By: Holly Horning
Remember the days when we had a GM who frustrated us with his constant dodges and non-answer answers? A guy who could either be a world-class poker player or a spy capable of not revealing any information despite being tortured.
The same guy who always made moves without fans seeing it coming. The guy who had his strategy and never shared it outside of a small, select group of people. There was, unfortunately, the Fister trade – but also the Fielder-for-Kinsler one, too. And now that he’s moved to Boston, he’s doing the same thing. No one even had a clue that the Red Sox were in on Chris Sale until Dave signed him.
Who knew that we would actually welcome those days once again.
We now have what initially appears to be the anti-Dave. A GM with a track record of just over a year but an increasingly predictable pattern of not knowing when to keep quiet. Thank goodness the man doesn’t have a Twitter account.
It all started within 2 months of assuming his job with his statements about keeping Brad Ausmus as manager.
But the floodgates opened this off-season in what appears – at least to most of the world – as laying all of his cards on the table for fans, owners, GMs and every Front Office and scout to see.
Maybe Al is just a very direct and upfront person. Maybe he was being considerate of his players’ feelings by giving them a head’s up. All admirable qualities but if so, they have now become detrimental in how this team moves forward.
And that’s the problem when you have a communication style that creates confusion, disappointment and fails to achieve the desired results.
It started with Al’s declaring that every single one of his players was available for sale. Every one. He said the team was going to get “younger and leaner” and that it might take time to achieve the desired results. He also said that he “hoped” the Tigers would be competitive this year. Ohhh, the PR, Marketing and Ticket Sales departments are not happy campers.
Many in the press, as well as the fans, took his words to indicate that there was going to be a fire sale. Words that had to be clarified shortly thereafter given the firestorm that broke out.
And then confusion officially entered the picture when Avila couldn’t complete a single deal after the Maybin option/quasi-transaction despite fielding multiple phone calls from other GMs.
It’s now very likely that the entire team will stick together for 2017 knowing that they are all expendable and may potentially scatter to other teams if the season doesn’t go well. Not a great attitude or motivating force to instill with your players.
But despite all the words about trades and getting younger and leaner, Al then signs a 30-year-old catcher who has seen better days. His son. His earlier words now contradict his actions as seen by many.
But whether Alex Avila was the best player to fill the team’s needs is not the point. In this case, perception becomes reality and a significant number of fans either saw flagrant nepotism or a rerun of mediocrity behind the plate. Maybe not the best signing to make when it’s your only one and the fans are only too familiar with the name and track record. And it’s the intangible issues such as these that need to be considered as real and as viable as the official stats.
In summary, Al has not done himself any favors by speaking too much and too openly. No other GM this off-season has divulged their strategy for 2017 as completely and detailed as Avila. Al has been digging a hole for himself since September 2015 and it’s only getting deeper.
While I have a firm and fast rule about waiting at least 1 – 1.5 years before openly judging a manager or GM, I have to admit that Avila’s first impression doesn’t inspire my confidence in his abilities at the moment.
Maybe he needs to remember the story that Dave Dombrowski told about his first year as GM. A story that involved lessons learned by sharing information with the public and media that came back to bite him. It seems he learned that lesson quite well.
Let’s hope Al heeds this advice very soon. Otherwise he may need to trade in that shovel for a digger.