, this team has a much happier ending because the owner stepped up and spent more time addressing the intangibles. Problem players traded, a manager traded in for an experienced skipper, a complete overhaul of the coaching staff and an entirely new medical and training department. And this time, they played into October.

So when the predictions start to come out, listen to them if you must. And if you do, take them with a grain of salt. But if you want a real measure of how your team will perform, dig beneath the surface if you can. Have changes been made within the organization? Is there a new way of doing business? Is there a new attitude?

Theo Epstein went into 2 organizations known for having the 2 longest World Series droughts and making them winners. People familiar with both the Cubs and the Red Sox all said he completely “changed the culture” and focus of each organization.

The question now to consider is whether other organizations will understand and implement the importance of addressing the intangibles.

ONE TOPIC – TWO TAKES

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt SnyderKurt Bio PictureHolly Bio Pic

It’s normal at this time of year to be bombarded with articles loaded with positivity – a proverbial ‘all is well’ message coming at you from every angle.

Most are meant to give fans hope for the upcoming season, but how can everything be rosy for a team so decimated with problems the previous year?

Holly and Kurt will not share their answers to the following question until today. In doing so, it gives readers the best shot at gaining a wide range of perspectives. Will you get that today? We’ll see.


What feel-good propaganda that’s been published do you actually believe and why?


HOLLY

My work is complete. If you’re a regular reader, you’re familiar with the recent blog that explains this time of year when the Tigers coordinate with the local media to write feel-good articles on their players and management.

Articles that offer redemption for players who were not at their best, reminders of those who had great years and reassurance for those who raised the fans’ eyebrows last year.

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/01/02/tis-the-season/
https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/01/12/agents-of-change/

I believe everyone I listed in those blogs now has been accounted for within those 3 lists.

So which of these do I believe? Well, I’d like to believe them all. I know that every player wants to be better next year. That everyone wants to win. And I’m almost tempted to say the story about the Avilas catching the big fish is the one I believe because there are actual photographs of it.

But I’m going with the interview with Brad about the key to this team. Health. He believes the Tigers are a truly scary team if they remain healthy. And they really are.

If you look at the big picture for this year, it’s almost the same team as last year’s and still pretty potent. In fact, the recipe – top notch pitching and big bats – has been the go-to standard for most of this decade.

But this decade has also seen the same major roadblock hit this team. The same excuse offered every year by management and players alike when the Tigers have failed at the end of every year. Injuries. Multiple injuries to Miggy, VMart, JV, Castellanos, Iggy, JD, Maybin, Zimmermann, Greene, Norris, Price, Sanchez, Rondon – the list goes on. It appears that pretty much everyone was injured and spent some significant time on the DL save for Prince Fielder and Ian Kinsler.

The same rationale that has been used year after year to excuse the team from winning that ring. The same answer that has saved the jobs of many within management and the Front Office.

So if the Tigers can manage to stay healthy for the first time in many years? Yes, they really could be “scary good.”


KURT

Many of the stories out there are based on hope. Is Jordan Zimmermann healthy enough to have a bounce-back season? Can Justin Upton reduce his strikeouts and begin the season as hot as the last one ended? Can Mark Lowe give us that lockdown late inning reliever we all hoped we would get last season? All these emphatic questions can be answered with a resounding – “I hope so!”

But there is only one statement that you can put stock in. Brad Ausmus feels that a healthy Tiger team can be very dangerous. And who out there can really disagree with that? The lineup is loaded with big hitters, but routinely is held back by key injuries, usually a gaggle of them, every season. And every season it seems you ask yourself, what if?

What if the team could somehow stay healthy for an entire season? How far could they go? The starting pitching has a chance to be really good this season. The rotation consists of loads of veteran talent and loads of young, emerging talent. It really is a great mix. But if you take Jordan Zimmermann out of that equation and he is unable to give you 200+ innings, then you are forced to head down that Sanchez / Pelfrey road, which has not been a reliable source for consistently good and injury-free starting pitching either.

This team has the potential to be very good. It always has. But it’s a fragile team, and Brad is no different than us when it comes to wondering what could happen if for one season, the injury bug didn’t hit them so hard. It could really be fun, wouldn’t it?

No team or fan base can really expect what we are looking for; injuries are part of the game and are felt by every team out there. But if for one season you can avoid those lengthy absences of key pieces of the lineup and starting pitching, great things can happen in Detroit.

A PASSIONATE FAN SPEAKS OUT

Kurt Bio PictureBy:  Kurt Snyder

When Holly and I first took on the task of starting a blog together, we understood the task would be immense. We understood we were dipping our toes into a large pool of competition.

The only way to be noticed was to stand out. And the only way to stand out was to be different, to offer something readers weren’t getting, something for which they were starving. But most importantly, we wanted our readers to have a voice.

And it would all start with offering readers a forum to not only express their opinions on what was being presented, but to become more civil towards each other. We all share the same passion. Some just demonstrate it too aggressively and they are way too confrontational.

On other forums, arguments are abundant, petty and insulting, defeating the purpose of sharing equal passion. So, I feel good about what we have offered and how far we have come.

Building a relationship with our readers will pay dividends for Totally Tigers. Offering Tuesdays to the readers I think is something you don’t see anywhere else. And people are beginning to respond.

Little did I know that one day, I would actually spend an hour speaking on the phone with one of our readers, and I am not talking about any of my brothers, who as you can guess, are loyal to our blog.

Nope, this is someone I had never met, until I picked up the phone and called him. He admittedly said he could talk about baseball all day, which was great because so can I. And what was rewarding about the conversation was we were genuinely interested in what each other had to say.

I had stories. He had stories. I had questions. He had questions. We talked openly about what we love about the Tigers and what we don’t. We talked openly about our frustrations and we shared many of the same ones, mostly about the Tigers’ inability to honor past stars who have contributed to championship teams. We agreed that statues need to be built and numbers need to be retired.

We talked memorabilia and the Hall of Fame. We talked New York bias and wondered how many more Tigers would be inducted into the Hall already if they had played in New York instead of Detroit.

He hated how the Tigers honor opposing players, almost more than our own. I didn’t totally agree but sure loved hearing about what made his blood boil.

I shared stories of playing bartender for Jim Campbell and Bill Lajoie in a front office lounge at Tiger Stadium while waiting for my dad to call it a night after a game. That was my first realization that cigar smoke really turned my stomach.

He shared stories of his constant hunt for autographs, not just from the ’84 Tigers, but the front office people as well. He shared a story about Bill Brown, (who used to be called the “Traveling Secretary” for the Tigers), and how he chased Bill’s car to get his attention, just to get his name signed on an index card. That’s the passion of a fan.

He shared stories about his unsuccessful attempts to get former GM Bill Lajoie’s autograph which included an uncomfortable phone call with Bill along the way. EBay ended up finally saving the day.

I set him straight on one particular Tiger executive who wasn’t at all as nice as he may have seemed.

This was one hour, folks. And it felt like 10 minutes.

We shared a lot and when we were just plain out of time, and life jumped in and interrupted us, I had one message for him. We need more readers. And we need more readers like him.

Our site is crawling with passionate baseball fans, not just fans of the Tigers, but fans of the game. And it’s my intention this year to dig a little more into the game itself, because I realize there is a desire for it out there. It’s one thing to read what folks have to say, but it’s another to actually hear you. It speaks volumes – messages I don’t intend to ignore.

I built a bond with a reader just through the pure joy of baseball. The sport runs through my veins, just like all of yours.

Like we say in our mission statement, this is your blog. And if you like that about us, please don’t keep it to yourself. Totally Tigers won’t grow because of us. It will grow because of you. We are listening; and in one case, this week, quite literally.

TOPIC FOR TUESDAY

microphoneIt’s Tuesday folks, which means it’s your day! Today is the day for you to be heard on a selected topic.   You have the rest of the week to hear from Kurt and Holly, today is the day to let them know what you’re thinking on a given topic.

This is the one day of the week where we open up the comment parameters for you, so you can really get those juices flowing.

Comments on THIS DAY ONLY can be expanded to a maximum of 8 sentences.

So let ‘er rip!  We can’t wait to get your thoughts on the following topic.


 Collins, Gose, Machado and Moya are out of options.  If you could pick only one to make the roster,  who would it be and why?

LOOKING OVER HIS SHOULDER

By:  Holly HorningHolly Bio Pic

Until this year, the Tigers turned over their roster in significant fashion every year for over 10 years. Sometimes even as high as 50%.

Contrast that to the team’s penchant for retaining Front Office personnel and coaching staffs for decades. In fact, when Al Avila assumed the GM position, he retained every single person who served under Dave Dombrowski . An unusual move considering that the common protocol for new GMs is to turn over most or all of their staff within a year of taking the job.

In previous blogs, we’ve discussed the significant loyalty factor within the organization as well as the close band of brothers who have stayed on under Brad Ausmus after Jim Leyland left the managing position. If you didn’t catch the original article, read it here at:

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/10/13/loyal-to-a-fault/

So when it was announced that Lloyd McClendon, who returned to the Tigers last year, was being brought up to Detroit this year, it made me wonder about how much power Brad Ausmus actually has in choosing his staff. Standard procedure within baseball is that the manager selects his coaching staff with a customary sign-off by the GM.

We know from written reports that one of Jim Leyland’s conditions of staying as manager for the Tigers included having Gene Lamont as his bench coach. They came as a set. And when Ausmus became manager, it seemed logical that Gene stayed for that first year to help ease the transition and communication. Besides, the two had worked together briefly in Houston.

But Gene continues to hang on. Could it have anything to do with Leyland’s continued employment with the Tigers and a friendship with Lamont that spans almost 50 years?

Other coaching changes are easier to explain. New first and third base coaches, along with a pitching coach, were brought in because their predecessors did poorly in their respective positions. And with the advent of analytics, specialized personnel were added to fill those new needs.

And given that the Tigers have a penchant for collecting former managers (6 now), it was no surprise when they re-hired Lloyd McClendon to manage Toledo. But it’s a whole ‘nother story when it came to bringing him up to Detroit.

You see, Lloyd has been friends with Jim Leyland for over 25 years. Played for him, had his first coaching job with him, and came to Detroit with him. And even though he was the Tigers’ hitting coach, he was the acting manager when Leyland had to take time off or got booted from games. Not Gene, the bench coach.

So the move to bring Lloyd back up to Detroit is a rather interesting one. At the end of last year, eyebrows were raised when he appeared in the dugout for the remainder of the season “to observe.”

The same guy who interviewed for the managerial slot after Leyland stepped down. The same guy who lost the job to Brad Ausmus. A guy who became manager of the Mariners, got fired, returned to Detroit and is on the record saying he wants to manage again.

Now, Brad is a smart man. Do you think that he would, on his own, bring back the man he defeated for the job? A guy who has already stated his desire to manage another team? A guy who has been friends with Leyland, Lamont, Clark, Avila and many others within the Tigers’ organization for decades? Afterall, Brad has only been with the Tigers for 3 years. He’s not in the same loyalty clique as the others.

Ausmus is also in his last year as manager with no contract extension. How convenient.

It’s not hard to imagine that Lloyd will be sitting and waiting this year. Waiting for an opportunity to step in. Afterall, the Tigers are his best chance at managing again. Any business-savvy person would see the opportunities for advancement.

I find it hard to believe that Brad would independently welcome Lloyd’s return to the dugout. Someone who will watch his every move. To wait for the mismanaged games or losing streak. To watch how the Tigers do in conceivably their last good year to get back to the playoffs. To breathe down Brad’s back.

If I were Brad, I wouldn’t want that. Would you?

Someone had to influence Ausmus to hire Lloyd. Or someone made the decision for him. Once again, we have to wonder who within the organization actually holds the real power. It may not be the natural or customary choice.