TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Today, we address the trade deadline, which has now finally and mercifully expired. The Tigers have made some deals and now it’s time to dig in and let our writers dissect what has taken place.

As is the norm, Kurt and Holly have not shared their responses to today’s topic. It’s the best way for our readers to get the best bang for their buck. So here we go.


What’s your take on what happened – or didn’t happen – now that the no-waiver trade deadline is over?


KURT

I tend to listen closely when Al Avila is being interviewed. He has had a reputation of being very transparent; disclosing more than you would think he would share as the GM of a MLB team.

So when he was interviewed following the expiration of the trade deadline, he shared. He is happy with what the Tigers received in the deals involving JD Martinez, Justin Wilson and Alex Avila.

What I was looking for from Avila was a confirmation that they had reasonable success. And I sensed his message was genuine.

Al could not stress enough how devoid of talent the team’s minor league is when it comes to position players, but many people have been critical about how heavy the return was on shortstops and third basemen.

How close were they to trading JV? Well, in addressing the Verlander situation, Al once again shared something that I don’t know needed to be shared. JV is more of a candidate to be traded during the winter according to Al.

Please tell me Al – why do you insist on showing everyone your cards? It’s just not necessary. If he had conversations with teams about the potential for a JV deal after the season, fine, keep those irons in the fire. But why share it with us? Why share it with the media? We don’t need to know.

From what we are being told, there is no special magic associated with the retooling of the organization. This is about rebuilding a minor league system, at all positions.

In the world of fantasy baseball, I am always checking the minor league landscape for some of the better, head-turning talent about to emerge and head for the show, so you recognize the names when they do indeed emerge.

Did we get anyone like that or close to that? The answer is no, initial impressions have revealed there are none.

We offered up one of the most dangerous power hitters in the game, rental or not, in exchange for what appears to be average minor league talent.

We offered up the most sought after left-handed power pitcher who will fortify the back end of the Cubs’ bullpen. And we threw in a veteran catcher having a very good year. And who did we get?

Well, Al says we did very well. But frankly, I would rather know before he even said a word. I am not in the mood for someone trying to convince me.


HOLLY

I keep looking for Al Avila to develop a pattern in his thoughts and actions and today still didn’t show me enough consistency to get a clear read on the team’s intentions.

First he says he’s open to trading everyone and anyone but then doesn’t do anything last winter. Avila should have traded some players before this season to take advantage of their best value but didn’t. Then he poorly timed JD’s trade this month but did better with Wilson, yet waited too long on Avila.

To continue the pattern of non-pattern, so to speak, he did poorly with JD yet gets props for the Wilson/Avila trade.

Avila also said that they were not doing a salary dump, yet he actively attempted to trade JV, Upton, Sanchez, Zimmermann, Iggy and Kinsler both last winter and this month. However, reports say he wanted too much for each of them so it wasn’t a classic salary dump in which players are traded for the sake of being traded.

So, is Avila’s actions/non-actions based upon not being up to the task? Are he and Chris waiting on news that will impact which path they take? Or, are they purposely playing a game of non-disclosure? A combination of 2 or 3 of these?

It appears that some kind of tightrope is being walked. Wanting and needing to shed salary but not wanting to appear anxious. Wanting to trade more players but hesitating at pulling the trigger.

And this confusion about where the Tigers are headed with their roster adds fuel to their refusal to explain where this team is headed. Do they intend to stay competitive? Re-tool? Re-invent? Re-build? Your guess is as good as mine because no one is saying anything. Yet.

And I don’t expect them to say anything for months to come – if ever. Leave the fan base guessing – and hopeful so the seats continue to be filled.

What they’ve done – or haven’t done – is really open to interpretation which is what I believe they really want to accomplish in the long-term. And the reasons supporting it are multiple:

1. Attendance is still really strong and any attempt to mess with the formula will be avoided until as long and late as possible.

2. They are trying to minimize fan/social media blowback by focusing on making off-season actions.

3. As the Ilitch family awaits the IRS judgment – with some form of penalty expected to be paid – it may or may not determine whether they keep or sell the team.

4. If the timing of selling the team continues to be explored, they may be waiting until a suitor, the process, an announcement or the desired financial balance is achieved before they show their hand.

This year is one of transition and intrigue. We shouldn’t expect to know more until this winter.

OPEN THE DOOR, I AM COMING IN!

By: Kurt Snyder

On the eve of the trade deadline, the Tigers had a going away party. The Astros left town having lost 2 of 3 and could have been swept if not for a Tiger managerial brain lock.

So all there is left to do now is sit, wait, scroll through Twitter and wonder what our team will look like after 4 pm on Monday.

The Diamondbacks lost their SS to injury making the “experts” wonder if Iggy is on his way to replace him. The Brewers are still sniffing around Ian’s locker and talk is getting hotter. And Justin Wilson can pack now, his destination is unknown, but he is headed somewhere else.

Alex Avila? Could be gone. JV, a stretch but could be gone as well. And from what I am hearing, this level of tear up could force JUp to opt out of his contract. That’s a high level of ouch!

Let’s assume for a moment that all that happens. And let’s assume that the Tigers receive prospects, none quite ready for the big club.  Who’s ready to take on that mess?  Well, I would like to sign up for the teardown.  After that, it’s not my problem.

Beginning August 1st, I am the interim manager and the interim general manager for the rest of 2017. Are you scared? Well, you should be. I only have a short amount of time to make sure that the most obvious things that need to happen … happen.

I am the cleanup crew. I will be that guy who burns down all the areas that have been smoldering already.

So, I have plenty of work to do. Since I am the interim GM / the ‘someone fire everyone please’ savior of all, I am firing Al Avila. Al has spent plenty of years in player development, but I don’t like him as a GM. We will need some fresh eyes on this organization and the off-season will be spent benchmarking teams who have won, while looking for the next guy who will professionally lead this team into the future.

And since I am the short term ‘clear the decks, broom out the mess’ manager, I am immediately firing Brad and Gene. Just because, you know, they make me tired. VMart becomes my player-bench coach. All the other coaches can be kept until the off-season. But they will all be fired at the end of the season. All of them. And they will be told immediately.

Are you starting to feel better? I know I am!

At this point it’s time to talk with the team leaders. I need to have a heart-to-heart with Miggy to find out what the heck is going on in his head and then let him know that he is DH’ing for the rest of the season.

VMart will pinch hit and DH when Miggy sits. Whatever role for Victor which allows me to sit and talk with him about what has been lacking in the dugout from a leadership standpoint, is what is best for this team at this time.

I will then sit down with my catcher, James McCann, to have the same conversation. I would expect to get all I need and more from him. There will be no pressure. He will know I am not staying, but he will also know I will have a role in hiring the next manager, one who has done it and one who has had success.

The cuts? Well, in the interests of clearing more bad air, whatever I have to do to purge the team of Bruce Rondon, I will do. At some point in the middle of more promise, he stumbles, and it mostly has to do with what is between his ears. All that talent will be wasted, but it’s over. The Rondon Circus is being shut down once and for all.

Joe Jimenez will be brought up immediately and will help support the 8th and 9th inning roles. No one will be named closer. Several will get a shot.  Whoever owns it, owns it.

And that’s it. But it’s only a start. But these were the areas that needed immediate action. It’s now Alan Trammell’s gig until the off-season.

I have been itching to attack. And since no one seems to want to act, I will. This place looks better already. Too bad it’s still Comerica Park.

TRIGGER FAILURE

By:  Holly Horning

I am writing this on Saturday afternoon and wondering if any trades will be made before this blog is published. When Dave Dombrowski was GM, we never wondered. We knew. We expected.

But now have we come to expect that the Tigers’ m.o. has become to do nothing? That they will never pull the trigger?

It sure seems that way.

But rather than believe that this is a new development, it’s really not. The Tigers have a long history of delaying decisions – both easy and hard. A corporate culture of trigger failure – the inability to make timely and sound decisions.

And Dave, despite being a genius at trading, had problems over the years solving perennial issues. The bullpen comes to mind. Also implementing programs and solutions for the yearly failures of base running and defensive skills. And don’t get me started on a better training and condition program after years of injuries that were routinely blamed for why that ring never materialized.

Although the Tigers had baseball’s best collection of starting pitching and hitters, Dave’s manager achieved only 1 win out of 9 games in 2 World Series appearances. The same manager, who in his last 3 years, barely managed to hang onto the division title by 1 game each year despite the immense talent.

It should have been a warning sign. But despite this, our GM continued to employ him even when Terry Francona, his former third base coach, became available. A manager with a proven track record, especially in October. The same man, who until last year, was 1 of 2 managers undefeated in World Series games.

You’re not alone if you think that Tito could have gotten at least 1 World Series flag if he had been hired.

But unfortunately, trigger failure goes beyond this. There is enough blame to spread around and the new GM, Al Avila, has taken indecision to new levels.

We saw it first when Al assumed his new position. He kept all of Dave’s former employees instead of putting his own stamp on the team. And he kept the manager with all his coaches. He also continued to ignore the lack of a bullpen. And since the signing of Jordan Zimmermann, Avila has made no decisions of any significance as GM.

Trigger failure reared its head prominently at the end of last year when Al made it clear that everyone and anyone was available for trade. And then, he didn’t follow through. He didn’t pull the trigger to get maximum value for Justin Verlander fresh off a great year and one in which many believed he was the rightful winner of the Cy Young. This year, JV is a year older, a year removed from his near award-winning season and now a year in which he has had some struggles.

And it was also a year ideal for moving JD Martinez. Waiting once again to trade a player mere months before he became a free agent brought the Tigers a disappointing return.

The pattern continues as reports surface detailing interest by other teams in Alex Avila is disappearing quickly as his stats started to drop closer to his usual performance.

Three years into his tenure, Al continues to hang onto his manager despite being unable to tell us why Brad deserves the job or even what he does well. What would the team have looked like if he had made changes even 2 years ago?

The corporate culture of trigger failure now continues to trickle down to the manager.

The evidence continues to pile up with players who have outworn their welcome yet stayed on. Athletes like KRod and Sanchez who had to totally implode multiple times before they were either released or sent to Toledo.

And now Bruce Rondon, who has more lives than a cat over the past 2 years. Not only does he remain on the roster but he’s allowed to come back into a game during a crucial inning where he lost it for the team on Friday night. Should we be surprised that he is still with the team?

In his 4 years as skipper, Ausmus has never pulled the trigger on badly-behaving players. Rondon, Nathan, Collins, Castellanos, KRod and the army of players who have ignored the signs from coaches. Even starting pitchers who take themselves out of games and disappear into the clubhouse are never reprimanded or benched.

Yes, a failure to show leadership but also a desire to avoid decision-making and confrontations that other managers use in helping steer the team back onto the tracks of cooperation.

And now we’ve got a clubhouse in disarray because the failure to make timely decisions has been avoided by management. Players wondering if they are going to be traded. Players knowing that they can make their own rules and not get called out or penalized. The same stuff happening over and over again with little to no improvement because decisions are not being made and rules are not being enforced.

How likely is it that Avila will make a timely trade or two before Monday afternoon? How likely will Bruce Rondon be shown the door before the season ends? And will Brad make it to the end of the year?

Given their track record, it’s a safe bet that trigger failure, rather than action, will be what we see. But at some point, someone is going to have to pull the trigger – and it’s not going to be pretty. And it will also be too late.

QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, KUDOS & CONCERNS

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

After 101 games (45-56), the Tigers remain buried near the bottom of the American League. As we head on through July baseball, that trade deadline looms larger every minute.

Saturday’s segment is a day to touch on as many issues as possible. Let’s see what Holly and Kurt have on their minds this week. They don’t share their Saturday topics and it’s only for the readers’ benefit. So, expect a wide array of thoughts.


HOLLY

(Note to readers: Today’s blog was very tough to write. As someone who is “cautiously optimistic”, I simply could not find anything good to come out of this week.)

CONCERN

The Tigers reached the nadir of their year this week between the Royals’ sweep, scores that resembled those of football, not baseball, and Bruce Rondon returning to his bad self. Then add in the bad baserunning, loafing to field balls, a complete loss of fundamentals and players now throwing each other under the bus. If this does not symbolize a team that is without a rudder, has no leadership and filled with unhappy players, I don’t know what is.

COMMENT

Interesting that there are currently 71 players from Venezuela, including 5 other Tigers, and no one other than Miggy has had their non-performance tied to the problems created by that country. In fact, some of this year’s best-performing players are from Venezuela and also have family members there. Jose Altuve, one of Miggy’s closest friends and from Miggy’s hometown, is currently considered to be the front-runner for the AL MVP Award with his league-leading .365 BA, 1.005 on-base+ slugging and MLB-leading WAR of 6.

COMMENT

Much concern has been made over Miggy’s weight but little attention has been given to a number of other players who have gained noticeable pounds or have not lost it this year. Bruce Rondon, of course, but also Nick Castellanos has regained the weight he lost in order to improve his agility at third and most alarmingly, Victor Martinez has added significant weight and simply can’t afford to put any more stress on those knees. Makes one wonder how much influence, if any, the health/nutrition department has especially after the high-profile roll-out of the “new and improved” nutritional plan back in February.


KURT

(I have nothing left in my little tank of patience. It’s empty. So excuse the regurgitation of disdain.)

 

COMMENT

I can’t in any way, shape or form condone what the Tigers are doing with Bruce Rondon. The mere fact that he continues to be on this team smells bad and just reinforces the poor message being spread around the organization. He should have been sent packing right after the KC series.

QUESTION

How and why does Brad Ausmus still have his job? His team is playing the kind of baseball demonstrated by teams without leadership. The mental errors on the bases continue and no one is questioned or held accountable.

COMMENT

Here we sit, waiting and wondering what the next move will be. Here we sit wondering why the more time ticks by, the more inactivity there is. Certainly a deadline deal awaits, but if not, wouldn’t it all signal a sale of this poor excuse for a baseball team; a message we have been preaching for quite some time?

OPEN MIKE!

microphoneIt’s Friday folks, which means it’s your day! This is the day for you to lead the discussion.  Today is the one day during the month where you get the opportunity to comment on the Tiger topic of your choosing.

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, pick a topic and let us hear from you. With all that is brewing in the news, you must have a lot on your minds.


 

 

 

 

WHAT’S NEXT? ANYTHING?

By:  Kurt Snyder

It really hasn’t hit me until now. But it’s hitting me hard.

Seeing JD Martinez in a different uniform is making me sick. And watching him continue to hammer the baseball like he never left isn’t helping.

It hurts to watch knowing he was ours, and that money dictated his exit. It hurts knowing that we acquired this guy who was going nowhere, saw something in him, and then watched him in astonishment explode with success right before our eyes.

Watching someone develop from the lowest point in his career and then seeing him walk away at the very top of his game isn’t good for baseball. It isn’t good for fans. And fans just learning or are new to the game don’t know enough about the business side to understand how one of the most popular players could be traded away. It turns them off. Many don’t care enough to ask questions, and they move on.

All the new fans, the ones the team hopes to draw to Comerica Park, and especially kids, couldn’t possibly understand how this all works. Heck, people like us who follow the game religiously, still scratch our heads over how a team could get to this point.

Personally, I can’t wait until August 1st when all this craziness is over. We will have found out if more of our popular players have moved on. We will find out if there will be young prospects arriving who actually excite us. Not a group of players we aren’t sure will ever see the time of day in Detroit.

August 1st will bring a host of new topics to discuss. Al Avila has a real short leash with fans right now. And what he does or doesn’t do for this team over the next few days are really important, not just for the Tigers, but for him.

Always keep in mind that the signing of Justin Upton eventually led us to this day; the day when JD Martinez would have to leave. We can blame the move all we want on Mr. I. But it is the GM’s responsibility to inform his owner about the ramifications of every move.

It’s a tough situation in which to even speculate. Because we were dealing with an owner, a fairly short-sighted one at that, wanting another big time hitter.

And then, of course, we had a hold over in Al Avila, kept on to take over for Dave Dombrowski. Avila reeks of the absolute ‘yes man’, someone Mr. Ilitch may have wanted in the twilight of his career. Dave Dombrowski may have lost his job by reasoning with Mr. I a little too much – among other reasons, of course.

Al has a lot to do this week to prove us all wrong. He appears to be one of the weakest GM’s in all of baseball. Showing all his cards. Feeling like he owes people answers to questions when the answers give away too much information. Telling the press they are going to deal and then telling them he’s not.

For a guy who must make a living building a championship team and making good deals to get there, he sure sabotages himself a lot. And that is real scary.

To me the JD deal demonstrated that. The deal showed panic. It showed impatience. And maybe even incompetence. He was dealing his most powerful offensive player, and to settle for so little from one of the worst minor league systems in the league, was peculiar at best. Infuriating at most.

This is Dave Dombrowski time, so Al has a very important job to do. He must make us forget about Dave. So far, he has fallen way short. We need an aggressive-minded GM. We had one. I doubt we do now.

Meanwhile, we will just watch JD continue to hit bombs in Arizona. I hate that it has come to this.

WOULD YOU RATHER….?

By:  Holly Horning

Want to have a little fun while considering the tougher topics the Tigers have had to tackle? Let’s play a game!

For those of you unfamiliar with Would You Rather..?, you are given a choice of 2 actions, both with consequences. Each choice is hard. Each choice makes you think. And each choice is somehow joined in a common bond with the other choice. And you can only pick one of them.

Here is my version. Take your time thinking about each of them because I’m going to ask you to join in at the end.


Would you rather….

1. Have Chris Ilitch maintain control of the team or roll the dice on a new, unknown owner?

2. Trade off as many of the players as possible in order to facilitate a quicker rebuild or trade the minimal number in order to keep as much of the team intact?

3. Prefer the team to continue to collect exciting power hitters or assemble a squad of guys who are faster, practice situational hitting and are better defensively?

4. See JV wear another uniform or see him retire wearing the Old English D?

5. Have the joy of experiencing all those recent AL Central and playoff titles or a single year in which the Tigers win the World Series?

6. See the team play mediocre baseball for the rest of the year or have them tank which would likely inspire the Front Office to take quicker action in making bigger and more significant changes to the team?

7. Prefer to see Ausmus finish the year as manager or install a new interim manager from within the organization?

8. Watch Cameron Maybin in CF or Mikie Mahtook?

9. See Justin Upton opt-out of his contract or stay to contribute at the plate and remain as the only likely veteran outfielder?

10. See the team finish as well as possible or finish as one of the 10 worst teams and receive the benefits (including drafting perks) associated with the Competitive Balance component of the CBA?


Now it’s your turn.  Pick ONE of the above and support your argument with no more than 3 sentences.

TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Today, we revisit a topic that was very popular in the past. And it continues to be an interesting scenario to consider.

As is the norm, Kurt and Holly have not shared their responses to the following topic; the best way for our readers to get the biggest bang for their buck. So here we go.


The S.S. Ilitch is taking on water and going down. Unfortunately, there is only 1 lifeboat on board that seats 5. Out of the passengers – owner, GM, manager, coaches and the 25-man roster, which 5 should be saved so they see 2018 with the Tigers – and why?


KURT

Every good team is built well up the middle. A strong catcher, second and short combination as well as a centerfielder possessing all the tools both offensively and defensively; they are all components that will find their way onto the lifeboat.

Unfortunately, the Tigers don’t have all those components to build a strong up-the-middle core; but they are close. And speaking of up-the-middle, pitching will always be a huge attribute. So if we have any to build on, they find their way onto the boat. After that, this cannot be a boat full of Tigers without the Big Fella.

1. Miggy – Although Cabrera is having one of the most difficult seasons of his career, I am confident 2018 will be different for him. All indications point to the need to begin a lesser role defensively and also I would expect some change in management, beginning with Brad Ausmus; a move I believe Miggy will welcome.

2. McCann – You may be shocked by this, but I still see James McCann as the catcher of the future for the Tigers. Many have thought the Tigers could afford to unload James, but he is the one with all the potential; strong arm, athletic behind the plate and a leader, which we can’t take lightly.

3. Kinsler – Ian, even as he heads into his mid 30’s, represents a whole bunch of leadership swagger. He more than anyone else is the guts and the glue for the Tigers; he’s not only on the boat, he’s helping guys onboard.

4. Iggy – You cannot underestimate the value of a rock solid, defensive wizard at the shortstop position. Jose Iglesias is a gold-glover in waiting and deserves to anchor the Tiger infield for years to come.

5. Fulmer – I don’t know if there is much to say here. Of course he’s on the boat.


HOLLY

Before you can select the “final five”, you gotta pick your goal for the future. And for me, it’s pretty clear about the direction this team has been taking over the past couple of years so it’s time to rip that band-aid off in one single pull and go for an up-front rebuild before it gets really, really ugly.

For the most part, I am going younger, leaner, less expensive and possessing more tools – with a couple of exceptions. Players who were crucial to have, like closers, won’t be as important going forward short-term, which is why you won’t find them on my life boat. But I’m also putting a focus on athletes with energy, attitude and attention. Oh, and ones who are hungry. All aboard……

1. Michael Fulmer – No explanation necessary.

2. Mikie Mahtook – He’s reverting to the promise seen in 2015 and already meeting or eclipsing those stats with more than 2 more months to go. Minimum salary, only 27 years old, better range, better defense and faster.

3. Ian Kinsler – The guy never gives up, has a tremendous work ethic, top defensive skills and is the glue and leader that holds this team together. He’ll be needed to mentor the young and all these factors easily outweigh his age and contract.

4. Matt Boyd – He’s had amazing growth this year both with his mental game and pitch development and he’s someone who could easily be part of that 1-2 punch with Fulmer. Don’t mistake his unevenness this year for lack of talent because it’s really a typical path for a starting pitcher who just turned 26 in spring training and has been in the majors for less than 2 years.

5. Miggy – I don’t buy the excuse that his alarming total lack of emotion and focus is solely based upon injury or Venezuela – both issues that have plagued him for the past 2-3 years without impacting his performance to this degree. Don’t be surprised if changes made within the Front Office, managerial/coaching levels and medical/training/conditioning show a resurgence of one of baseball’s best hitters.

CASTELLANOS TRADE WORTH CONSIDERING

By:  Kurt Snyder

If you are tracking trade rumors, the names are all the same. But what kind of trade, if it would materialize, would surprise you?

Certainly, a trade involving Miggy would surprise all of us considering the investment involved.

Any kind of trade involving VMart would involve a drug test; not for Victor but for any front office looking to acquire him. He isn’t going anywhere. There is no trade value whatsoever for a guy having a down year, can’t play a defensive position and is declining quickly.

In 2018, the Tigers must re-address how they use VMart. His continued usage will be a strategy requiring plenty of flexibility and creativity when deciding what is best for the team. A change is needed there, and it must include VMart playing less and Miggy DH-ing more.

So we have covered the guys who absolutely are not leaving town. And the media has continuously mentioned the same guys on the block for the Tigers. Justin Wilson and Alex Avila continue to be the next guys needing to pack, with Verlander needing to locate his luggage just in case.

But are there others? Who are we not considering? Verlander finds his name in the news on and off. Zimmermann has been mentioned with JV in a recent rumor involving the Yankees. But which Tiger is improving, yet maybe not at the rate many would prefer?

Which Tiger is still young enough, who offers a potential suitor plenty of years of control and who could bring the Tigers a good return? Nicholas Castellanos is 25, becomes arbitration eligible after 2018, but doesn’t become a free agent until after 2020. Fans are noticing his development, but that’s just us.

Are other franchises impressed?

What do they think of Nick defensively?

What do they think of Nick offensively?

Although his batting average doesn’t wow you as it currently sits at .251, Nicholas ranks highly on just one more new stat we follow in today’s game. Players are now ranked for how hard they hit the ball regardless of whether or not those balls are hits or outs.

So, when you consider his potential trade value, do you wonder when he is about to explode offensively? We thought this could be the year, and there has been improvement, but we are still waiting for that real big season, aren’t we?

This is the kind of year, where if Dave Dombrowski was still here and in charge, suddenly a trade would materialize involving someone we didn’t expect. And trading Nicholas Castellanos would be greeted with surprise and surely a  polarizing response.

But DD is gone. Mystery, deception and close-to-the-vest wagers may have gone with him. With Avila, there isn’t that mystery – not yet. DD and Al don’t seem to be GMs cut from the same cloth even though their careers never strayed too far from one another.

A deal sending Nicholas Castellanos somewhere would be this: A departure of a rising talent. A departure of a player improving both offensively and defensively. In fact, under the current philosophy, a 25-year-old talent would not be considered someone you would deal normally.

But do you question his ceiling? Well, I do. How close is it? Is it approaching within the next couple years? It could be. Or is Nicholas the kind of player who will improve immeasurably over the next 4-5 years? Potentially, yes. And specifically for the Tigers, is he someone they could move to first base when VMart moves on?

Don’t the Tigers have to get creative and look at what will bank us the most talent in return? Sometimes risks bring a larger volume of talent. We have a couple more trades that we see happening real soon. They are not questions of if; only when. But no one has sniffed out or suggested this one.

To me, it’s the perfect time to trade Nick. And if he goes elsewhere and becomes an All-Star, that doesn’t mean we made a bad trade. Players who end up being keys to your success don’t automatically mean they stayed.

Maybe when they leave is when they became the most valuable.

COACHES COUNT

By:  Holly Horning

I was listening to a program about the Cardinals the other day which piqued my interest and offered some solutions to what is going on with their team this year. It also offered some clues about the Tigers.

As you may have seen, the Cardinals are uncharacteristically mired in 4th place this season, a couple of games under .500. Naturally, everyone in baseball is asking why. Is it the injuries? Is it the loss of some players? A change in clubhouse chemistry? Is it the manager?

But it’s not just the losses. Those who know the Cards point to the “loss of the Cardinal Way.” Poor fielding, a definite downgrade in fundamentals, loss of focus and sloppy play as the rationale for their losing ways.

So the hosts went to their sources – several former players who remain connected to the organization. Separately, and without knowledge of what the other one was going to say, they both pointed to one factor. The loss of Jose Oquendo after last year.

Jose was the Cardinals’ third base coach until he was forced to retire due to health reasons.

Both former athletes said he was the glue that held the players together. Jose spent time talking baseball with the players, inviting them out to dinner, taking rookies under his wing, checking in with them over the off-season and even using their plane trips as an opportunity to discuss baseball.

But they also said that Oquendo set the standards for the team and enforced them. Players performed well because they knew they would be called out if they didn’t. If they didn’t care, if they didn’t pay attention to the details, they received “a visit.” Sometimes even a benching.

They also said that there is no one currently on the team who has filled that role. And that is why the team has slipped in its performance.

Which brings us to our Tigers.

We’ll never know what goes on with players and coaches when they’re not on the field. And don’t expect players to get thrown under the bus publicly. But evidence seen during games is another matter.

Players are routinely running through Dave Clark’s stop signs. It doesn’t say much about their respect for the coach. Others are throwing to the wrong base or exhibiting sloppy, disinterested play. And the interviews done with the manager the next day never indicate that the problem is being addressed so it doesn’t happen again.

Fundamentals are still very poor, yet nothing changes. And the other day on tv, Kirk Gibson mentioned that he keeps emphasizing certain base running strategies that players, like Nick Castellanos, keep ignoring. While Gibby only works with the team during spring training, the failure to listen or to correct the mistake is a common thread.

Add to the poor play, the inability of the team to enforce the message they want to send. When was the last time a player was benched? You can even flip off the fans with a single digit or a flick of the chin and be guaranteed that you will be playing again the next day.

To fans, we don’t have any visible proof that either Clark, Vizquel, Dubee or McClendon have made any visible inroads in encouraging and enforcing better play. And with the news that Brad did not speak to the players (per Justin Verlander) at the rare clubhouse meeting, there’s little hope with the manager taking charge.

And this will be the concern that Al Avila has to address in the off-season.

He should be commended for finally establishing a “Tigers’ Way” manual. However, no matter how excellent and detailed it may be, the new policies laid out will fail if he doesn’t find that crucial final piece(s) to implement it. A standard-bearer in a managerial or coaching uniform.

Al’s got a lotta work to do……..