20 JANUARY THOUGHTS

By:  Kurt Snyder

Back by popular demand! The first installment of 20 Thoughts for 2018!  Welcome to February, a time when your team begins the trip to Lakeland for another spring training. But hang on! Don’t get ahead of yourself! Give the excitement of January what it deserves!  Translation:  Wake from your slumber and read this.

Keep in mind that not everything you see in these monthly segments is about events from the past month. These are random thoughts, some having to do with the previous month and some that do not. I will do my best to strike a balance between the good and the bad, but heading into a rebuild, that won’t be easy. Anyway, here are my 20 January Thoughts.


1. I don’t care whether you like Ron Gardenhire or not, but you have to admit that it sure is nice to finally be done with the frustrating tenure of Brad Ausmus.

2. Ron Gardenhire has passed 2 hurdles so far; his introduction and opening presser as the new manager and of course, the Winter Caravan / TigerFest. But those were the easy ones; big challenges await.

3. Most of the focus at TigerFest was on the players who weren’t there versus who was there. But even though the absence of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez stole the show, Nick Castellanos made his case for a leadership role this season (more on that later).

4. An entire week went by since the latest contract offer to JD Martinez from the Red Sox. The result? Crickets. This off-season is either the start of a new era in baseball or at least the year that helped to defined it. What this quiet off-season has done is give competitive small market teams the opportunity to acquire players they normally would not be in position to grab. The Brewers, unlike so many teams, have shown the desire to spend and are reaping the benefits of the slow market. Signing Yu Darvish would put the cherry on top.

5. Scan the Tiger infield – it’s really, pretty good. (Carry over from December 2017)

6. About Miggy: The no-nonsense approach of Ron Gardenhire should be good for him. We can’t afford to have Miggy rule the roost like he is used to doing. He’s not in charge. He doesn’t make the call on when he plays and when he doesn’t and that should be made clear. (Carry over from October & November – will ring true until the season starts.) Update: Given that Gardenhire and Miggy have yet to talk signals that this will be the elephant in the room and Gardy’s biggest challenge heading into spring training.

7. The most amusing quote that emerged from TigerFest came from the mouth of Al Avila, who did say this, no lie! “This is an exciting time.”   Who else fell off the couch and spit their beer across the room when you read this?

8. Optimism about Ron Gardenhire based on the information gathered prior to him stepping in the dugout can be premature. What’s not premature are statements based on his experience in rebuilding. “I hate sloppy,” speaks volumes at least for me. A manager who has a disdain for bad baseball is a good place to start.

9. Whitaker and Trammell in the Hall of Fame. Doesn’t that sound good? When will it be true?

10. Early last season, before the purge of most of the Tigers’ stars, I made a statement about the Chicago White Sox and their success in stockpiling talent. I was jealous of them and their off-the-field transformation. They have accumulated some of the best and most promising talent in the game. Does anyone want to question that jealousy now like it was questioned then?

11. Fast forward to this year’s trade deadline in July. The Tigers will certainly be active. Among the players the team is willing to deal, who will offer the best return based on what you know now. Shane Greene is my choice. Who is yours?

12. As far as our middle infielders go, holding onto a still relatively young Iglesias and pairing him with an athletic Dixon Machado at second base would be a nice combination for a team rebuilding. They should play very well together. But don’t blink, because it has been made perfectly clear that Iggy ain’t stayin’ long.

13. There are 5 teams I will be watching intently in 2018. All 5 will have new managers. The Tigers,of course, with Ron Gardenhire, the Nationals with Dave Martinez, the Red Sox with Alex Cora, the Phillies with Gabe Kapler and the Yanks with Aaron Boone. (Essential a carryover from November and December ‘17)

14. I have seen teams heading into a rebuild looking a lot less talented than this current Tiger team. Is it so outrageous to suggest that the team could improve on last year’s record? After all, they did lose 98 games.

15. We have real trouble with Jordan Zimmermann. Since the discovery of his nervy neck issue in the spring, he has been much more bad than good, and with lots of years left on his contract. Even though he did return for a couple starts at end of the season, we should be very concerned with his health and contributions going forward. (Holdover from September, and may stay on this list for a while – yep, staying on for November too – and December) Update: No reason whatsoever for this topic to leave 20 Thoughts in 2018.  At least not yet.

16. Now that you have thought about #14 for a minute,  here is what I believe would be the reason for the Tigers not improving on 98 losses: Depth.

17. If you are not in favor of the Ron Gardenhire hire, what would change your mind in 2018? (Carryover from December 2017)

18.  What has disappointed me the most since the hiring of Gardy?  Outside of Chris Bosio,  I am not at all thrilled with the coaching staff.

19. Does Nicholas Castellanos have the ability to turn the Tigers into his team in 2018? This was a question from December’s version of 20 Thoughts. Here is my answer: No. This is a player with still so much to learn. He is a poor baserunner. He is a poor outfielder. He was a poor third baseman. With so much to improve upon, taking on a leadership role cannot be part of his lengthy list of goals in 2018.

20. I think we can all agree that the biggest concern heading into Spring Training is Gardenhire’s relationship with Miguel Cabrera. It’s not that it’s a bad one, it’s the absence of one.


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THERE IS NO “I” IN TEAM

By:  Holly Horning

Nick Castellano probably never dreamed that he would be the biggest name and attraction at the annual TigerFest given the Tigers’ yearly star-studded team. But that’s what happened this past weekend after a year in which more than 10 familiar faces were either traded or released.

And then there are 3 others, one a franchise face, who also didn’t show for the event. Coincidentally, all of them due to “health” issues.

And it was at TigerFest that Ron Gardenhire admitted that he had yet to talk to Miguel Cabrera, one of those missing. Not that he hadn’t tried. He did leave messages for Miggy.

After a year in which the Tigers offered a myriad of excuses for Cabrera all season long – Venezuela, his mother, injuries, World Baseball Classic, different injuries – they extended their strategy into the off-season. This time, more health concerns and some time out of the country. The latter, rather a reach considering that this is the 21st Century, where everyone has the ability to stay connected 24/7.

In one respect, it is admirable that the organization remains professional and doesn’t throw its members under the bus as we’ve seen this off-season with other teams.

Yet it continues to point to a continuing problem that just becomes more visible each year when it comes to certain players.

Gardenhire was signed on October 20th. He has spoken to every player on the roster except for 2. And somehow, in over 3 months, Miggy hasn’t been able to find the time to return his new manager’s calls.

Can you guess the other player who doesn’t practice proper phone etiquette?

The same one who was declared at the end of the year to be a significant clubhouse problem with both management and fellow players. The same one who was fraternizing with enemy Yankees during the infamous brawl, angering his own teammates. The same one who tried to take a swing at Justin Verlander before being held back by Nick Castellanos.

VMart. The guy who had a hard time connecting with the ball in 2017 and is now having problems connecting with his manager.

Regarding TigerFest, Miggy, in reality was busy preparing for his big court case that starts in a couple of weeks. And while Al Avila reported that Victor was back to preparing for baseball, he was excused from TigerFest because of the concern that riding a bus would be too taxing on his health.

Someone in media relations either has wonderful creativity or a sense of humor.

In actuality, it was a good idea to exclude these two from this annual event. One needs to focus on getting his personal issues successfully behind him so he can focus on getting back to his usual high level of performance without having to continue to deal with last year’s distractions. The other, let’s call him “DH Downer” (for you SNL fans), probably more for the comfort and enjoyment of the event by his teammates.

The concern though, is what happens when spring training starts. When the clubhouse fills up and a new manager and coaches take the helm.

So far, we’ve yet to see some tangible proof that Miggy and Martinez are willing to play ball when it comes to the team’s priorities. They are ignoring the new man in charge.

These are 2 players earning a total of $48 million this year. Over one-third of the team’s total payroll. Salaries that seriously need to be earned because they have entirely sucked up the funds available to do anything else to this roster. But their failure to connect and communicate supports the story that both are focused on themselves. Not on their team.

And when you’ve got 2 players, conceivably 2 of the most important ones on the team, unwilling to do the basics, it doesn’t bode well when it comes to putting the team’s needs first.

I hold out hope that Ron Gardenhire will be able to resolve or at least mitigate this issue. He has a strong presence and personality with a resume of inspiring athletes to play well together. And according to correspondence between a Tigers’ official with our loyal reader, Chuck Terry, it was mentioned that hiring Gardy was done, in part, with the hope of changing the clubhouse culture.

Don’t expect Gardy to try to force two strong-willed individuals to change right off the bat. He’s more of what the French call “the iron fist in the velvet glove.” He’ll likely have a steady process and strategy that he’ll incorporate into his managerial blueprint.

But there is one thing we do know. Gardy will certainly have his work cut out for him – both on the field and in the clubhouse.


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TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

With Tiger Fest in the rear view mirror, let’s pause for a moment and consider what we learned about our new manager.

Our writers are eager to share what they have observed. They haven’t even shared with each other, which is by design. So, what topic will they address when it comes to Ron Gardenhire?


Tiger Fest and the Winter Caravan have now provided us an opportunity to learn more about Ron Gardenhire in his new role as Tigers’ manager. What are your first impressions of the man?


KURT

The word that comes to mind is appreciative. He seems overjoyed to be a manager again; almost a ‘I am back where I belong’ type of attitude. His personality breeds popularity, demonstrated at Tiger Fest, as fans gravitated towards him. He seemed to be very enduring and he doesn’t appear to have a disingenuous bone in his body.

He has a sense of humor, but uses it to support logic and evidence of a plan. He appears glad to be a teacher of the game again, and he’s in Detroit, managing a team he always admired. So, based on what we have witnessed at Tiger Fest, there is no mystery to a man who understands the challenge, seems to welcome it, and relishes the opportunity to make a real difference.

It’s a good fresh start. He will command respect because he won’t tolerate anything else. The first impressions indicate a whole lot of hunger from a man back in a happy place, managing again.


HOLLY

I have a familiarity with Gardy based upon his tenure with the Twins but I’ve so far enjoyed hearing his snippets and interviews about leading the Tigers. We haven’t had this kind of manager in a long time. We’ve had quiet ones, a gruff one and recently a sleep-inducing skipper.

Ron is extroverted, personable, and well-spoken with a welcome quick sense of humor and if anything, he will add some fun to what could be a dour year in which smiles may be few and far between. He also appears to be direct in his communication so I don’t think he’s going to waste our time with information that tells us nothing.

But I also like the fact that he hasn’t pigeon-holed anyone into expectations or roles before meeting and working with them. I sense that there is some degree of an open mind and willingness to explore possibilities and potential instead of simply slapping everyone back into their previous roles.

And this is confirmed by the interviews with several players so far who have had conversations about what they did last year and what they may explore this year. I see all of this as confirmation that he is going to really dig into how to maximize this team’s performance and try to bring out the best in every player.

And if this happens, it will be a very welcome change from the underperformance we’ve seen over the 4 or more past years.


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TIGER FEST NOT FOR EVERYONE

By:  Kurt Snyder

Tiger Fest. It’s an event I have never attended. Not yet.

But something tells me, I may get this assignment in the future. Holly may ask, “Hey, how come you don’t go to Tiger Fest?” or “You may want to consider going, it would be good for Totally Tigers.”

Well, I have thought about it. Which is already a step in the right direction. It is something I am mulling over for next year.

So why haven’t I gone? And why am I suddenly considering it for the future?

Thanks for asking!


Tiger Fest is tailored to a certain kind of fan. They are the fans who will love the team no matter what, and crave the ability to get up close and personal with the players. I think it’s an event that is more tailored to families, because, remember, it starts with the kids.

The chance to ask a player a question is a dream come true for many. It’s an event for autograph hunting, photo ops and a valued handshake from your favorite Tiger.

Ron Gardenhire walked through the throngs of people outside the park, shaking hands, taking photos, even playing a hand of cards with a group of gents.  He did everything but kiss babies like a candidate for office.

This is an important event for teams all over the league. Every season, the marketing department has a job to do. They must promote the team, even bad teams. And the first big opportunity is Tiger Fest. But it’s a taller order when the team is headed into a season where very little success is expected.

Tiger Fest is all positive, folks. Which is fine, but I am really not interested in an event where they are blowing smoke from every angle.  However, I am now willing to hunt for the value.

I sifted through a radio interview with Al Avila and one with Ron Gardenhire, both live from the event. Al contributed what you would expect from him: a predictable, overly expressive diatribe about what he described as “an exciting time.” Geez, take it down a notch, Al!

Gardenhire on the other hand is very engaging and is a much more savvy speaker. You can be swayed by someone who seems more genuine and doesn’t scramble around when he talks. Avila constantly struggles with that.

Anyway, I listened for something new during these interviews. And it isn’t easy, because gathering tangible information from a fan fest is tough duty. You can’t be distracted by the fluff and the attempts to hype a bad team.  Instead you must search for something concrete. Something you can listen to and decide, “now that offers substance.”

The word ‘analytics’ these days, gets thrown around more than Jim Price says “Wow.” Saying we are using analytics is not enough. Saying we have a department is not enough. Explain please.

During Tiger Fest, Al brought up biomechanics. Now we are getting somewhere! Biomechanics is a tool for players, particularly pitchers, used to discover stress points and weaknesses in the delivery of the baseball. A wearable device pinpoints, first, if there are stresses, and if there are, where they are. It’s a valuable tool in forecasting injuries before they occur, or it can discover a flaw in the delivery that if corrected, can potentially improve performance.

Fluidity in a delivery would have to be key in grading well under the guise of biomechanics. It’s why I fear for the future of Michael Fulmer, who throws with a hitch that appears to put so much torque on his arm. I wonder how he would grade out.


The interview with Ron Gardenhire gave me a taste of how the Tigers will benefit from having him on board as the new manager. Of course, the dreaded lineup question came up. After first saying he would like to bat Miggy first, second and third (which was funny), he discussed a philosophy that focused on the bottom of the lineup, not the top. What? Yep, the bottom.

It wasn’t a new perspective or new idea. It was just a refreshing dialogue that wasn’t centered on who needs to bat where and who needs to be protected in the lineup. He simply said that it is important to have high OBP guys at the bottom of the order so the lineup rolls over for the hitters at the top.

Who those players are or who even qualifies is another story, but it’s a sound philosophy mainly borrowed from Money Ball, where OBP was the most dominant statistic attributed to selecting who sees the field.

Those are the types of things you hope to get at an event like Tiger Fest. They are the kind of topics that give you hope, other than, hey, we might get lucky.

So, I know you have been waiting. Why am I considering going next year?

It’s all about reading people. It is an area where Holly specializes, but I dabble in it during games while looking for things on the field or in the dugout that are not areas of focus from the broadcast team.

Body language. It’s one thing I would concentrate on at Tiger Fest.

Heading into a season that has the makings of being very difficult, I would have liked to have seen how someone like Al Avila and the players carried themselves. Were they engaged, interested, enthusiastic? And if so, did it seem forced? Did it seem contrived? Or did it seem genuine? You get all that by attending.

So yes, Holly, I am going next season. Why don’t you meet me at the gate?


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IT’S “D”- LOVELY

By:  Holly Horning

“I feel a sudden urge to sing…the kind of ditty that invokes the Spring.

So, control your desire to curse…while I crucify the verse…

So to spare you all the pain,  I’ll skip the darn thing and sing the refrain: 

The night is young, the skies are clear

And if you want to go walkin’, dear

It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s de-lovely.

I understand the reason why

You’re sentimental, ’cause so am I

It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s de-lovely…”

                                                                                                    – Cole Porter, Red Hot and Blue, 1936


No, it’s actually-troit.

I knew if I waiteD long enough I woulD be able to tie in my favorite composer and songwriter with baseball. Afterall, the song hints of spring training and the memories we Don’t want to see Disappear, right?

And last week’s D-cision on changing the logo sparkeD my crazy, creative siDe to kick in. I apologize in aDvance.

KinDa.

If you haven’t been living unDer a rock recently, you’ve hearD that the Tigers are “upDating” their Olde English D logo so that the D’s are the same.

As a branDing consultant, I will say that one of the first orDers of business for a top branD is to have the same logo for everything associateD with your business. AnD you also want to keep that logo without changing it for many years.

I’ve lost track of how many times the Tigers have re-formulateD their logo since the beginning of baseball. But that Olde English D is inarguably one of the best visual pieces in all of sports. It is elegant. It is timeless. It reeks of baseball history – and memories. It is recognizable almost everywhere in the worlD.

But once again, the Tigers have been behinD the 8-ball in unifying their logo. Two Differently styleD D’s appearing on their uniforms. While the largest companies have always been aware of their visual branD, it really filtered Down to the rest of business 20 years ago.

So why have the Tigers waiteD so long to refine theirs? Why now? And is it simply an issue of unifying their branD or is there something else involveD?

I think we can say the timing is convenient. Sure, they neeDeD to tighten their logo, but now is the perfect time to Do it.

First of all, it acts as D-flection for what is likely going to be a unfulfilling year performance-wise. It has become the hot topic among Tiger fans and taken some of the attention off the Disappearance of many familiar faces. It also helps to Distract fans from focusing on Miggy’s messy personal life, VMart’s baD behavior and continueD speculation about more traDes.

It also offers something new, fresh and Different which many finD appealing.

But we must take note that it wasn’t enough to simply unify the logos with the one on the hat. The Tigers went one step further and changeD the size, too. On everything. AnD with that, all the olD uniforms have now become “outDateD.”

Which means that many fans now will want, or feel they neeD, the upDateD versions. Especially if they D-cide to take in a game. Rather convenient and tempting that the store and kiosks are right there.

If you look now, the new merchanDise is alreaDy being hawkeD online and in-store.

AnD this is the genius of the move. In a year in which attenDance anD ticket sales are expecteD to plummet, the Tigers need to minimize the revenue loss as best they can. Enter Marketing.

MerchanDise sales are one of the 4 Holy Grails of baseball revenue. The largest is ticket sales which account for approximately 40%. So think of this as the well-timeD strategy to help off-set the fall-off in paiD attenDance.

ADDitionally, one of the biggest revenue generators is the sale of jerseys for new star players who join the team. The aDDition of Prince FielDer in 2012 was a golD mine for the Tigers in jersey sales and the resulting revenue.

Last year was the first year the Tigers haDn’t signeD any famous faces. But they still haD the big names like VerlanDer, Upton, jD, Kinsler and others. They pretty much have naDDa now.

But now that the hats, jerseys and other clothing have changeD, the new logos will give merchanDise sales a shot in the arm. How big that shot will be is yet to be D-termined. It is hopeD that they sell as many jerseys as the number of capital “D”s that appeareD in this blog.

Just Don’t be surpriseD if other changes are maDe to also boost revenue.


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NOTABLE NEWS

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

During the off-season, Totally Tigers turns Saturday into a day to address the latest impactful news of the week, whether in Detroit or baseball in general.

This week brought us the news that turned larger than life; the changes with the Olde English D.  But what else?

Well, our writers don’t normally share their topics with each other in the interests of getting a wider range of perspectives. Let’s see what they have for today.


HOLLY

It appears the Tigers have a rash of players who suddenly had to withdraw from TigerFest and the Winter Caravan due to family (health) concerns. How ironic that all of them, with the exception of James McCann, are embroiled in either messy personal issues, bad clubhouse behavior or continuing trade sagas. But it was not the players who made the call; it smacks of a PR attempt to quell controversy, including eliminating any potential media and fan questions.

In actuality, Miggy is busy with his legal counsel trying to petition the court to close his impending child support case to the public and prepping for the case which begins the day before the start of Spring Training. Al Avila reminds us almost daily that Jose Iglesias’ days with the team are numbered and after it was finally reported that Victor Martinez was a major disruption in the clubhouse last year, fans may not be as thrilled to see him.

Despite hearing that VMart had recovered from his heart ablation procedure and had resumed training, he is apparently not well enough to ride a bus. However, he will be fine to play in a couple of weeks.


KURT

After the dismantling of a star-studded Tiger team reduced the roster to a shell of its former self, we can still say we have Miggy. His contract has made him an immovable object, and for a lot of fans, even with all that has happened, they still cling to the fact that one of the greatest hitters of all-time is still playing here in Detroit.

The one constant and most impactful marketing tool the Tigers have is Miguel Cabrera. And he is the sole reason many fans would consider making another trip to the team’s annual Tigerfest. Notice of his absence, blamed on a serious family illness, certainly burst any remaining bubble of enthusiasm for fans who routinely attend the event.

Sorry, it’s way too much of a coincidence that this year, of all years, when they would need Miggy there the most, he can’t attend;   I am going to need more information to change my tune on this one.

FORUM FOR FRIDAY

microphoneHappy Friday! It’s time again to head into the weekend hearing from our readers.   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 selected topic.

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

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

We can’t wait to get your thoughts on the following topic, and you know this one was coming.


How do you feel about the changes  the Tigers made with the Olde English D?


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SAFER – BUT NO NET GAIN

By:  Kurt Snyder

It’s amazing what the game of baseball must try to do. Where it must go. How far it must go to improve the game, to make it more desirable.

There have been some good ideas in the interest of improving pace of play and shortening the game, and then there have been bad ideas.

There have been good ideas to make the game safer for the players and coaches on the field, but then there has been an equal number of rules enforced in the name of safety that , frankly, has made the game less exciting.

The rules instituted to eliminate collisions at second base and at the plate have made the game less desirable for new fans and old, the very opposite of what the Commissioner is trying to do.  Self-inflicted wounds on the game they are trying to improve. All because a couple of players were injured. Imagine … injuries in sports! Shocking!

Now MLB has moved from the field to the stands. Again, there have been good initiatives as select stadiums around the country have taken steps so fans don’t lose their lives falling out of their seats. Those were obvious stadium design flaws that needed to be addressed.

But now I am about to sound like the most insensitive fan out there. The extending of netting from home plate past the dugouts and potentially further down the lines, is not good for baseball.   Great for safety, bad for the game.

It might be good for the game’s reputation and perceived compassion for the safety of fans, but the very last thing I would want is to have to watch the game through netting from the very best and most expensive seats in the park.

Was I moved and sympathetic over some of the awful events during the last few years where fans were severely injured? Of course! I don’t like to see anyone get hurt when they are there to enjoy themselves.   I don’t mean to appear callus.  But if you are going to sit close and you are not behind the plate, don’t you sign up for that risk?

I guess I had it all wrong when I watched games from some of the best vantage point inTiger Stadium.  Fans were so close to the field. I really thought, the closer to the action, the better. But I guess I was off-base. I guess I should have been concerned for my safety.

Now, I don’t know the circumstances of every incident where fans were severely injured from a batted ball.  Some, I am sure, were unavoidable. But some, I am sure, could have been. Parents! Protect your kids! You need to pay attention just as much as they do!

To be frank, the game has become a slave to litigation, but  MLB can now take a deep breath. They will provide greater safety for the people sitting in the best seats.  Fewer people will get hurt and that’s a good thing.

But what does all this mean? Well, the fan experience will now be compromised, but safer.  Many will applaud the fact that MLB is now acting on something that, for over a hundred years, they never worried about before.  When it happened, teams dealt with it. When there were law suits, teams dealt with it.

But, fans have changed and the game must change along with them.   It’s the way businesses work. You must provide more, to attract more.   And the game must now account for the distracted fan.  They must protect them.

Well, now they have a net.  They can feel safer.   And if you aren’t interested in baseball, you can now ignore the game without a worry in a world.


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HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF

By:  Holly Horning

There are lots of quotes about the importance of learning from history. Most of them cautioning that those who fail to heed the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

And when it came to hiring managers, the Tigers got a failing grade in history. You could even argue that they didn’t open up the textbook.

At the beginning of the new century, the Tigers had a veteran manager, Phil Garner, who was fired not just for his record with the team but was also guilty of not getting along with the team’s veterans.

In came Alan Trammell in his first ever job as a manager; he was expected to rein in the players Garner was unable to with his experience. In most jobs, respect is earned once you establish a track record so it was unrealistic to expect Tram to be successful when he yet had nothing to hang his hat on, other than his playing days.

In 2004, the clubhouse atmosphere turned worse with the first signing of a bona fide star, complete with large paycheck and equally large ego. Ivan Rodriguez. Pudge made Tram’s job a difficult one as he refused to respect his manager and was an instigator in fueling a corrosive clubhouse.

Tram was succeeded by Jim Leyland, a decorated manager of 12 years and with a ring to back up his street cred. A no-nonsense, old-school crusty type of guy who was perfect for the job. No one messed with JL and respect once again ruled both in the clubhouse and in the dugout.

But while the hiring of Leyland was a good choice at the time, the team the Tigers were assembling during his early years, ended up outgrowing him. A disciplinarian was needed in the beginning but a motivator and modern strategist was required as early as 2008 and definitely by 2010.

And despite years of measurable success within their division, it was coupled with disappointing playoff years. A manager many felt had failed to adjust to the new ways of baseball and a team ownership either too loyal or too afraid to make changes. Until, that is, Leyland made them himself.

Dave Dombrowski, despite living through a period where his earlier rookie manager was savaged by the established players, once again decided hiring a rookie was a good idea. But now, the team was filled with even more stars who were among the top players in MLB and had salaries, egos and personalities to match.

And we saw from the very beginning how Ausmus was ignored or insulted by them. Profanity on the mound directed at the manager. Handing the ball to a teammate instead of the skipper when relieved of pitching duties. Open fighting in the dugout. A first baseman who yelled in to Ausmus with his frustration over the called pick-off throws. Even a pitcher who personally removed himself from the game without talking to his manager.

Fans saw it for 4 years but the local media (aka “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”) refused to acknowledge it publicly until Brad had left town for good.

And we learned what we suspected all along. That the clubhouse started disintegrating in the first year, finally coming to a complete crash-and-burn in 2017. Cliques instead of a team. Disinterested players who had tuned out in the clubhouse, in the dugout and on the field. Angry players who insisted on their own way despite diminished skills and put themselves above their teammates. And often refused to obey the manager’s requests.

A manager who couldn’t implement ideas because players had rendered him powerless and ineffective.

Sound familiar?

Again, a manager who overstayed his welcome. And again, an organization that failed to heed the earlier lessons of hiring a rookie manager for a team of established players.

And now the Tigers have hired Ron Gardenhire. Potentially the man who was the better managerial choice for 2014 when he could have left the Twins at the same time the Tigers needed to replace Leyland.  Gardy did not have a contract extension after 2013 with the Twins until after Leyland announced his retirement. Another veteran manager who successfully commanded respect and knew how to manage personalities and set standards and expectations.

But the Gardy we know today is not the same guy he was back then. It is thought that his time on the West Coast has made him a better, more modern manager.

And ironically, he may just be better-suited to be the Tigers manager now than 4 years ago. And not due to his new appreciation of analytics.

The Tigers still have a group of some high-priced players and veterans. And they need to have their personalities managed by someone strong. One coming off his worst year ever and holding one of baseball’s most expensive contracts. The other who became highly problematic in the clubhouse last year and tried to fight Justin Verlander publicly in the dugout during a game.

But there is also a group of youngsters now. Hopefully, many of them on their way to becoming the nucleus of the team. And they need a leader. They need someone to teach them how to play the game the right way, hustle and how to stay inspired every day during what is expected to be some dark times.

And right now, Gardy is the right choice at the right time. Much more so than 4 years ago.

The Tigers finally got it right.

But let’s hope they open that history textbook and learn a valuable lesson. There will come a day when Gardenhire will no longer be the best leader for this team.


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TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Our writers get to play GM today. And they have a big decision to make. Who should they sign? When should they sign them? Can they afford not to sign anyone at all?

Wait, what team are we talking about? Well, it obviously isn’t the Tigers!

Let’s see where all this is headed.


JD Martinez’s agent, Scott Boras, initially set an asking price of 7 years/$210 million before taking it down to 6 years/ $180 million. Only 1 team has shown any interest – the Red Sox, with Tigers’ former GM Dave Dombrowski.  Reportedly, Trader Dave has offered 5 years for approximately $100-$120M for JD.

What would our two bloggers do if they were the GM?


KURT

The Red Sox are in dire need of someone to anchor their lineup. And as they watch the kind of team the Yankees are building, there is little choice for them; they need to bag JD Martinez.

And with no other competition for him, Dombrowski is closing in on winning the battle with his old nemesis and JD’s agent, Scott Boras.

A seven-year contract for JD had danger written all over it. But as interest in him has lagged, the price has come down substantially and almost more important, the years of the contract.

Getting JD for $120M for 5 years is a huge contract, don’t be mistaken. But if I am GM, I have only one task; draw the line in the sand right there. The Red Sox have missed David Ortiz in the worst way and as much as JD wants to play more outfield, he doesn’t exactly have people knocking the door down to offer him that position. If JD was a good outfielder, he would be signed already.


HOLLY

Most assuredly, Dave Dombrowski has not forgotten how Scott Boras used him during the Max Scherzer negotiations to create a bidding war that ended up taking Max away from Detroit. Once again, Boras is in a situation where there is only 1 team interested in his client, JD, so we know that he is attempting to create yet another bidding war.

Obviously, Dave shouldn’t bid against himself in this situation and time is now on his side with only 3 weeks until spring training. Historically, players do not do well during the season when they sign after missing spring training as JD has threatened to do.

The Red Sox ranked near the bottom of HRs hit last year so the need for a hitter like JD is apparent, however, his spray chart doesn’t align well with some of the shorter fences in Fenway which leaves some doubt as to his true effectiveness there.

Dombrowski is responsible for half of MLB’s most recent expensive signings so caution as to another big contract must be taken. To require JD to be the primary DH, and not touch the outfield, given his last-ranked defensive glove, is a good start but then it becomes an issue of how smart it is to pay someone that amount of money only to hit?

The Red Sox, on the other hand, were unsuccessful in replacing David Ortiz with Hanley Ramirez and still need another big bat but JD may not be the perfect solution – but he may be the only solution at this point.

The key to negotiation is to wait until the rest of the team joins pitchers and catchers before attempting to finalize a deal and to ensure that any contract be absolutely no more than 5 years when Martinez will already be 35. Just look at what another team did by extending their own Martinez DH too long.


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