20 FEBRUARY THOUGHTS

By:  Kurt Snyder

Welcome to March, the month the Tigers should not be playing baseball in Detroit. Not yet!  But they are – 28 days and counting!

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, let’s put February to bed. I have another 20 thoughts of randomness to share with you. Hopefully, you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

My 20 Thoughts for February are ready for your perusal.


1. We discussed first impressions and everyone, so far, seems quite positive in regards to our new manager. Got any guesses what will eventually rub us the wrong way other than losing?

2. Remember all those years of domination the Tigers suffered at the hands of Ron Gardenhire and Francisco Liriano? It’s really over now, isn’t it?

3. With the JD Martinez saga all packed up and put to bed in Boston, we can now concentrate on all things Tigers. It’s been several months of transition watching all our old favorites scattered around the league. However, when you consider games to attend this season, won’t you be most interested when Houston comes to town or the Angels, or yeah, the Red Sox?

4. Any reported sightings of Chris Ilitch in Lakeland?

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

6. When pitchers and catchers report for duty in February, I am always interested in what position players arrive at camp early. I was happy to see that one was Dixon Machado.

7. On the subject of Machado, I see no reason why we cannot solidly place him as the starter at second on Opening Day. He has been mentioned as a candidate for a utility role, but if there is an area where there will be plenty of good competition, it’s for a position on the bench. You can always tell you are in a rebuilding year when there are half a dozen players vying for the utility role on your club. It says a lot.

8. Optimism about Ron Gardenhire based on 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. (Going to carry this over for a while.)

9. Alan Trammell must feel dramatically different working with the Tigers this season during spring training. I would imagine he is much more relaxed and is having a hard time wiping that Hall of Fame smile off his face. So happy for him.

10. On MLB radio this past week, the Central Division was discussed. Having lost 100 games just a couple short years ago, the Twins are now being talked about as an up and coming team closing the gap quickly between them and the Indians. My only point is, things can change quickly if you draft well, and make smart moves.

11. Speaking of the Twins, their acquisition of Anibal Sanchez to compete for a spot in their starting rotation seems pointless on the surface. But who knows what he needed last year and didn’t get. And will the Twins find something that will turn him around?   Don’t laugh too hard quite yet. There are many fans out there quite amused and question the Twins’ interest. Stranger things have happened.

12. So, before we leave that topic, which transaction will benefit their team more, Liriano to the Tigers or Sanchez to the Twins?  Don’t laugh! Just askin’!

13. Alex Cora and the Red Sox were discussed on MLB radio this week and I heard some familiar opinions on Boston’s new manager. He’s been preparing for this his whole life. His youth and experience as a player will make him more relatable to his players. As a Tiger fan, it should sound all too familiar.

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.  (This is a good carryover, let’s hold onto this one at least through April.)

15. In the category of ‘way too early to care,’ Fulmer, Zimmermann, Boyd, Norris and Fiers all have pitched fairly well in the early going. Wake me when the games count though, please.

16. When I consider the starting rotation heading into the season, I think it would be best for the strength of the pitching staff that Alex Wilson and Francisco Liriano both end up in the bullpen. That would mean Norris has had a good spring, and the pen would then get deeper.

17. Has anyone seen the new authentic Tiger hats for sale on MLB.com, with the Big D? I’m still not sure it is really an issue.   Will have to try one on before I know.

18. There is a strange lack of drama so far coming from the Tiger camp. May just be too early.

19. In the category of ‘too early to tell’, I think we have acquired a gem in Jeimer Candelario. Watching his development will be near the top of my list this season.

20. I was wondering.  Since VMart suggested Gardy text him if he wanted to get a hold of him prior to camp, do you think Gardy has texted him? I am going to say no.


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WHAT’S IN A TITLE?

By:  Holly Horning

When we talk about baseball players, we usually understand their strengths. Whether they are great at hitting or at fielding. Sometimes solidly possessing both skills.

And then there’s the phrase “5 tool player” which refers to a player who is solid at all the top baseball skills.

But what about GMs? They’re people, too.

And for some reason, many in the baseball world – from owners to fans – believe that every GM should be strong in every aspect of their job.

But is that a fair assumption to make?

Should every GM be required to excel in every facet?

And how many of today’s GMs actually do?


Before we can analyze, let’s identify the primary skills required of a GM:

– Scouting

– Drafting

– Signing current players/free agents

– Trading

– Negotiations

– Creating and implementing a vision and strategy

– Hiring Front Office personnel

– Hiring the manager

– Implementing the owner’s strategy

– Establishing and maintaining the corporate culture

– Matching needs with budget

And each of these skills also requires an understanding of human nature, understanding and hiring the right mix of personalities, communication skills (with the team, media and fans) and a working knowledge of both legal and financial skills.

It’s a tall order.

Many considered Dave Dombrowski to be one of the best GMs when he was with the Tigers. But how many of these skills did (and does) he actually possess?

Sure, Dave was the absolute best at trading. No one better. But he was only fair at drafting and did nothing to improve the Tigers’ organization when it came to the farm system and new trends such as analytics and technology. And he often bumped heads with Mr. I.

One could look at his decade+ time with Detroit as working towards a singular goal and not towards strengthening the organization as a whole or planning for the future.

Most notable was his failure to understand the developing trends such as the rise of the bullpen, analytics and finding the right mix of personalities and leaders in the clubhouse who would bond with each other and unify under a single goal.

If we turn to Al Avila, 2 years+ is not enough time to get a full read on his skills. GMs are often hired in 5 year increments because it takes that long in order to see if the plan and efforts are paying off.

Granted, the visible evidence we have seen so far is not promising. But are we judging him solely on his failed results with signing certain players like Zimmermann and Pelfrey?

Are we giving Trader Dave extra credit because he made big, splashy signings and not giving enough credit to Avila because he’s making the quiet, low-key moves that strengthen a system silenty and from deep within, instead of visible to everyone watching the game?

Could Al actually be the opposite of Trader Dave? Could his strengths actually be Dombrowski’s weaknesses – and vice versa?

Avila was the first GM in a long time to tackle the farm system – both in stocking it and changing long-entrenched personnel. He introduced a systematic performance book and built an analytics department. And in (finally) hiring a new manager, he was quoted as saying that Gardenhire would come in and change the corporate culture.

As for many of the other skills listed above, it is too soon to tell how successful Avila’s moves will be. We also don’t know what the new and silent owner has told him about the team’s future – or what resources he has given him. We do understand that he has nowhere near the options and money Dave had when he held the same position.

And quite frankly, Avila is also charged with the task of mopping up the mess that was largely created by the former owner and GM. Dave got to do the fun stuff but these are different times and different situations. Al is now tasked with doing the dirty work. And to be fair, we have to say the jury is still out.

But if you look around MLB, you’ll see that other teams understand how much their GMs are required to do. And they also realize that the GM can’t be an expert in all of these areas. Which is why the trend of hiring multiple “GM”s is happening with many of the teams.

If you look at the list of each team’s executives, you’ll generally only see 1 official General Manager. Unless you are Dave Dombrowski and eliminate the position of GM, assume the title of President and do the job of the GM.

But teams are now dividing the traditional GM job down into specialized roles. They are creating “Presidents” and “VP”s of Baseball Operations, Finance, Player Development, Analytics and other terms, giving each person the lead in running that aspect of the organization. In other words, they are hiring specialists to oversee specialized elements that each contribute to the job of finding, developing and fielding a team.

Front Offices are expanding exponentially as a result.

Will the Tigers follow suit? Probably not given their history of being among the very last to adapt to the latest and greatest trends. And also unlikely given that they are looking to cut payroll.

Al Avila though could sure use the help. He’s got a lot on his plate.


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TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

With Spring Training well underway, everything seems right with the world. The media has done a good job of filling our minds with wonderful thoughts about the team and portraying the events in Lakeland as a miracle World Series waiting to happen.

OK, that’s maybe an exaggeration, but hardly a negative word has been spoken.  But there have been good things, right?  Can we agree on that?

Kurt and Holly have not shared their answers to the following question. That’s the policy. You know it. You love it. They do it for you. So, let’s get on with it.


What one aspect of spring training have you been happiest to see so far?


KURT

It’s early but I sense a harmony from way up here in Detroit. The only thing that has been remotely negative in Lakeland was the conversation about Victor Martinez and how he thought Gardy should have texted him if he wanted to get a hold of him.

Other than that, Gardenhire’s relaxed approach to Spring Training has been calculated and smart. Bonding the team should indeed be the first mission. He made it clear right out of the gate that fundamentals are what he concentrates on the most, but also that the team can have fun while working hard.

This is a challenging season ahead for this team, and the sooner they embrace it, accept it and realize they can still enjoy it, the better. Bonding this team together will help make this team play loose and it appears most of the apples in the basket are here to buy in, to embrace it.

With all apprehension gone about bringing Gardenhire on board now instead of, say, 4 years ago, I can honestly say my mind is now clear that there is a plan in place. Gardy knows how to prepare a team heading into this kind of situation. And I look forward to watching the team evolve heading into March.


HOLLY

For the past 4 years (12 if you’re counting), there has been one constant in Lakeland – the visible and constant presence of Jim Leyland.

For several of those seasons, I personally watched him move around Joker Marchant Stadium, popping up everywhere. I sat near him a couple of times when he accompanied Tigers brass to view, analyze and comment on the games and watched him take the time to work the endless crowds near the fences.

But it’s not happening this year. At least not to the great extent of previous years. And not a single interview being published that shares his thoughts on how the team is doing. And this is a good thing.

It has nothing to do with personal feelings about the man. This is all about recognizing the need to go in another direction, a new dependence upon hearing different voices and the simple fact that Ron Gardenhire, unlike his predecessor, doesn’t need tutoring or an enforcer.

It’s only when the past fades into the background that you are truly reassured that there is a changing of the guard with the hope of moving forward and not clinging to the past.


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NORRIS LOOKING OVER HIS SHOULDER

By:  Kurt Snyder

Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann, Matthew Boyd and Daniel Norris.

Unlike other teams beginning a fresh start and a rebuild, the Tigers will not spend the spring trying to piece together a starting rotation. First, not many teams in transition have an All-Star caliber ace to lead the rotation.

The Tigers are not without question marks, for sure, but they have seen glimpses of success from all 4 starters listed above.

Michael Fulmer, assuming he is healthy, will only be on the rise, and should be expected to be an All-Star.

Jordan Zimmermann is a veteran pitcher who had plenty of success with the Washington Nationals, but only just short of half a season of impressive pitching here in Detroit.   Given the investment, he will be given every opportunity to succeed.

Matthew Boyd is trending upward and had glimpses of dominance last season, including a near no-hitter late in the year.   He could be headed for his best season.

Daniel Norris, the last one to be mentioned, was the one Tiger pitching acquisition considered to have the most upside when he arrived in the trade for David Price in 2015. The best stuff, the best athlete, the one to challenge Michael Fulmer as the future ace of the Tiger staff.

But Norris has been just another pitcher to show glimpses of success, and unfortunately they have been few and far between. Injuries, emotions and self-doubt have plagued him. But we haven’t shoved him aside because you can see talent there. Can’t you see a future, waiting to break out?

However, not every young pitcher considered to have a bright future ends up having that bright future. Some never make it over the hump. And the Tigers are not handing Norris the 4th spot in the rotation, or even the 5th.

Mike Fiers has been acquired from the Houston Astros and will compete for one of those 5 spots in the rotation. Alex Wilson has shown an interest in starting and he will be given every opportunity to earn a spot. And now Francisco Liriano has been signed by the Tigers as another veteran lefty who will compete for a spot as well.

These are all good moves for the Tigers. During a rebuild, veteran pitching is just as important to have on your roster as promising young players. Depth is filled by the experienced, just in case.

And unfortunately, Daniel Norris is still one of those ‘just in case’ pitchers, one you’re not sure will earn a roster spot come the end of March. It’s why Alex Wilson thinks he has a shot at a rotation spot. And Mike Fiers and Francisco Liriano.

Daniel has been through so much. Many forget his bout with cancer a couple of years back, which he beat, but put his career behind. Other injuries did the same thing. So you can understand his uneasiness about his health status this spring as he consulted a doctor’s opinion on his groin injury he suffered from during the 2017 season. He wants to check all the boxes. It’s not often that he has come into camp without some weight holding him back.  He needs that assurance.

He is that guy who shows his emotions on his sleeve. Which makes you excited for him. A breakthrough season for Norris would be an exciting time for all of us. You get the impression that a dominant Daniel would unleash that fire you know he has pent up inside, waiting to get out.

But the Tigers will make no promises. Rebuilding often means more leash for some, but Norris now enters his 4th season with the team, so it is time to start to reap some benefits. The franchise has continued to draft and trade for promising pitching talent, and over the next couple of seasons,  they will all be itching to come to Detroit and be considered for that same starting rotation.   Names like  Franklin Perez, Matt Manning, Alex Faedo and Beau Burrows;  all pitchers considered to be the best of the bunch.

The names offer hope but no certainties.  But they are thought of very highly.

Even though not much is expected of the Tigers this season, more will be expected from Daniel Norris.  And he need only look over his shoulder to see that the team is willing to go in other directions if he continues to flounder.   The competition is ready and waiting.

But this should not be Daniel’s mindset.  I would like him to take this on with a more aggressive approach.  The heck with the guys behind him.  What I would like to see is for him to put some pressure on the guys in front of him, instead of just holding back the guys behind.


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THE NOT-SO-DIRTY DOZEN

By:  Holly Horning

It’s a better prognosticator than the groundhog. Spring training is back to assure us that spring is right around the corner. That is, unless you live in Michigan.

But while we eagerly take in these first few games, we still can’t see how things will change with the new regime. It’s too early yet. The manager is brand new and many of the players are still shrouded in mystery.

However, we can take some of the clues given to us and run with them. That, combined with the never-ending fountain of information Al Avila gladly offers us.

I have always detested those predictions made by newspapers, Vegas and well-meaning baseball analysts. Predictions meant to draw attention to those who make them – or to draw away well-earned paychecks. You will never catch me sharing my thoughts on who will win their division, playoffs or World Series. I always wait until the very end to see what happens. Or in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, I believe that “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

But what I can do is to share some thoughts on what we may see this year. All based upon track records and quotes – and compared to the patterns seen over the past 4 years.


Here are my top dozen early season indicators……..

1. The daily game results may be spirit-challenging, but at least the post-game interviews with Ron Gardenhire will be a breath of fresh air. Humor and a candid take will replace the defensive comments and trite “That’s baseball!” quotes.

2. The team will play fundamentally better baseball, but it will take at least a couple of months to see a pattern of consistency.

3. The player cliques that developed over the past 4 years won’t go away overnight, but they will gradually dissolve over the first half of the season.

4. There will be more base running. Proven players with speed and running smarts like Leonys Martin will be able to take a base at will and not have to get permission first.

5. Gardy is not going to have a problem moving VMart down in the order and he won’t be putting him directly behind Miggy in the lineup.

6. Old habits such as trotting to first base and routinely blowing past Dave Clark’s stop signs will be corrected but it may take a few months.

7. The perceived rift between Nick Castellanos and management over whether or not a contract extension was offered will continue to play out over the course of the year.

8. Just because it’s a new year and the team is rebuilding, the trades will continue to happen. Expect both Nick and Iggy to leave due to the combination of their higher salaries and maximum trade value given that their contracts are set to expire in the near future.

9. The new skipper will have a significantly different lineup and be much more flexible in moving players around, especially early in the year.

10. The bored, unfocused and uninspired looks of last year’s players will be replaced by guys who try harder and look interested, enthusiastic and hungry about playing the game.

11. The road between Detroit and Toledo will see much more traffic throughout the year as the Tigers tinker with their lineup and test the talents of their young.

12. There will much less spitting and fewer dugout dustups between teammates.

What other habits and behaviors can you add to this list?


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NOTABLE NEWS

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

During the offseason, Totally Tigers has turned Saturday into a day to address the latest impactful news of the week, whether in Detroit or baseball in general.

All rosters have reported for duty. The games have begun in both the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues. Spring Training is here! So what has gotten the majority of our writers’ attention?

Holly and Kurt don’t normally share their topics with each other in the interests of getting a wider range of perspective. Let’s see what they have for today.


HOLLY

Dave Dombrowski appears to have gotten some revenge against Scott Boras who played him during the Max Scherzer negotiations in order to generate a bidding war. A $110 million/5-year contract that is a far cry from the $210 million Boras said JD Martinez was worth.

But wait – this signing continues its soap opera ways with the news that David Price initially advised his former Tiger teammate, JD, that the Red Sox players were very negative and that JD may want to sign elsewhere. Price’s trade from the Tigers (for Norris, Boyd and Labourt) looks better every day given last year’s arm troubles, poor record, fights with fans, media and teammates and the $157 million (5 more years) still due until he hits age 37.

Yet despite the contract agreement made on Monday, and an announcement scheduled for mid-week, Martinez’s contract still is not official (as of late Friday) due to reported concerns over his Lysfranc injury suffered while still a Tiger. Don’t be surprised if Dombrowski uses his medical checkup results as leverage in tweaking the unofficial contract one last time.


KURT

Well, once the Hot Stove League started to warm up again, all the big time free agents began to sign, including ex-Tiger and longtime free agent, JD Martinez.

News broke this week that he had finally reached an agreement with the Red Sox pending his physical which he showed up for, but afterwards, immediately left camp. So, where is JD?

The Red Sox are publicly showing little concern and experienced something like this with David Price when he signed, but is there more to this than we think? Is JD Martinez getting cold feet about joining the Sox? What were the results of the physical and will JD indeed be playing in Boston?


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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. What’s on your minds?


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MUSIC TO OUR EARS

By:  Kurt Snyder

Put yourself in his shoes. You know how to manage but you haven’t had the top job in years.

Baseball is in your blood. You know how to manage, but the game is changing. Can you change with it? Can you adapt and make a difference?

What atmosphere should you create for a team with inevitably, varying types of emotions heading into a season where they are not expected to contend for anything?

Expectations aside. Talent aside. Youth aside. Even potential veteran challenges; put them aside as well and make this the freshest of starts.

Because it is, isn’t it? It is the freshest of starts. As close as it can come to a clean slate, at least around these parts.

When you introduce a new manager, change is inevitable; expected positive change.

And what we have learned from the first few days of spring training is that Ron Gardenhire has set a different tone, giving his new team an early taste, a new focus, feel and approach.

As a fan, what have you always noticed about successful teams? There is an obvious bond, an identity. It’s about togetherness molded by the manager. They enjoy the game and find excitement in playing the game well. I will put my money on a loose team versus an uninspired one any day of the week. Loose teams have positive energy. Negative energy is produced by the uninspired.

And it’s obvious what kind of atmosphere Ron Gardenhire wants to create to begin his time in Lakeland and soon in Detroit. Take it easy early, don’t overtax yourself early, work on your fundamentals, have fun and enjoy the music.

It must be a breath of fresh air for a team not used to this kind of atmosphere. Brad Ausmus seemed mind-numbing and almost cerebral in his approach, and that translated into a team that played with very little drive and emotion.

Many called Brad relaxed and composed. That was being kind. Emotionless and uninspired seems to be a more accurate synopsis.

Teams take on the personality of their manager, and that can be a good thing or a very bad thing. You see it all over sports. But in baseball especially, with games being played almost every day, the personality of the manager and his influence on the team cannot be understated.

But don’t mistake Ron Gardenhire’s early happy-go-lucky approach as a situation without pressure. Gardy doesn’t get a free pass just because his team has low expectations. He comes in with a reputation as a great teacher of the game, one who stresses fundamentals and commands respect. He won the job based on that resume. And he will be expected to practice what he preaches.

But I am pleasantly surprised by his first set of goals out of the gate.  Relax the team. Have some fun. Play some tunes.

What a great way to begin.  I can’t think of a better way to kick off camp and bring a new team together.


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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

By:  Holly Horning

Baseball is back! There’s a new team, a new direction, a new goal and a new manager. And a new philosophy, strategy and way of doing business.

In many ways, it’s a refreshing change. There’s some stuff we haven’t seen in awhile but also a few hints that some of the previous year’s history still lingers. And it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the organization to be successful in changing it.

This resident image consultant has combed the pictures and quotes – so you don’t have to – to get that first impression about the upcoming year. Our profession preaches the importance of a first impression so it’s natural that the first blog since the players reported addresses this. Let’s hope that the stats that overwhelmingly prove that first impressions are almost always correct applies here.

And the good news is that, despite the warnings about what could happen this year in the standings, the team appears more upbeat and interested. It’s not Brad Ausmus’ team anymore.

So without further adieu, let’s take a look at the top 15 first impressions so far in these first 4 days.


1. Ron Gardenhire is a refreshing change from Brad Ausmus. He’s lively, smiling, joking and strongly engaged with everyone. Fans no longer have to suffer through the defensive, inane comments of Ausmus. Gardy’s comments contain content, no excuses and lots of humor. And his body language is much more comfortable and confident, too. He appears comfortable and knowledgeable wearing the managerial cap.

2. Of course, everyone comes to spring training saying that they are in the best physical condition of their lives. So don’t be surprised when you hear it from Miggy and VMart. They both said it in February last year and then 9 months later, said they were hurt all year long. Talk is cheap – it’s the results that rule. Let’s wait – and hope.

3. With Justin Verlander gone, and Miggy’s personal life continuing to cast a controversial cloud, more coverage is being given to Michael Fulmer. If he has a good year, expect him to inherit the mantle of the second Franchise Face. That is, if the Tigers don’t try to trade him.

4. Al Avila said the Tigers tried to extend Nick Castellanos over the winter but negotiations got nowhere. Yesterday, Nick Castellanos said it was (sic) “news to him.” What exactly is going on here?

5. Gardenhire and his coaches appear to be locked in and lovin’ their work. The coaches all meeting, working and coordinating together – and enjoying each other’s company. I don’t remember seeing pictures resembling any of this in the previous 4 years.

6. It appears Victor Martinez is still wearing a chip on his shoulder. He only connected with his new manager when he reported to camp and when asked why it took so long, he said that Gardy should have texted him. Communication works both ways, last I heard.

7. The Tigers’ skipper has made a point this week of approaching a number of veterans and asking them to take on specific leadership roles and help set the tone as well as mentor the youngest players. Leyland and Ausmus notoriously left players alone to do their own thing.

8. Leonys Martin is well-above the MLB average (90%) for catching balls in CF and has the ability to play shallow, yet still cover balls hit behind him. He’s also considered to be a natural leadoff hitter. If he goes back to his original swing from 2016, could the Tigers finally have their solution for Comerica’s cavernous CF?

9. The Tigers are finally catching up to the rest of MLB teams. They just purchased a Rapsodo pitching unit that collects data on 8 different pitching metrics (velocity, spin rate and efficiency, strike zone analysis and breaking patterns) and is the same unit Justin Verlander was using (and raved about) last year with the Astros. Could it be a sign that the Tigers are investing more in resources that help develop and instruct players instead of spending all their money on players’ salaries?

10. Hallelujah! The Tigers now have a full-time strength and conditioning coordinator. Previously, they have hired only seasonal employees. This one, hired last year, comes with degrees in health science and exercise physiology and a resume that includes the Dodgers and Giants and managing a top sports performance facility.

11. Miggy, VMart and Iggy seem to be inseparable during practices. All three who were “excused” from TigerFest. Two of them for “family emergencies” yet were photographed partying together in Miami during the team festivities. Gardy’s got some “clique-busting” to do.

12. It would have been nice to have seen some pictures of VMart talking to other teammates. There is a picture of him being greeted by an enthusiastic Lloyd McClendon who gave him a huge bear hug. Victor is shown with a one-arm return while turning the rest of his body away.

13. Ron Gardenhire seems to be everywhere on the field – and rarely on the sidelines. He’s in the field with bat and glove, working alongside the players. He’s also constantly communicating and calling out his evaluations to every Tiger who makes a play.

14. The new skipper has a reputation of being able to accomplish more with having less. Given all the positive pictures and quotes, it is realistically conceivable that the Tigers will improve upon last year’s record. They definitely will not be baseball’s worst team – an honor that will go to the Marlins and maybe the White Sox, too.

15. Players – or workers – take their cue from the leader. Gardy is the anti-Ausmus. He is energetic, positive, funny and involved. Expect better play this year. Expect to see players enjoying the game more. Expect more players to care about how their team does.

It may not be a good year standings-wise. But these initial readings are mostly good ones. Let’s hope the stats for first impressions prove true.


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TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Spring training has begun and this is sure to be a peculiar one; a Grapefruit League season unlike those in the past.

Where will the interest lie? Who will be focused on the most?

Kurt and Holly have not shared their answers to the following question. That’s the policy. You know it. You love it. They do it for you. So let’s get on with it.


Which one Tiger are you most interested in watching during Spring Training?


KURT

Well, who is going to have the biggest influence on this team? Not necessarily on the success, because we can’t foresee the level of success. No, regardless of talent and regardless of personality, what we complained about the most over the last 4 years was a team without a pulse, without drive and without a will to win.

This team, now devoid of so much talent, won’t have many observers wondering what they could possibly do to win in 2018. They will have people watching the new guy brought in to change the culture. Brought in to change how the game is played and maybe to inject some life and fun into this team.

Ron Gardenhire is not like one of those whiz kids hired in New York and Boston and Washington; he is an old-school manager, looking to revive his own career and looking to revive a franchise that lost its way. He will have my focus. I will watch his every move when I get the opportunity. I will listen to and read every word, and break it all down.

This is all about our new manager and I will only study individual players if he references them or interacts with them.


HOLLY

Sure, I’d like to see how Miggy moves in Lakeland, if Fulmer’s arm fulcrum has healed and also Victor’s visage when he’s interacting with his teammates. But those are individuals who will only give us a quick snapshot of one aspect of the team. I wanna know more!

Which is why I can’t wait to see how Ron Gardenhire introduces himself to all the players and gives us hints about how different this team will be in 2018. He says he hates sloppy so I want to see how he handles a fundamentally flawed situation.

I want to view how often he confabs with Miggy and VMart, the lone holdouts who hadn’t connected with their new boss until reporting this past weekend. How often will they be talking to each other and will the conversations and body language appear relaxed – or stiff and defensive?

It will also be interesting to see the developing relationship between Gardy and the coaching survivors, McClendon and Clark, anticipating what, if any changes are made to their way of working with players. And then there’s Jim Leyland – a regular and highly visible in Lakeland during Brad Ausmus’ tenure. Will he do a disappearing act now that one of his best buddies and former formidable foe is in charge?

Pass the popcorn…


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