By: Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning
There are so many pieces of the pie to consider when it comes to putting together a successful sports franchise. So much pressure on so many people when a team is rebuilding. Critical decisions need to be made at every corner of the organization.
So, since it’s Tuesday, our writers have a question to answer.
As is the norm, Holly and Kurt 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.
During this off-season, who within the Tigers’ organization will be saddled with the toughest job?
Well, the most popular answer on who will have the toughest job would be Al Avila or perhaps Ron Gardenhire, but they just don’t happen to be my answer.
With the team transitioning into a total rebuild, reboot or blow up, whatever you want to call it, young talent is what will be the foundation from which to build. Al Avila has said it, but it didn’t need to be said. It’s the logical first step; continuing to build that foundation and loading up the farm.
Every 2017 playoff team has benefitted from a loaded farm system and it’s where the Tigers have been hurt the most. Not by bad free agent signings, not by big contracts but the lack of developing talent in the minor leagues.
So, who’s got the biggest challenge? Well it’s Dave Littlefield, VP of Player Development and Sam Menzin, Director of Baseball Operations & Professional Scouting.
And they have a very important job that starts with finding that star in the draft that the Tigers have not unearthed since Justin Verlander was drafted. The Tigers have the first pick in the draft and they need to find their star. They need to find their Bryce Harper, their Mike Trout or their Carlos Correa.
You guessed it, this is the perfect time for the organization to make that first pick a position player. They will always need pitching and they will have plenty of opportunities to draft more, but they need to choose wisely and ask themselves if the players they choose will someday be guys they can eventually build the team around.
This year’s draft will be the first of perhaps many where the Tigers will be near the top of the pecking order. The goals? High impact, potential stars brought on board to build their future, not someone else’s. This is not an easy task by any means, but a task Littlefield and Menzin will be charged to lead.
It’s easy to put all the pressure on the guys at the top, but they have entrusted people who will be on the ground floor. These are the people who will have the most pressure and will be at the forefront of all of it. You will hear little about them, unless of course they are unsuccessful; it’s normally how things work, unfortunately.
We may automatically think that Al Avila will have the most challenging job as he tries to find buyers for older, expensive players – or attempts to round out the roster with a bare bottom budget. Others may think that Ron Gardenhire may have his hands full trying to change the clubhouse culture which embraced conflict and no accountability. And yet, an argument may be made for pitching coach, Chris Bosio, to pull one of MLB’s worst starting and relief staffs out of the cellar.
But the truth is that the one with the toughest job doesn’t wear a uniform or even step onto the field. It’s the Marketing Department.
Let’s face it – they don’t have a lot to work with this year and not much in the way of people or stats to help them sell tickets. A team now officially in rebuild mode with a GM telling us that it could be a rough 3 – 5 to maybe even more years ahead of us. A GM who has told us several times now that the team will lose a lot of games but won’t purposely be trying to lose them. TMI, Al……TMI…
Adding to that, the organization is continuing its effort to trade at least a couple more players. Players we’ve come to know and love like Iggy and Ian. With JV, Upton, JD and others gone, it’s getting harder and harder to feel warm and fuzzy about those remaining.
The franchise face theory – the strategy that pulls in the greatest number of fans – is on life support. They’ve lost JV to the Astros and their other one, Miggy, isn’t faring well. A guy who had his worst year ever, was injured once again and now facing renewed public scrutiny about how he conducts his personal life. Stories of his reluctance to pay more child support for two children combined with the fact that he is one of the world’s 50 most highly paid athletes. There will be a lot of fans who will no longer see him as favorably as they once did, especially when he didn’t perform well in 2017.
So upon what does the Marketing Department have to hang their hat? Either promoting a pitcher who has been with the team for only 2 years and is coming off elbow surgery combined with MLB’s worst fielding third baseman until he was moved to rightfield. Are we excited yet?
More than likely, the marketing team will try to pull a rabbit out of their magic marketing hat focusing on history rather than reality. Expect lots of special events centered around the 50th anniversary of the 1968 World Series Champion team.
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