A DINOSAUR IN DETROIT

By:  Holly Horning

Listen up, kiddies. Gather ‘round the campfire for a tale of bone-chilling terror. It’s Halloween, after all.

And this story is a real one. One that is truly terrifying.


It involves an interview that MLB Radio did the other day with Jim Leyland.

You could tell right away, even if you didn’t come in at the beginning of the interview, that it was Leyland. Strong voice, little patience, telling-it-like-it-is.

You just couldn’t tell if his impatience was due to his normal approach to the sport or if the question posed to him had ticked him off.

He was asked by two former-GMs-turned analysts to talk about all the players he used to manage who were now in the World Series. And oh, by the way, they referred to these players as the guys who couldn’t win it under Leyland.

As if we needed reminding.

But then the conversation turned to analytics and that’s when I started screaming.

It appears that Leyland doesn’t like analytics.  No real surprise.  But you then hear just how much he dislikes the new way of thinking.  He spent almost 10 minutes trashing them.

So much for teaching an old dog new tricks. The man’s not buying into them at all.

In-between my screams, I heard him say that analytics……

– are no different from what he did as a manager.

– don’t work at all unless you have a good team.

And in the same interview, Leyland also mentioned the importance of hiring a manager who has actual coaching or managing experience. An interesting little twist here. Wouldn’t you like to know whether this belief was cemented before or after Brad Ausmus was hired?

He went on to say that the Analytics Department people were trying to educate him on the topic. He said they told him analytics work – and he laughed at their declaration. He also noted that he just attended his first ever analytics meeting. JL, should we need reminding, has been a “special assistant” for 5 years and only now just getting his intro.

So now the question to ask is how can a team have employees who don’t buy into the organization’s system and philosophy? We’re not talking disagreements on some secondary points. We’re talking about people who don’t buy into an idea one little bit.

How can Al Avila say that they are fully committed to building a solid analytics department and yet have a top employee who scoffs at the strategy? An employee who resists the concept and won’t voluntarily be part of it? How can everyone possibly work towards the same goal?

Make no mistake, JL may be a “special assistant” with a publicly vague job description, but he is front and center on most major decisions.

Ron Gardenhire told us last year that he had a standing appointment every morning with Leyland during spring training to discuss the roster and player performance. And the fact that this was being required of a veteran manager raises a few eyebrows. The same veteran manager, btw, who wasn’t allowed to hire more than half his coaching staff.

If you go down to Lakeland, you will see Jim everywhere. He may no longer be manager but he’s still acting like one – or at least like an assistant general manager.

And if you watched the MLB draft this past summer, JL’s influence was seen there, too. A camera panned the Tigers’ “war room” and showed Al Avila sitting front and center. To his immediate left was Chris Ilitch. And to his immediate right was Jim Leyland. Not Dave Littlefield.

It was a snapshot of Avila’s two closest confidants in the selection process.

Are you screaming yet?

A man with so much influence, a man with so many fingers in the pie.

A man who is so behind the times. A man who is still living and believing in the strategies he employed when he was a manager decades ago. A man who is helping make decisions. Make no mistake about it.

Given his front-and-center visibility, which side does Al Avila take when the analytics department wants to implement a new strategy – and JL disses it in front of others? Does this become a one-step-forward, two-steps back dance?

The Tigers don’t have time for dancing. As it is, they need to move at warp speed in order to catch up with what the rest of baseball is doing.


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20 OCTOBER THOUGHTS

By:  Kurt Snyder

The off-season is now officially here. For everyone. The Red Sox have claimed another championship in dominant style and now we will watch everyone try to be just like them.

The Tigers, on the other hand, will now contemplate how to plug holes with temporary employees who will only kill time until the new kids mature.

But before we go there, let’s put a capper on October, the playoff season and whatever randomness in Tiger Land struck a nerve.

All thoughts while contemplating the month are captured here. Holdovers are topics we need to continue to follow and ponder, and are necessary in the compilation of 20 more monthly thoughts, of course, for your pleasure.

Let’s begin.


1. Let’s start with the owner of the Tigers who also owns the Red Wings. How concerned are you about the sanity of an owner who tears out all the red seats in his new hockey arena because black seats do a better job of masking low attendance. We should be worried.

2. I believe the Indians, despite their playoff experience, are poorly prepared to just turn it on in October. This division was decided fairly early and I think it works against them regardless of their roster upgrades. (This was held over because I think it was proven to be true. By no means were they ready to flip the switch and play a meaningful playoff series against the defending champs; not to mention the fact that Houston was a much better team).

3. October means playoff baseball. A month when we left the game alone, put aside all the initiatives to change it and allowed fans, old and new, to watch what was truly a great and exciting portrait of baseball. Outside of the craziness of one 18-inning marathon, games more than likely averaged 3 ½ hours of tactical and strategic managing coupled with great play by the greatest teams the game has to offer.

4. Watching the Red Sox stable of outfielders, all excellent defenders, signaled how far the Tigers need to go just in the outfield, in order to properly defend their home field. You didn’t see a poor play by the Sox in the outfield during the entire playoffs until the World Series, when JD lost a ball in the California twilight.

5. When it came to pitching in October, have we ever seen anything like how teams worked their way through nine innings?  From bullpenning to starters turning relievers and back to starters again – managers really had their creative hats on for sure. In response, the Tigers should take a hard look at the entire pitching staff and really see what starters may be more suitable in the pen.

6. With VMart now gone, conversation has now perked up again about who plays first base and who DH’s. I have pretty soundly expressed a desire for Miggy to DH a lot this season. But I have one thing to ask of everyone. Stop it with the Castellanos to first base commotion. Just quit. If he indeed stays in Detroit for this season, let him reach his zenith defensively in right. Jerking him around even more and experimenting at yet another position is not the way to go for Nick.

7. Well, well! Brad Ausmus got another job. Much will be expected of him from the Angels organization. His flaws were on display for 4 years in Detroit without a shred of improvement along the way. So obviously, it would be their hope that a smart guy like Brad will have learned a lot from the experience. I’m just leaving it at that.

8. Of all the former Tigers we watched perform, and perform well, in the playoffs in October, there was only one that truly surprised me. Just the appearance of Anibal Sanchez as a starting pitcher. Sometimes you just need a fresh start. But should I let the Tigers off that easy? Nope, can’t do it. It cost the Braves one year and one million for Anibal, just to see if he had anything left. What did they find that we couldn’t?

9. Just when I thought I had seen enough former Tigers fill up rosters all over the playoffs, out of the dugout in Milwaukee comes Prince Fielder to throw out the first pitch. Another reminder of the Tiger who quit on us and the millions of dollars we are still paying him.

10. What did we discover about Ian Kinsler in the World Series? He is still a lousy baserunner.

11. If you liked David Price while he was a Tiger, how do you feel about him now? After watching him perform so well in his last 3 starts and then listening to him after they won the title, how do you feel about him?

12. Boston’s Joe Kelly was a huge presence and played a major role in helping deliver another championship to the Red Sox. Yet another example of a converted starter who has found a niche in the pen. He had an average regular season, but a monstrous playoff.

13. On the subject of relievers and building bullpens, Shane Greene is an example of someone who was a starter but was converted to a reliever and eventually a closer. But he took a step back this season and I believe his future value has been compromised. Let me ask you – his value to the Tigers when he was acquired was his future prospects as a starter. Should he head back to that role? I have a suspicion that if he is traded by the Tigers, he may start again, for someone.

14. Back to the outfield. The Tigers are so due when it comes to a position player emerging as a star out of the minor leagues. And Daz Cameron appears to have the best shot at being that player. And it’s where the Tigers need one; in that outfield, with speed, defense and athleticism. And he can hit. Hopefully he has enough talent to make it happen at the next level. And soon.

15. Nick Castellanos, like last season, had a tremendous September, coming up just shy of hitting .300 for the season. He is now a rising star at the plate who should garner more trade talk than ever this off-season. Should we trade him? Well, we should listen. (Holding this over because the he will be the subject of plenty of trade conversation in the coming months, so he stays at the forefront of my mind.)

16. Simply put. If James McCann isn’t going to hit. Good bye. (Holdover from Sept and Aug: Al Avila pretty much confirmed it. His chances of staying are not good.)

17. Many thought Chris Sale would get the start for Boston in Game 5 with the opportunity to close things out. But with David Price on a roll, it turned out to be a great decision. But Alex Cora did a special thing. He still allowed Chris Sale to have that moment and close things out in the ninth. It’s the little things. And Cora gets it.

18. One good thing I have noticed about many of the position players who have come up to Detroit this season. Speed. Guys that can run should be just as important to the Tigers as it has been to the Kansas City Royals. KC, who has now begun another rebuild, are concentrating on speed once again. (A holdover for sure. Something we should keep track of as more players come in.)

19. Who do you see emerging in the spring as a surprise addition to the major league roster heading out of Lakeland? Will they be a pitcher or a position player? Keep researching the young guys and keep this in mind as we get closer to Spring Training.

20. It was a great month of October. The playoffs were exciting and the best team won. And although they may have sent many of us on an emotional roller coaster, the playoffs only reinforced how great the game is and how there are even more ways to skin a cat.


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AND THEN THERE WERE FIVE

By:  Holly Horning

Did you see it? Four buddies sitting together in the Boston dugout. Porcello, Kinsler, JD and Price.

Seems like old times, doesn’t it? Er, that is, except for the different uniforms and the location.

And if you’re a Tigers fan, you could not help but think about what could have been.

What should have been.

What should have happened at least once over the past decade, give or take.

I’m not the only one. The national media has talked about the “Tiger effect” this entire post-season. They discuss the 17 former Tigers who were playing in October and making a difference for their teams.

But ironically, these same players couldn’t make a difference for Detroit. Even with baseball’s top starting rotation. Tell me the last time any team in the history of baseball had an entire starting rotation of pitchers who either had won or were about to all win the Cy Young Award.

Or a team that during this time also won 3 MVP Awards, a Triple Crown, 2 Rookie of the Year Awards, a Manager of the Year, 15 defensive awards, 11 Silver Slugger Awards and variety of other accolades.

All of this, but no ring.

And you have to ask why.

Especially now that the Tigers are identified as 1 of 3 of baseball’s top dynasties who never won it all. It’s not an honor that anyone wants.

And you have to ask why.

There are some who are willing to let this all go. It’s over, they say. Time to move on. Let’s forget it and focus on the future. (Such as it is.)

But I’m here to say that the mental wiping of the slate is the worst possible thing one can do. And George Santayana agrees:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Especially when those in charge during the last decade are still the ones in charge.

Dave Dombrowski was spiritually in Boston’s dugout the other night with his former, now once again, current players. And somewhere in that champagne-soaked locker room, he was having the last laugh at the expense of the Tigers.

It appears that he actually is capable of building a bullpen, placing an importance on defense and hiring a capable manager.

And winning it all once again – 15 years later.

Yes, lots of money can solve a lot of problems, but Trader Dave was also given a similar budget in Detroit and he couldn’t get it done.

He couldn’t get it done with Porcello, Kinsler, JD, Price – and Miggy, JV, Max Scherzer, VMart, Cespedes and others too numerous to mention. A starting rotation of JV, Price, Max and Porcello couldn’t win a single playoff game in 2014. That is unbelievable.

And you have to ask why.

The answer is not going to be simple. It’s not going to be 1 or 2 things.

It’s going to be a nasty big-ass (can I say that?) pot of bubblin’, troublin’ issues that involve ownership, outdated methods and scouting, flawed strategy, huge holes created by sloppy defense, no speed and a dumpster fire called a bullpen. It’s going to be about no sense of urgency, a flawed approach to buying a championship and the failure to pull the trigger when worrisome patterns appeared.

It’s also going to be about the inability to consider human traits as pivotal in creating a winning culture as the actual physical skill level. Many of which were seen in the selfish approach to the game by the players, the in-fighting and physical altercations and the hiring of a manager with zippo experience of any kind in managing/coaching an MLB-level team.

One look at the Red Sox team and you see the difference. You hear the difference. It is an attitude of winners and as we know, it is a quality that trickles down from the top.

Alex Cora talked about how there are no egos on the team. He talked about how the players aren’t selfish and are willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the team. David Price finally accomplished what he couldn’t do on other teams. Win. And on short rest, too.

Other pitchers were defiant about leaving the mound. More than one offered to pitch on short rest while others asked to be used in any way their manager saw fit. Compare that to the playoff game where Max Scherzer, pitching masterfully, asked to be removed – and with that bullpen waiting to blow things up. We know how that ended.

JD Martinez talked about how his new team battles at the plate. How they never give up on any pitches. How they all go to the plate with the mindset of working the count no matter the score of the game or how late the evening. An organization that is the polar-opposite of his former team.

This is all why the Red Sox won 108 games – and a ring.

Two teams with 4 players and a GM in common. Very different results.

Let’s also note that when Dave Dombrowski left Detroit, he took not one single Tigers employee with him.

And you have to ask why.

That action – or non-action – is telling.

Yet all those who worked under him in Motown have remained with the Tigers. All the same people responsible for a decade+ of achieving a total of one World Series game win. Heck, many of them even got promoted! Scared yet? It is almost Halloween afterall…..

And that’s why we can’t let it go.

It’s why we can’t forget the past.

Do we believe that these same people can actually suddenly, magically, change their beliefs and patterns?

What is it they say about old dogs and new tricks? Or the definition of insanity?

And that is why we can’t let it go.

If we do, then we are doomed to repeat history.

Other cities, other fans, other media are capable of holding their teams’ collective feet to the fire in order to inspire change.

Why can’t Detroit?

A WORK OF ART

By:  Kurt Snyder

The game within the game.

Those who follow baseball use the phrase more than fans of other sports.

Baseball is the only game without a clock, but time restrictions are beginning to force their way in, to speed up play, and it threatens the uniqueness of the game.

I find it interesting how fans can look at the routine of a hitter at the plate or a pitcher on the mound and determine what isn’t necessary and only prolongs the game.

How do we know?

We don’t.

I believe we are naïve to think that anything that takes extra time between pitches is unnecessary when the mental part of the game plays such a huge role.

It must. As a hitter, you have a fraction of a second to determine whether to swing or not, and it demands a strategy. You need a routine. You need time to reflect on the previous pitch, what the count is, what the pitch pattern has been, and on and on it goes.

But we sit on our couches wondering why batters have to step out of the box and mess with their batting gloves each and every time.

We want to take all that away, but we don’t want performance to be affected in any way. We don’t want the game to be affected in any way. We only want things to go quicker. The games need to be shorter is what we hear at every turn.

I say ‘we’ because I want to speak to all fans, not just the ones who currently follow this forum. We are all baseball fans. Some more serious than others.

Justin Verlander tweeted the other day, speaking out to fans who still feel baseball is boring. He advised them to educate themselves more about the game. And I think it is a valid suggestion.

There is nothing more boring than watching something for hours that you don’t completely understand. The underlying issue though is much more complex. People have to want to learn. New fans are more casual, and if more educated they would realize there is so much more to contemplate while watching.

How you view the game, how you watch a game and what you watch during the game outside of the play itself, to me, represents a great expanse.

The game within the game. But that’s just me.

I learned it watching all those games at Tiger Stadium when my dad, more than once, would say, ‘that sounded high,’ when the ball hit the catcher’s glove. What? It sounded high? Yeah.

And when you start watching games with that much depth, you open yourself to even more interest and realize that there is so much going on over the course of nine innings or even 18 if you watched all 7 hours of Game 3 of the World Series.  If you truly love the game,  it is far from boring.

There are no rules when it comes to what intrigues you. I’m a big people watcher, so I wondered throughout the playoffs about the guy with the Marlins jersey and visor, who we began to see in Milwaukee. And then again in the World Series. He was seemingly just a baseball fan with no affiliation to the teams on the field. Maybe just a guy with a lot of money from Miami who loves the game.

I wondered about the woman who sat behind the plate in Milwaukee. A Brewers fan, who was doing more than keeping score. She charted every pitch and cheered and applauded while recording every moment and every stat.

The faces of fans at playoff games tell the story. Without knowing the score, you know who is winning and who is not. You can see it on the faces and in the eyes of players especially.

As the final game of the Series moved along in LA last night, emotions and facial expressions told the story. Concern, worry, confidence, excitement, adrenaline, exasperation, joy and in the eyes of David Price on the podium, relief.

No smile.

Just an expression of reflection. The staring into space and the deep breaths told the story.

Yeah, I look at all of that. If you want to be passionate about something, you crave the details. As a writer at Totally Tigers, I know I am not alone. You, the readers, have shown that you have the same interest and same depth of passion for the game.

Now the challenge for the Commissioner is to grow baseball.  A whole different and much more imposing animal.  He’s got a tough job. There is so much to consider when you look at the game, and what can be changed, but improved at the same time.

So incredibly complex. Like a work of art.

Have you ever looked at a painting, decided it’s a whole lot of nothing and walked away? Yes?

But what happens when you are really interested? You look longer. And before you know it, you start to see things in that painting. Detail. A story. Maybe emotion.
That’s baseball. And if you really want to love it, listen to JV.

Learn it. Live it. Love it.


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OPEN MIKE!

Welcome to our new off-season schedule, and of course, who benefits?  You guys!  We’re moving our normal schedule around starting today, so for the second time in 3 days, it’s Open Mike!

The last Sunday of  the month will now be your opportunity to comment on the Tiger topic of your choosing.

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?


 Totally Tigers loves your comments!  But please remember that responses are only published if they address today’s topic, are respectful and do not exceed the maximum 3-4 sentence response length.  All rules are at:  https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/commentsrules/.

 

 

THE SATURDAY SURVEY

 For the off-season, in the interests of mixing things up, we have introduced another way for readers to weigh in.   So here is another poll to gauge the pulse of our baseball-lovin’ peeps – and get a read on the future of an ex-Tiger manager.

As always, we welcome your comments, so please vote and then submit your reasons for how you voted in the usual comment box.



Totally Tigers loves your comments!  But please remember that responses are only published if they address today’s topic, are respectful and do not exceed the maximum 3-4 sentence response length.  All rules are at:  https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/commentsrules/.

 

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?


Totally Tigers loves your comments!  But please remember that responses are only published if they address today’s topic, are respectful and do not exceed the maximum response length.  All rules are at:   https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/commentsrules/.

 

 

 

WILL LIGHTNING STRIKE TWICE?

By:  Holly Horning

If you squint really hard, that big “B” on their chests can sorta look like a “D”.  And it helps to be colorblind so that the red looks like blue. Or as the new Magnum says “Detroit Tiger blue.”

They certainly look the same despite the serious beards they’ve all grown since leaving the Tigers. Two of them have really bloomed since the move from Detroit, one is starting to show his age and the other has been struggling and dealing with injuries. Something we know about in Detroit very well, btw.

JD. Porcello. Kinsler. Price.

And don’t forget Dave Dombrowski.

In this year’s playoffs, 17 former Tigers participated.

Seventeen! And that’s not including Max Scherzer who is currently overseeing a $5 million home renovation and consoling himself by looking at his bank account balance.

Some of them left as full-blown stars. Dealt to teams on an upward trajectory towards October baseball. Many of whom were the deciding factors in their teams’ success.

Others, like Eugenio Suarez and Corey Knebel, were sacrificed in the attempt to win it all.

With the trades involving JV and JD, we still don’t know how valuable the return will be. Other trades that netted Fulmer, Norris and Boyd are still keeping us guessing. But other than that, I’d be hard-pressed to come up with any players Detroit got in exchange who are performing better than expected.

Jeimer Candelario is the closest.

This is what happens when you push all your chips to the center of the table in an attempt to win it all. Taking a huge risk. Risking it all. Just for that pot of money – or in this case, a ring.

Say what you will about multiple years of winning AL Central titles and some regular October baseball. Yes, they were fine years. But the Tigers wanted one truly great year.

And they didn’t get that. They were blown out of 2 World Series appearances.

The bottom line is that Mr. I gave Dave Dombrowski a goal of getting him a ring and he couldn’t deliver. He was given 14 years in which to do it. Most teams wouldn’t have given him anywhere near that long a leash.

Was Mike Ilitch to blame? Probably. It’s been written that he and Dave often bumped heads. It also didn’t help that Mr. I forced the signings of stars like Prince Fielder.

Was the organization known for being outdated to blame? I think we can say that it was a factor. For example, no one saw the importance of having a real bullpen. And some will argue that the organization still doesn’t see it.

Was Dave Dombrowski to blame?

We can answer “yes” to this one, too.

As great as Dave was at trading and collecting pieces, he practiced a very old school way of assembling a roster.

There was very little righty-lefty balance in the batting order. An emphasis placed on power pitchers and hitters. No speed and little/spotty defense. No depth on the bench. And a strategy of winning that only involved either great starting pitching performances or launching baseballs into the seats. Even putting together what could arguably be baseball’s best starting rotation of Verlander, Scherzer, Price and Porcello – all Cy Young Award winners – wasn’t enough as we saw in the battle for the AL crown.

His idea of a bullpen evolved from afterthought into signing a 40-year-old, with his best years behind him, to an expensive contract.

But beyond the roster, Dave did little. He invested nothing in the farm system. Rather, he used it as a human equivalent of a cash machine and depleted it until it was one of the worst in MLB.

He refused to have training/conditioning methods updated. And infamously, he refused to adopt analytics.

He pushed all the chips to the middle of the table. Risked it all. And came up short.

But before he left, Dombrowski did was he did best.

Trade.

Price, Cespedes and Soria left for players who would hopefully be part of the future.

And he was pretty good at running up the payroll, too. A payroll unsustainable for a mid-market team.

While Dave was here, fans were happy. We were living in the moment and ignoring the train coming down the tracks. We were focused on the present and not considering the future. Many believed that winning it all would be worth it. We didn’t want to consider what would happen if the ring remained elusive.

Fans liked Dave for the most part. He spoke decisively, played his cards close to the vest (unlike Too Honest Al) and regularly surprised us with some great trades. Having Dombrowski as the GM was like having that relative who spoiled you with gifts every time he came over. You always like people who give you things versus the ones who take things away.

The Tigers were winning and we were having fun. Damn the consequences. For many, this risky path would be worth it if that flag was raised over Comerica.

The red flags were there in 2015. If Dave’s departure surprised you, it shouldn’t have.

He was in the final months of his latest 3-year extension and Mr. I had yet to schedule a single contract extension talk with him. The Tigers were now under .500 and had been swept out of the playoffs the previous year despite having baseball’s best starting rotation.

Even Dave knew it. Many reports had circulated that he had started looking for a new job while still the Tigers’ GM.

And then the party came crashing to a halt. Actually, the bar had started “last call” after the final game of the 2014 playoffs and the party continued to shut down during 2015. That window had finally closed and nails were being hammered into it by July.

Dombrowski accepted a new job in Boston less than a week later (but not announced for another week) and Al Avila was forced into the janitorial role of sweeping up the mess created by Dave’s moves. He escaped, reputation mostly intact.

Ironically, it is Avila who is receiving the majority of the blame. Some of it deserved, but much of it not. He was left with immovable contracts, little flexibility, a significantly slashed payroll and an exodus of talent.

He inherited a very messy situation. An unhappy one. And fans are having one of the worst hangovers ever. Forgive us if we are now just really cranky.

But in the meantime, Dave skipped town for a new location. A fresh start.

And it didn’t hurt that he once again had essentially an unlimited payroll and one of MLB’s best and most plentiful farm systems. He immediately got to work signing some of the sport’s most expensive players and jacking up the payroll in just 2+ short years to almost $230 million – and MLB’s largest.

Along the way, he made some great trades, signed baseball’s most expensive closer and started emptying the farm system. So much so that a year ago, the Red Sox owners told him that, going forward,  he could only trade prospects with their approval.

But to his credit, Dombrowski appears to have learned some lessons from his days with Detroit. He’s addressed the bullpen to a great degree (insert your jokes here) and placed an importance on defense. And he grudgingly has accepted analytics after an initial first year of fighting them.

But there are also a number of similarities between his newest and former teams. And the onus is on the Red Sox to win it all this year. Not just for their MLB-leading season wins but also for the number of stars and the sky-high payroll.

Going forward, Boston will lose a number of players to free agency after this year. Payroll will remain extremely high and the Red Sox have a number of very expensive, long-term contracts with players who are now on the wrong side of 30.

We know how that rolls.

Boston fans are now where Tiger fans were back in 2012 and 2013. Everything is looking pretty good right now. They are focused on this year, with nary a thought about the future.

But if you look off in the distance, some dark clouds are starting to form. The question is whether those champagne corks are popped before these clouds roll in.

Whether the Red Sox win it all or not, the day of reckoning will eventually come. Promising players will be traded off, contracts will be dumped and today’s favorite players will suffer at the hands of fans as they age, putting up disappointing numbers – all while still collecting some the team’s biggest paychecks.

And Dave Dombrowski, given ownership’s penchant for regularly replacing GMs (his role even though that is not his title), may once again be headed out of town for another team with hefty payroll opportunities.

And leaving someone else to sweep up the mess once again.


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“RALPH’S STADIUM”

By:  Kurt Snyder (and Scott Snyder)

Every baseball fan has them. Stories. Memories. World Series memories. I have definitely shared a few from a collection I have respectfully named The Ralph Snyder Archives.

I have plenty of stories. And many from the ’84 Championship season. But I’m not sharing a story of mine today. My cousin, Scott, gets the honor.

It’s a story I remember. But it’s the first time I’ve heard the real details, in his own words. He shared it with me this past week.

But before I begin, let me tell you a little about Scott. He has had a lot of strife in his life. His father passed away at age 45,  and he lost an older brother under horrible circumstances. Way too much tragedy to ask any one family to bear.

As cousins, my brothers and I could not possibly understand what they were going through. My dad, who was also suffering under the weight of losing his only sibling and a nephew, felt like he owed it to his brother to do what he could for the  family he left behind, even if it was just extra long hugs for my aunt, her daughter and 2 sons.

Dad became closer with all of them, especially Scott. He would do anything for him. Which brings us to THE STORY.


In Scott’s words (edited by his journalist cousin – sorry Scotty!)

The morning of October 14th.

1984.

Columbus, Ohio. The Ohio State University.

I was sitting with 2 buddies, doing college things we really shouldn’t have been doing. My friends knew the Tigers were dear to my heart and we started talking about the World Series and the upcoming game.

Of course I stuck my chest out and said “we can go to today’s game in Detroit, I can get us in!” We didn’t have tickets, of course, and my friends just laughed.

I continued, “My uncle runs Tiger Stadium!” I grew up with Ralph running Tiger Stadium and in my mind it was “Ralph’s Stadium!” He had a phone in his box! No one else did.

So, being one to almost always accept a challenge, we jumped in my car and headed to Detroit! Only by God’s grace did we make it to the stadium. We walked with the crowds up to the stadium and arrived at a gate.

With my chest out and an arrogant attitude, I proclaimed “Let Ralph Snyder know that Scott Snyder is here!” (Keep in mind here that it is about an hour until the first pitch.)

Incredibly, Ralph does come to the gate with his smile I will never forget and says, “Your mom has tickets for tomorrow’s game, not today.”

Shaking his head left to right a few times he looked over to an usher and said, “Grab some chairs and put them out under the scoreboard.” I don’t recall my friends’ eyes but I can only imagine; a memory that I’m sure is still alive and well.

The usher took us out to left field and proceeded to put folding chairs on a surface area above the scoreboard. I remember it as if it were yesterday.

Lance Parrish hit a bullet that seemed to be curving right towards me. I reached and jumped as high as I could but the ball was about 10 feet over my head. I felt as though it were inches, if only I had my glove.

In Ralph’s office after the game all my cousins were there and Aunt Jeanette said “What are we going to do with you, Scottie?”  Classic Jeanette…

Just the opportunity to share this memory has me feeling taller today than yesterday. Thank you Ralph’s Stadium! Much Love to The Snyders.


Thanks for sharing, Scott! Enjoy the World Series! God bless ya, Cuz!


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TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Well, we made it! The Fall Classic is upon us. And for Tiger fans, we are still quite familiar with plenty of these players still at work.

So let’s talk about the Series. Our writers certainly have an observation or 2 when it comes to these teams and the players who will be on display.

As always, our writers have not shared their responses to the topic below in the interests of offering a range of perspective. So what will readers get today as  Kurt and Holly address a question about the clash between LA and Beantown.


It’s the Dodgers vs the Red Sox in the World Series. What are our two bloggers’ thoughts about these teams?


KURT

There are a few times during the year when you are reminded of what is flawed about the game, with one very big one leading the charge.

The World Series, when Major League Baseball crowns a champion, continues to institute a rule that handicaps the American League team. Every year, AL teams must adjust to a different game as the visiting team, while the National League never does.

So here is Dave Dombrowski, who must now consider putting Mookie Betts at second base in order to keep the big bat of JD Martinez in the lineup. In doing so, he must take 2 risks defensively, one at second base and, of course, in rightfield.

The last thing the Red Sox want to do is compromise what is a very good defensive team, and for them to have to do it in the World Series, is (let’s just call it what it is) blatantly unfair. No sacrifices will have to be made when the Dodgers visit Fenway; they need only add a hitter.

When it comes to this series, I will switch my allegiance to the Red Sox as I can’t find it in my soul to root for a Dodger team which now showcases Manny Machado, who unfortunately, despite his tremendous talent, must taint it all by playing dirty and embarrassing himself.

Playing a little on the edge and taking some liberties in the interests of aggressiveness and trying to gain an advantage is one thing; but doing it with the intent to injure, coupled with vulgarities directed at the fans, have no place in any sport.

Hopefully, we don’t have to see any of that in the Series; I would rather see Manny display his talents, not his distasteful personality.


HOLLY

I’m disappointed that it’s 2 of the richest big-market teams because I always like to root for the underdog who cultivates the ability to do more with less.

The Red Sox have MLB’s highest payroll ($228+ mill) which has been significantly jacked up each year since Dave Dombrowski took over. The Dodgers have the third highest but they have cut over $100 million dollars just in the past couple of years to end up under the $200 mill mark.

This is best exemplified by the still relatively old-school GM who freely spends and moderately dabbles in analytics while his counterpart is the trail-blazer in the industry who continues to put a highly competitive team in the World Series while cutting $100 mill from the books and making much smarter choices.

The Red Sox have to address the DH dilemma in a NL Park given that they need JD’s bat but don’t want his glove and it will be interesting to see if Dombrowski has belatedly learned some lessons about how to win a World Series at the expense of his time with the Tigers.

Personally, I dislike both teams but do admire Dodgers’ GM, Farhan Zaidi. I will root for individuals instead – all being former Tigers with the exception of all-around exemplary role model, Clayton Kershaw.

But what will be most interesting is how well the losing team recovers in their bid for next year. The Dodgers, other than Kershaw’s contract (which goes for only 2 more years), have very manageable contracts. The Red Sox don’t and at some point, Dave Dombrowski, should he avoid the revolving door of Red Sox GMs, will have to deal with what he escaped in Detroit – ageing players with limited tools and contracts that make it very challenging to trade them.


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