THE SIGNS

By:  Holly Horning

For the first time in many years, we have very different expectations of the Tigers as they head into 2018. No longer is there any hint of being competitive and the word “rebuild” has now officially been uttered.

So how is a Tiger fan to remain sane? How should we be framing this coming year in terms of expectations? And how can we find ways in which to enjoy our team?

As we have discovered, we didn’t necessarily find a higher level of joy when the Tigers won games despite the clear lack of fundamentals, sloppy baserunning, defensive gaps and dumpster fire relieving. We certainly couldn’t find much emotion in enjoying the game when the players clearly appeared disinterested and unfocused on most days.

But now there is a new sheriff in town who brings hope that some of these things will get better. The winning certainly will be much less but potentially there will be greater passion seen and guys who will be trying harder in the field and at the plate.

Ron’s reputation as a motivator is certainly encouraging, but we need much more proof that the Tigers are serious about jettisoning their old ways and adopting proven strategies that they have ignored for the past decade.

We need signs. We need to hear that changes are being made. And we need to hear them before spring training begins.


Here is my list of the top 10 things I want to see – I need to see – happen. Signs that will allow me to sleep at night. (FYI, this was written 24 hours before the Tigers announced their coaching changes.)

1. The rumors of a new pitching coach are great, but everyone else on the coaching staff needs to go. No more signings of men connected to Jim Leyland or for that matter, old retired Minnesota coaches. Unfortunately, Jim Leyland will be staying because afterall, Gardy is one of his closest friends. But the Tigers need to at least put a restraining order on Gene Lamont to stay 1,000 feet away from the dugout.

2. New coaches. Younger coaches. Successful coaches from teams not named Tigers, Marlins, Pirates, Twins or Mariners. And no coaches who have remained unemployed since getting fired.

3. Miggy needs to get his personal life under control and eliminate the distractions. Then he needs to get serious about his physical condition which should include seeking the advice of his own independent medical specialists and personal trainers armed with the latest proven training regimens. Which brings us to……

4. Saying “buh-bye” to the entire training/conditioning department and seriously rethinking the medical team. No need to rehash why. Somehow, I can’t imagine Kevin Rand, Doug Teter and Matt Rankin incorporating pilates and yoga into their training program which the majority of MLB now require their players to take.

5. Ron Gardenhire being interviewed about his meetings with the analytic department. Al Avila offering more info about how the analytic department works and the tools they use. Increasing the analytic employees hired would be a good thing, too.

6. A statement of intent about how the Tigers are going to change things. Details such as a focus on fundamentals, hiring new baserunning coaches and how the team is going to focus more on adapting to Comerica’s field.

7. Job announcements that show the old faces moving out and being replaced by outsiders from top teams. Extra points for guys who worked with Theo Epstein and Farhan Zaidi and bring MBA backgrounds in analytics, sports economics and psychology.

8. A partnership with a training/conditioning specialist group that develops, oversees and monitors every player’s off-season training regimen. The Nats did it several years ago to combat the rash of injuries and look what happened to them since.

9. An interview with Gardy stating his principles for managing and focus on fundamentals, smart baserunning, defensive improvement and team-building skills. We need to know just how differently he is going to manage.

10. A statement, any statement, by Chris Ilitch about his vision, intent and goals for the team. No cookie-cutter, legalese comments but something that hints of interest and passion. And if it’s not forthcoming, if he remains an enigma, then we know what that’s about, too.

What’s on your list? What one thing do you want to witness before the team gathers in Lakeland?


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TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Now that the hiring of the Tigers’ new manager has sunk in, where do we go from here? Where does Ron Gardenhire go from here? There is much to do.  So, where do we start?

As is the norm, our writers 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 is our main question to address.


What should Ron Gardenhire’s top priority be for this year as he steps into the Tigers’ managerial job?


KURT

Gardenhire needs to implement a complete turnover in his staff. And it appears he has gotten off to a good start by informing Gene Lamont that he will not return as the bench coach. Hallelujah!

Within all the trends being established around the league, one interesting one stands out as more and more young coaches are getting managerial opportunities. Two bench coaches have been given shots to lead high-profile teams as they continue to contend for World Titles.

I would expect (or hope) that Gardy will bring on board a  younger bench coach from a progressive organization who can grow under Gardy, and strengthen the coaching staff at the same time.

Gardenhire himself, has been exposed to the inner workings of the Arizona Diamondbacks, just another organization doing things the right way. So, his exposure to that environment, even at this point in his career, is a variable that made his candidacy more intriguing.

Establishing respect while stressing fundamentals will be Gardy’s first big challenge. The respect should come easily. He has been around a long time and he appears to have been a very likable manager throughout his tenure in the big leagues.

But fundamentals? The team has been starved for someone with some cache’ to come in, take charge and to instill a focus. The shallow attempts at improving base running by having Kirk Gibson work with the team in spring training had little impact and frankly demonstrated how weak the culture was in regards to fundamentals.

Fundamentals can make the difference between winning and losing. Unfortunately, we have learned all too well that even a team loaded with stars has trouble winning when they routinely run into outs and turn singles into doubles through miscues in the outfield.

So, doesn’t all of this come back to earning respect? Hiring a staff that shares the same ideals but also brings progressive thinking, is an important first step. It’s an important first year. Establishing a strong base to build on is Step 1.


HOLLY

This team has so many important needs going forward and while we may be tempted to say “address the fundamentals” or “play solid baseball”, we really need to be digging even deeper and peeling back the layers all the way to the foundation. Because nothing is going to stick unless the corporate culture – that foundation – is changed.

But you knew I was going to say that, right?

Technically, the tone is set at the top but we have yet to hear one word from Chris Ilitch about the team in over a year. No evidence in the press that he has visited the clubhouse or shared any words of wisdom or direction with the players. We do read that he is quite the opposite of his father and is reserved when it comes to communication.

In other words, don’t expect him to set the organizational standards.

Unfortunately, this is also not a strength of Al Avila which leaves the job to……. Ron Gardenhire.

And that just may be a good thing because Gardy is not afraid to speak his mind. He’s been known to set the standards of his former rosters and call them out when warranted. Add in his reputation as being affable and respected and it’s a hopeful combination.

Ron’s “to do” list is quite long given that we now know the clubhouse disintegrated and became increasingly dysfunctional over the past 4 years, filled with self-centered individuals with little concern about their teammates’ performance, while also lacking leadership and direction.

His first job is going to be teaching them that the letter “I” is not found in the word “team.” And when you work at becoming unified, you sow the seeds for creating expectational structure and leadership. And when you have leaders, you now have people who will make the others accountable.

A cohesive group is much more likely to work towards the same goals. Group goals as opposed to individual ones as we’ve seen in past years.

And for a team expected to continue its turn toward youth and inexperience, this is especially important. The veterans with voices are essentially gone so this expected cast of youth and inexperience will need guidelines to follow and a structure and level of expectations if they are to survive and thrive.

This rebuild needs to go right and the Tigers can’t afford to waste any more talent.


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THE CARDS WE’VE BEEN DEALT

By:  Kurt Snyder

Now that the damage has been done, or the decision has been made, it looks like it’s time to do what we have been forced to do the last 4 seasons.

We must move on. We have to try with all our might to embrace what many feel is another missed opportunity to get the Tigers moving in a more progressive direction when it comes to the formula for winning baseball.

As everything has now sunk in and we have absorbed what Ron Gardenhire has said, it appears he was sufficiently prepped for the common theme of teams looking to rebuild. The Tigers were ready to confront the questions about analytics and the perceived continued departure from it, in the form of Ron Gardenhire as the new manager.

The Minnesota Twins under Gardenhire were mainly regular season pests. They were well-managed. But their talent level had a low ceiling. But Gardenhire was given much of the credit for making them work hard and well, overachieve.

It’s why he was hired here, isn’t it? The Tigers view themselves as the Twins of old. A team with a limited payroll. A younger team in the throes of rebuilding.

And under Gardenhire, the Twins did play good fundamental baseball. They were a disciplined team. Young guys were given a solid base on which to progress. They would occasionally make the playoffs, where they continued in that pest role. Though they were tough to beat, they would be beaten, because come playoff time, they just didn’t have the talent to overcome the larger market ball clubs.

It was that ceiling that would keep them from rising any further. Ownership established that ceiling and rarely wavered.

So this is where we must begin to move on and figure out how Gardenhire can help the Tigers. He is one who can indeed take a young cast of characters, starved to be taught, starved for someone to improve their game and build their careers. Gardenhire did that in Minnesota. And he surprised many with being able to it quickly.

He didn’t say, “Why do we have to lose?” in his press conference, just to make us smile. He does have that mind-set. This is still all about winning. He’s not coming here to fill a gap, as much as we all believe that. The goal of every manager is to win in any circumstance.

Even as the odds are against you, you don’t have succumb to them. Establishing a base is a good way for Gardy to start in Detroit. He will do that initially, through the coaches that he hires and ultimately the way he handles some of the more difficult personalities currently on the roster.

He will need to take charge. And he knows how to do that. He will need to command respect. And he knows how to do that. He will need to drill fundamentals into a team that is starving for it. And yes, he knows how to do that. Maybe more than anything else.

Sorry, folks. Unfortunately, we know the drill when it comes to the Tigers making moves with which we don’t agree. The decisions the team has made with the managerial position has been a lightning rod for the fan base.

What we know about the upcoming season is that the Tigers will struggle. Gardy knows the situation all too well. It has been his legacy to do more with less. It’s up to us to find answers in the situation that has been presented to us.

After the World Series, it will begin with the coaching staff. A total housecleaning is what we desire. Who will be in charge for this first hurdle will be evident when the staff is final. And if it proves to be Gardenhire, it will mean he is not hamstrung by a GM, an advisor and an owner.

It will be a good start. But who is at all comfortable given the names at the top have not changed?


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TIMING IS EVERYTHING

By:  Holly Horning

Everyone has one…..That friend with absolutely no sense of rhythm or timing. Can’t dance or snap fingers to the beat of the music. Awkward movements initiated just before the downbeat or after-the-fact.

Substitute “managers” for “music” and you have the Tigers. They never could manage to hire someone at the right time. Except back in 1979. And we know what happened as a result.

But in a scenario eerily opposite to what has recently taken place with a number of East Coast teams, the Tigers held onto their manager after 2011 despite only 1 first place finish in their division for the 6 years since 2006. Despite having a mandate from Mr. I to get that ring. Despite being unable to perform well late in the playoffs.

Jim Leyland did not have a contract in the years he spent with the Tigers. It was all done on a yearly basis and by a handshake with the promise by both sides that either the Tigers or he could end his tenure as manager. And despite winning the division for the first time, the Tigers lost out to the Texas Rangers in the playoffs for 2011.

And right around that time, the Boston Red Sox were imploding within all divisions of their organization from ownership all the way down to the clubhouse attendance guys. Theo Epstein resigned as did the majority of the Front Office. Manager Terry Francona asked ownership not to pick up his option so he could also depart.

The same guy who just won yet another Manager of the Year award this past Thursday to bring his total to 3 (and a couple near-misses). The same guy who has been repeatedly voted Best Manager by fellow managers, coaches and players in MLB.

And you’re not alone in thinking that if the Tigers had snapped him up either in 2011 or 2012, there would be at least 1 flag flying over Comerica by now.

Leyland only stayed 2 more years after Tito became available. The same guy who sports a .562 winning record in 5 years with the Indians and did it on a payroll that ranged from a third to a half of the Tigers’.

Then the Tigers over-corrected in the winter of 2013 with their quick selection of Brad Ausmus as their manager. The same guy expected to take them to the World Series, and win it, in his first year of managing. And Dave Dombrowski later said that they snapped him up because he was afraid Brad would go elsewhere. For such an important hire, you would think they would be more thoughtful about the hiring process.

Fast-forward to Fall 2017. The names have changed but the modus operandi remains the same. The Tigers made this season’s first managerial hire. And once again, the official explanation included a statement that they wanted to make sure another team wasn’t going to grab Ron Gardenhire.

It’s not the best reason to use to help explain your selection process.

And this is why it’s wise to delay your hiring until the maximum applicant pool is achieved. Especially when legitimate rumors surrounded some of the top managers in the business. Managers like Joe Girardi, Dusty Baker and John Farrell – two of whom did not have contracts beyond this year. And when you don’t have a contract by the All-Star break, it means something is going on.

The rumors started in September and continued. The Tigers had to know that some of these managers would possibly be leaving.

And there were scores of accomplished candidates currently managing and coaching in the playoffs. Yet another reason to wait. In fact, Al Avila said he planned on taking his time and hiring someone after the World Series because some of these people were on his list. But true to form, they again jumped the gun.

And now there is a candidate pool better than the one-handed to the Tigers. There’s that snap just before the downbeat hits.

In all fairness, the Red Sox GM – the same one who moved too soon with hiring Ausmus – also replaced his manager too quickly. Can you imagine if he had waited and potentially signed Joe Girardi?

Then you have the polar opposite teams – Washington and the Yankees. Teams who have no time to waste and appear to be seeking perfection. Who else would fire their manager after his teams won 95 and 97 games in each of his years as skipper? In this case, it was because of the playoff record.

NY fired their manager, because, well, we’re not quite all that sure as to the exact reason. A manager who took a “rebuilding” team and got them back into contention in less than a year.

Both these teams pulled their respective triggers much too soon. And the Tigers? Much too late. Eight years with the same manager that earned only 1 World Series game win. And a team that is now warning fans the rebuild will take an unknown number of years.

One thing we do know. Teams who are bold in their decision-making are much more successful. They have more trophies. The Tigers were bold once back in 1979 and it paid off.

But they are a safe team. A conservative team. And they will make safe choices that will slowly and cautiously move them forward. The only problem is that other teams may speed past them in the process.

And finally, there’s another strategy to consider regarding the Tigers’ decision to once again be the first to hire a new manager. Maybe they wanted Gardenhire all along. Maybe they had made their decision weeks, even months ago. Maybe it didn’t really matter that they interviewed other candidates. Maybe the hiring process was simply a way of appeasing MLB’s suggested protocols.

And if that’s the case, then we’re talking a whole different can of worms….


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QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, KUDOS & CONCERNS

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

While the World Series rolls along, teams around Major League Baseball are making changes, all while we wait to see what our team in Detroit will do under the new skipper.

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

CONCERN

Once again, the Tigers timed their managerial hire poorly and rushed the signing of Ron Gardenhire as they did with Brad Ausmus. Despite knowing that many of the best candidates were currently playing in the World Series and thus unavailable, and that there were viable rumors for weeks that Girardi, Baker and Farrell may not return, they should have waited. Similar to fearing that Ausmus would be scooped up, either the Tigers were once again afraid of someone else grabbing Gardy or Avila had planned on bringing him in all along.

COMMENT

With the multiple stories about Justin Verlander’s tremendous success including a 9-0 record since joining his new team, the Tigers are once again trying to spin the negative perception of their organization and off-set the bargain deal the Astros received. Stories and interviews in which JV heaps praise on the Astros pitching coach and his new team’s resources, especially analytics. Meanwhile, multiple “reports” are appearing in the Detroit papers giving credit to Brad Ausmus for the analytics inspiration and claims that JV’s success is solely due to playing for a stronger team.

KUDOS

Hasn’t this year been an amazing one for the playoff teams, especially the Astros and Dodgers? The skills, the depth, the multiple ways to get it done coupled with the intensity and passion of the players is just such a fun thing to watch. Hopefully, the Tigers are taking copious notes about what it now takes to get it done in October and will significantly update their strategies – and speed – going forward.


KURT

COMMENT

Watching this year’s playoffs has been pure joy. On the other hand, sadly, they have proven how far away the Tigers were from championship level baseball, even before they made all the trades. With talk of more trades to come during the winter, the team looks like they will strip the roster down to the bones, taking our expectations from what had been a high level for so many years to an extremely low one for 2018.

QUESTION

Should we be rooting for JV to get his ring this season? Or should we be throwing him into the big scrap heap of players whom we no longer care about when they leave town? I think it is completely different with Verlander as he has been so mesmerizing to watch over the years; many will still be interested in following and rooting for him even though he no longer wears the home uniform.

COMMENT

The Tigers were so starved for players with energy and enthusiasm over the last couple of years that the addition and then deletion of Cameron Maybin impacted the team dramatically. And now that he is enjoying a playoff run as a Houston Astro, it’s interesting how even though he hasn’t changed, he is simply just another player who cares and enjoys the game. The Houston dugout is loaded with players like Maybin which is something to note as the Tigers rebuild their roster; one guy with fire is not enough, it’s a trait that should be shared by everyone who steps on that field.


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OPEN MIKE!

microphoneIt’s Friday folks, which means it’s your day! This 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.

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. We know there’s a lot on your minds…you have proven it.


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HALL WOULD SOFTEN THE FALL

By:  Kurt Snyder

This won’t be the first time I have written on this topic. Not by a long shot. But I bring it up again today because of the latest opportunity for 3 Tiger greats to hopefully, once and for all, enter the Baseball Hall of Fame.

If you haven’t read past blogs on this topic, feel free to familiarize yourself with them. If you aren’t just a little fired up about the topic after reading them, well, then you better check your Tiger Baseball pulse.

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/destiny-and-idols/

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/trammell-doesnt-belong-in-the-hall/

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/1-and-3-not-retired-but-still-honored/

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/03/13/iggy-and-ian-time-to-give-up-your-numbers/

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/tigers-should-cherish-the-moments/


It’s been a topic of interest on this site almost from its inception. The snubbing of Tiger greats who possess stats comparable to current Hall of Famers has been something that has enraged many fans.

The Tiger organization has been criticized. The media have been criticized and the Hall of Fame itself, has been criticized.

Trammell, Whitaker and Morris. Three Tiger greats who defined Detroit baseball in the ’80’s. Three who were instrumental during the 1984 World Championship season.  And 3 who still deserve to have the honor of standing among the greats of our terrific game.

You get the feeling that eventually Tram, Lou and Jack will find their way into the Hall, don’t you? There are opportunities coming around the bend through the Modern Baseball Committee which votes twice every 5 years. And the voting in December would be the perfect time for these popular Tiger greats, all on the ballot,  to finally add those exclamation points to their stellar career records.

Why now? Why is now one of the best times? Well, unfortunately because the Tigers are headed into a difficult season. And fans are going to need some feel-good moments to help get them through the season. This would not only be one of them, it would be a long-awaited celebration.

This wouldn’t be like bringing Tiger greats back to honor them, for um, being Tiger greats.  Sorry but those ceremonies are growing tired, don’t you think?  No, this would be something entirely different. And Tiger fans have been pining for this. So, I hope the franchise is paying attention and planning, should any or all of these players are voted into Cooperstown.

The Tigers have been stingy with number retirements but have not been when the Hall of Fame is involved. We could celebrate their induction. We could celebrate their number retirements. And we could celebrate the unveiling of their statues.

It would be a big day in Detroit during a season when there probably aren’t going to be many. But this would be memorable. Fans have been waiting a long time for this.

Don’t Trammell and Whitaker need to go in together? It seems fitting, doesn’t it? There is no comparable story when it comes to these 2, having come into the big leagues together at short and second and staying together for 19 seasons in Detroit.

Will Morris finally be recognized for being the winningest pitcher in the ‘80’s and his 4 World Titles in 3 different cities? Heck, if it happens for Morris, he’s going to be watching his number retired all over the place. He spread his brilliance from Detroit to Minnesota and finally to Toronto.

When teams are winning, marketing departments don’t have to work as hard to promote their team and sell tickets. But when a team is heading into a rebuild and the first of seemingly several down years, this kind of celebration is the best medicine imaginable.

So, let’s get this done in December, so we can celebrate a warm and electric summer night for the books next season.  A night when Tram and Lou and Jack can finally realize an honor they have been waiting for and greatly deserve.


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THE FINAL ANALYSIS – THE HABITS

By:  Holly Horning

We’re getting closer, folks. Ten+ years of failing to get that ultimate prize keeps us busy trying to identify the myriad of factors involved. It’s never 1 or 2 factors that are responsible. It’s many.

Baseball is such a simple game but complex in its makeup. And it’s impossible to list all of the factors, but we’ll try to get the more significant ones identified. Some big, some small and some more damaging than others.


So far, we’ve covered some of the tangibles as well as the intangibles. If you didn’t read the intro and first 4 installments of this in-depth series, catch them here:

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/10/03/previews-reviews-interviews/

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/10/07/the-final-analysis-the-individuals/

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/10/10/the-final-analysis-the-groups/

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/10/14/the-final-analysis-the-priorities/

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/the-final-analysis-the-2-as/


Let’s continue the countdown and identify the habits of the Tigers that repeatedly got them into trouble during the past decade. Some of them chipped away at the team every year and have now put the Tigers into a hole from which they can no longer dig out. The biggest and most deadly of the organization’s habits has been the inability to learn from history. They have made the same mistakes over and over with each new year – while achieving the same results. Let’s dig into more of their habits, shall we?

FOCUSED ON THE PRESENT

The drive for a ring had the entire organization focused no more than 1-2 years ahead. The farm system was savaged for tradeable parts and rookies like Robbie Ray, Eugenio Suarez, Corey Knebel and Devon Travis, to name a few, were traded for immediate needs. Because of this, the farm system became barren and until the July trade deadline, ranked near the very bottom of MLB. Eventually, the team had no more viable prospects to trade for proven talent and injuries created long-term problems of viable roster solutions and inflexibility. This is what happens when you continue to focus on the fruit of the tree, instead of regularly feeding the roots.

LOYALTY OVER ACCOUNTABILITY

When people aren’t held accountable, there is no motivation to perform at a higher level. It goes for players but also for everyone else in the organization. Scouts who made failed recommendations on expensive signings remain. As do coaches and managers who were unable to motivate players to play to their potential. Much of the organization dates all the way back to the Marlins and most of the coaches were retained from manager to manager.

And there is the nasty habit of taking in failed former managers at an alarming rate. With apologies to the quote written on the Statue of Liberty, (sic) ““Give me your tired, your dated, your huddled former managers…, the wretched unwanted of your MLB team, send them…. to Detroit.” Six former managers and counting…

MANAGING THE CLUBHOUSE

For 15 years now, the Tigers have see-sawed back and forth on the importance and influence of a manager. From Alan Trammell’s failed attempt to earn the players’ respect to Jim Leyland regaining control. But the lesson was not learned and the team guaranteed failure by adding a rookie manager to a clubhouse filled with some of baseball’s most highly paid, veteran egos. And once again, the pendulum swings back to the hire of Ron Gardenhire who will be responsible for regaining control of the clubhouse and controlling the dynamics created by 25 competitive personalities.

FAILURE TO PULL THE DAMN TRIGGER/ NO SENSE OF URGENCY

Not building a decent bullpen. Keeping managers past their prime, especially when great candidates become available. Continuing to play guys with problematic personalities or systematic performance failures. Ignoring the trends and tools most other teams have adopted. Not making changes when the current system (the lineup, closer, etc.) is no longer working. Ignoring the problems seen in the playoffs. The same players getting injured every single year and allowing the injuries to linger most of the season. The list goes on.

But the pattern has always been about waiting until the problem becomes so bad that it is untenable. Problems and issues which are allowed to grow and get out of control before anything is done. Being reactive instead of proactive will always put you behind everyone else.

And then there is the question of that window that kept closing a little bit more every year. And hiring a rookie with no managerial experience to oversee the final, crucial years of solid contention. That decision will never make any sense.

COLLECTING THE SAME TYPE OF PLAYERS

Flame-throwing starting pitchers. Big, slow guys who can wallop home runs but have problems fielding and running. Lots of one-tool guys but few who can win you games in multiple ways. And guys not built for the ballpark in which they play. Winning came down to a single formula of lights-out pitching combined with HRs – with little deviation.

NOT PAYING ATTENTION TO THE DETAILS

Players who come to spring training out of shape and overweight and management is surprised. A pattern of the same type of injury happening to multiple players or to the same guy over and over. An emphasis on muscle-building and not on developing strong cores, reaction time or flexibility. No set standard of play or enforcement of the fundamentals. Sloppy play that does not get called out or corrected. Players who struggle much of the year and don’t understand or get help concerning what the root problem may be.

Details make the difference. Always have, always will. Just look at how the best teams behave and play, especially this post-season.

SAME PEOPLE, SAME DECISIONS

The majority of the decision-makers from the GMs to the scouts to the Front Office to the training/conditioning departments have been together since 1991 and the Marlins – 27 years! Some have been together even longer than that going all the way back to their playing days. The same insular group with very few additions from outside organizations. No new ideas, no different ideas, no different perspectives. It’s a tight, little, exclusive – and insular – clique that refuses to broaden their thinking and open themselves up to new possibilities.

These are the biggest and most influential habits. On Sunday, we’ll finish by identifying the mental, strategic and corporate culture patterns that served as roadblocks to that ring, so please save your thoughts about them until then.


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TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

You could ask most baseball fans this year about what has been the highlight of the playoffs heading into the World Series, and the majority would say the brilliance of Justin Verlander. But how should we feel in Detroit? What does his performance in Houston say about the Tigers?

As is the norm, our writers 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 is our featured question to address.


Justin Verlander has had phenomenal success with the Astros and just named the MVP of the ALCS. What are Kurt and Holly thinking about JV, the Astros and the Tigers?


KURT

It’s been a bittersweet experience for someone like me who proudly declared every game Verlander pitched as JV Day. It was a day to anticipate. It was a day to marvel at the skills of the best pitcher to ever take the mound for the Tigers.

Trading him seemed necessary and inevitable. And what he has done with the Astros has been stunning for most. But how stunning is it for Tiger fans who have watched him grow his entire career into one of the game’s elite pitchers? Knowing the competitor he is and his desire to be “the man” when his team needs him to most, this run he has had with the Astros has only confirmed what we already knew. He craves these moments.

The disappointing part, of course, is that he had to leave to give him his best shot as a pro to win a World Title. He’s never been on a team this strong. But he is also reaping the benefits of a very progressive organization which has fed him with data not available to him as a Tiger. And incredibly, they have made him better by tweaking his breaking ball. Again, instruction he wasn’t getting with the Tigers.

Who thought we could have gotten even more out of JV? Especially now in his mid-30’s? The Tigers served Justin well by giving him the opportunity to win a championship in Houston. But it appears they didn’t give him all the tools he needed to realize his full potential in Detroit. And that is extremely disappointing.

The 2017 post season has been more exciting than the playoffs have been in years. And the dynamic of watching a favorite son make the difference with another team has not been hard to watch. JV has been absolutely electric and as a fan of the Tigers, I could not be more proud of a player, who still, deep down, represents us.


HOLLY

I alternate between feeling joy for Justin and succumbing to emotions of despair and disappointment for Detroit – opposite ends of the spectrum that focus on what is and what could have been.

First of all, I’m thrilled for JV and rooting for him in the World Series. There are no negative feelings whatsoever for his decision to leave the Tigers. I applaud his choice of making a clear decision in his favor that may just help him finally get that ring and more easily facilitate his entry into Cooperstown down the road. Anyone else would have made the same decision.

Yet it still tugs at my heart to see him wear a different uniform, to hear him in interviews that do not mention the Tigers and to read and listen to reports in which he gives the most glowing, enthusiastic reports about his new manager, pitching coach and an amazing analytics department that helped him go undefeated in both the regular and post-season since he was traded.

I also think about what might have been. How he would have looked if given a bullpen, adequate defensive support and guys who could give him some offensive help. I wonder daily about Detroit being unable to provide him quantifiable help about certain pitches and why hitters kept fouling balls off him, driving up his pitch count. All issues that Houston solved for him in less than two weeks.

And I can’t help but think what a waste. A pitcher like this comes along once in a lifetime and his talents were not fully utilized. Including a starting rotation filled with Cy Young Award winners, MVPs and a Triple Crown with exactly 1 World Series game win to show for all of that.

And I can’t help but think how incomplete this organization’s vision was. A belief that talent was the only thing that mattered. That raw talent was the singular answer that could fix everything and compensate for the visible holes.

I can’t help but think what JV’s numbers would have looked like if more money had been spent on the things that put teams over the top instead of solely on the payroll. I can’t help but think that if they were, we’d have at least one flag flying over Comerica by now.

And I can’t help but wonder if JV’s success in Houston will cloud and replace his memories of Detroit, especially if he gets that ring. Memories that may shift his allegiance to a team that employs his baseball idol – and a team that allowed him to realize his ultimate dreams.


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THE AUSMUS EFFECT

By:  Kurt Snyder

Definition: A candidate for manager without any managerial experience brought on board to win a World Championship – The Ausmus Effect.


Brad Ausmus was Dave Dombrowski’s out-of-the-box answer to replacing Jim Leyland after the 2013 season. Dombrowski got caught up in what must have been one heck of a sales job which drew him to the conclusion that Ausmus could help take the Tigers over the top.

He had determined that the Tigers needed new, inexperienced blood, to help win a title. He wanted someone who had never been there to lead veterans and command their respect. Hindsight makes it easier, but how foolish were we as fans to think that it was something that could work?

Oh, but we caught on quickly. It took us one year. It took Tiger management and ownership 4 years to figure it out. Stupid fans? Not all of us!

August 4th of 2015 brought the departure of Dave Dombrowski. On August 18th, the Red Sox snapped him up. And he began the process in Boston that he had carried out in Detroit. Spending money, emptying the farm system, making playoff appearances in 2016 and 2017; both seasons ending in division series losses.

The 2017 loss to the Astros spelled the end of manager John Farrell. And the search was on for a new manager that could finish the job for the Red Sox under Dave Dombrowski.

Is all of this starting to sound familiar to you? This week, the Red Sox made their decision. One of the hottest candidates for managerial openings was Alex Cora. An ex-Red Sox player. One year of bench coach experience with the Astros. Managerial experience at any level? Nope. None.

After the World Series, Cora will become the next manager of the Boston Red Sox. Alex must have blown Dombrowski away in the interview in order for Dave to head down the same inexperienced road for a new manager he hopes will take Boston to a World Title.

Does this settle it for you? Can we now shut the door on any remaining heartburn over the departure of Dombrowski from Detroit? Well, this does it for me! And I endorsed Cora (among others) for the Tigers!

But there is a big difference. Our team is in a far different place than we were heading into 2014. The team still had designs on winning a title. And the very last thing we needed was someone without a clue when it came to managing a baseball team.

Dombrowski must obviously see something different in Cora. He must be putting a lot of stock into his year of exposure with an organization with a great shot at winning a World Series. He must like that Cora used to play for the Sox. After that, I have no idea why he would head down the same path. The Ausmus Effect is alive and well in Beantown.

Back here in Detroit. Ausmus scared the heck out of Al Avila and Chris Ilitch. At least it appears that way. A rebuilding situation is a great time to grab someone young, maybe not as experienced, someone from an organization on the rise. You just may catch lightening in a bottle. You might end up being the team to unearth the next great manager.

Enter Ron Gardenhire. Loads of experience. Never been to a World Series as a manager. But maybe only for lack of championship-level talent.

Hasn’t Dombrowski learned from his mistake? Shouldn’t Cora be starting his managerial career in a less stressful situation? And shouldn’t Dave have hired Gardenhire instead?

This situation in Boston should be fun to watch. We will need it while we turn our heads away from what will be going on in Comerica Park next season.


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