TERRRRIFIC TIGERRRRS

by Holly Horning

Let’s keep it easy and entertaining as we head into the final holiday weekend of 2021 by doing something this blog has never addressed.

Who are our favorite Tigers? Our personal favorites?

If we each published our own lists, how many players would we all have in common? How many would be different?

Let’s do just that. But to make it interesting, only our TOP FIVE can be included. Some hard choices will have to be made but in the end, which are the ones who make the final cut?

The selection criteria is wide open. Your choices can include athletes who played before you were born. They can make the list via their stats, impressive personal tales and/or because they simply resonate with you.

The only hard and fast rule is that they had to play for the Tigers. Managers, coaches, Front Office or owners are not eligible.

List your 5 and if you wish, you can add 3-4 sentences explaining your selection. You can also respond to others’ lists. We’ll continue to run this through the holiday so please come back and scroll through other readers’ lists as they get added.

TT may even do a follow up summary blog of the patterns seen in everyone’s responses.

I’ll kick this off with my Top 5 Terrrrific Tigerrrrs. In alphabetical order, because as you know, momagers don’t play favorites. 😉

1 – Ty Cobb

2 – Hank Greenberg

3 – John Hiller

4 – Al Kaline

5 – Justin Verlander

(Please follow the rules listed under the link above in order to be published.)


Get your Totally Tigers fix beyond this blog.  We publish breaking news, national stories of note, videos, observations and polls throughout the day.  Every day.

Click here: https://twitter.com/totallytigersbb or simply enter “totally tigers bb” (make sure you add the “bb”!) in the search box at twitter.com and click on “Follow.”

WATERCOOLER WEDNESDAY

baseball1
Today, another chance for readers to have increased opportunities to discuss the hottest topics in a forum where thoughtful conversations and a variety of opinions are welcomed.

Let’s create some running conversation threads with not just comments but replies to others.  And for those of you still going into offices, here’s a question to take with you – or use via Zoom calls – as you talk to your co-workers.

Here is today’s hot topic. For this blog only, a maximum of 10 sentences please.

The Tigers, like many teams, spent over a decade signing all-star players to long-term contracts. Some, like Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, became the faces of the franchise. Now, only Miggy remains. And so does his contract.

As the Tigers move further into their rebuild, should they revert to signing another superstar player? Someone who will attract fans to the game? Someone who will keep them in the news? Someone who will create more excitement?

Or should they focus more on adding solid players? Athletes who will fill more holes and potentially make this team more competitive than the addition of just one superstar?

Who should the Tigers sign?

(Please follow the rules listed under the link above in order to be published.)

What did you miss on our Twitter feed yesterday? (And why aren’t you following TT yet?)

  • A comparison of pitching stats between 2020 and 2021, earning Chris Fetter a big thank you.

Get your Totally Tigers fix beyond this blog.  We publish breaking news, national stories of note, videos, observations and polls throughout the day.  Every day.

Click here: https://twitter.com/totallytigersbb or simply enter “totally tigers bb” (make sure you add the “bb”!) in the search box at twitter.com and click on “Follow.”

THE WISH LIST

by Holly Horning

The Detroit Tigers finished under .500 this year but managed to avoid the basement again, finishing in third place.  Much better than most analysts had predicted.  One of their worst starts in history was offset by playing .500+ ball for 5 of the 6 months.

And it got tongues wagging about how the team was so close to becoming competitive again.  Some, especially the writers for the 2 Detroit dailies, were predicting that the team could see the playoffs in the coming year.

But what does it mean to be “competitive?”  Does it mean having a record of .500 or above?

Or does it mean an occasional foray into the division’s top spot?

Does it mean earning a wild card spot or even taking the AL Central title?

Could it even mean advancing in the playoffs?

“Being competitive” means different things to different people.  And it really needs to be defined.

As we discussed in an earlier blog this month, owners are more concerned with earning a healthy profit and staying competitive to some degree.  If a ring or flag comes with it, that’s nice, too.  But that’s not their top priority.  It’s a bonus, not a goal, for most of them.  They’re businesspeople after all, not fans.

Managers, on the other hand, are consumed with winning.  And you know that A. J. Hinch wants his team to go all the way.

So does Al Avila.

So realistically, how close is this team?  Do they have a few, some or most of the pieces necessary for winning?

That’s what we need to look at.  Not just the win-loss record and improvement seen in the team.

We’ve got to look at the expected division leader and compare similar roster parts with them.  We’ve got to look at the expected leaders in the other AL divisions. And even those in the NL.

We’ve also got to acknowlege how the length of a season can undo any team’s talent via injury or exhaustion.

Let’s do that right now.  Here’s my wish list of what the Tigers need to do if they seriously want to compete with the best teams out there.  I’ve kept it to the biggest needs and purposely excluded the secondary ones which will always be a factor further into the rebuild.

STARTING PITCHING

We can’t expect Mize, Manning and Skubal to all hit the expectations of high levels of success.  Two more starting pitchers at a minimum are going to be needed.

And considering that the Tigers use 13-15 different starting pitchers each year, they are going to need many more viable SPs to step up and fill in as needed.

THE ROOKIES

It’s unrealistic to believe that Torkelson, Greene and any other highly-touted prospects will come up and immediately become the solutions that the team needs.  Everyone needs experience, seasoning and learning lessons from their failures and struggles.  To expect them to master their positions in 1 year or less is an overreach.  Two years is still being very optimistic.

I would also caution against the belief that Tork and Greene are automatic slam-dunks to become star players before even setting foot in MLB.  Nothing is a given until proven.

THE OUTFIELD

This is the area in greatest flux.  Robbie Grossman has 1 more year with the team.  Other than him, no one else can be inked into a position.  There’s an inconsistent player, an oft-injured player and an unknown, untested player.  The outfield isn’t even half-formed jello yet.  There’s a lot of work – and a lot of player fits –  that still need to be done.

THE INFIELD

As with the outfield, we cannot automatically assume that Spencer Torkelson will survive and thrive at 1B until we see him play some games there.

Jonathan Schoop has 2 years left on his contract.  In the meantime, the Tigers have no viable candidates in the pipeline to take over for him.  In a perfect world, they would be bringing up someone for Schoop to mentor at 2B in 2023.

MIGUEL CABRERA

Meanwhile, Miguel Cabrera is playing 1B several days a week with Schoop playing it most other days.  But Miggy will be 40 by the time his contract expires and his skills will continue to diminish with age.  Forget about the Tigers cutting him because it simply won’t happen. But the team will need to find a way to maximize his contributions while also keeping him from diminishing the lineup.

THE CATCHER

Tucker Barnhart has a 1-year contract with the Tigers.  But what happens if he doesn’t work out or if the Tigers can’t extend him?  Are they going to cross their fingers and hope that Jake Rogers can resume his old form after having Tommy John surgery?  That’s a risky option.

Dillon Dingler is still at least 2 years away and the Tigers need to desperately increase the depth at the catching position.

OFFENSE

Do the Tigers have any hitter who is considered a real threat?  Other than Miggy, are there any viable seasoned bats?  That’s a clear “no.”  Somehow, the Tigers are going to have to go out and find one.  Or wait 2 years to see if Tork and/or Greene can evolve into that kind of hitter.

DEPTH

The team may have some solid prospects in the wings but having depth is another matter.  There will be a few who will see Detroit this year but after 2022, then who?  That’s still unclear.

It takes years of bringing up talent before you can really build depth and the Tigers aren’t there yet.

TRAINING AND CONDITIONING

The top layers of the Tigers’ organization are new but once you scratch that surface, many of the old people who have been running things for 20+ years are still there.  Including the training and conditioning staff.  Can you mix old methods with new ways?  Will the new coaches who came from teams with top T&C staff like what they see?

In addition to depth, being able to withstand and prevent injuries is crucial to having a team being able to play 162 games using most of their original roster.

PLAYER DEVELOPMENT

The Tigers still have a lot of holes in their outfield, infield and rotation.  There is little depth and it’s going to be up to VP Player Development, Ryan Garko, to accelerate the education of players in the minors.  The Tigers’ m.o. has been to allow players to move slowly through the ranks and linger in the minors for years.  But Garko is going to need to move top prospects through the system quickly – ideally in 3 years or less.

Depth won’t be achieved until then.  And consider that a number of top prospects who are in their 2nd year with Detroit – or about to come up – are all clients of Scott Boras who will take them to free agency in as little as 4 years.  The Tigers need to move minor league prospects up to Detroit while their predecessors are still playing for the team.

I know some of you were looking for the bullpen to be added here.  While yes, it is a factor, it is a very transient area of any team with lots of turnover and performance changes from year to year.  As the Tigers get closer to serious contending, they will become more of a factor.

In summary, for the Tigers to become contenders, they are going to have to sync and coordinate a number of areas of concern and development.  They need to mitigate areas that will hold them back while accelerating programs to speed up the pipeline.  They are in the position of having windows of opportunity opening but also realizing that the clock is ticking before some windows start to close.  What they really need to do is timing everything so that critical mass is achieved.  Critical mass that lasts for multiple years – and not just 1-2 seasons.

There is a lot of promise, but also a lot of unknowns.

Next year is sure to be better.  But do we want this team’s goal to be merely solid, good or outstanding?

It all depends upon what your definition of “being competitive” is….

(Please remember to adhere to the rules listed above and limit your comments to 3-4 sentences for them to be posted.)


What did you miss on our Twitter feed yesterday? (And why aren’t you following TT yet?)

  • The Tigers joined the list of teams with the longest playoff droughts. And given the teams who joined them, it’s not a good look.

Get your Totally Tigers fix beyond this blog.  We publish breaking news, national stories of note, videos, observations and polls throughout the day.  Every day.

Click here: https://twitter.com/totallytigersbb or simply enter “totally tigers bb” (make sure you add the “bb”!) in the search box at twitter.com and click on “Follow.”

OPEN MIKE

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For all of those who have survived all the food, travel and house guests, TT offers the perfect solution to help with your recovery.

It’s your day, your thoughts, your comments and your questions for others within this online community. And for this day only, a maximum of 10 sentences.

What’s on your mind?

(Please remember to follow the posting rules found at the top of the page.)


Get your Totally Tigers fix beyond this blog.  We publish breaking news, national stories of note, videos, observations and polls throughout the day.  Every day.

Click here: https://twitter.com/totallytigersbb or simply enter “totally tigers bb” (make sure you add the “bb”!) in the search box at twitter.com and click on “Follow.”

HOLIDAY HOMEWORK

by Holly Horning

Over the weekend, I listened to an interview with Kevin Gallagher and Jeff Frye. Gallagher is a well-respected author of baseball and Frye is a former player-turned-baseball agent.

And they both spoke about something we’ve often discussed here.

How to save the game of baseball.

There is much plaguing the game. Too many strikeouts, not enough balls put into action. The shift.

Games that are too slow and too long. Home runs or nothing.

Incentives for tanking and an increasing number of teams that are non-competitive.

Inadequate marketing, an aging fan base and ignoring the need to introduce the game to the young.

And analytics that are killing the beauty and spirit of the game.

We know that MLB has developed a special committee to explore how to make the actual game more enjoyable. But Gallagher and Frye are taking this a step further because they believe the game will be reduced to a minor sport in less than 15 years if significant changes aren’t made.

They have started a movement. It is called Save the Game.

You can find everything you need to know about the problems facing the game, what needs to be resolved and how to get involved. This is their link:

https://savethegameus.com/

This is your assignment over the long holiday weekend.

Please explore this site. If you love the game, please get involved. It doesn’t matter how much.

And please spread the word.

I also want to take the time to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season. For some, you’ve already celebrated the season. For others, the holidays start this weekend.

For everyone, wishing you days of warmth and joy!


(Please remember to adhere to the rules listed above and limit your comments to 3-4 sentences for them to be posted.)


Get your Totally Tigers fix beyond this blog.  We publish breaking news, national stories of note, videos, observations and polls throughout the day.  Every day.

Click here: https://twitter.com/totallytigersbb or simply enter “totally tigers bb” (make sure you add the “bb”!) in the search box at twitter.com and click on “Follow.”

WATERCOOLER WEDNESDAY

baseball1

Today, another chance for readers to have increased opportunities to discuss the hottest topics in a forum where thoughtful conversations and a variety of opinions are welcomed.

Let’s create some running conversation threads with not just comments but replies to others.  And for those of you still going into offices, here’s a question to take with you – or use via Zoom calls – as you talk to your co-workers.

Here is today’s hot topic. For this blog only, a maximum of 10 sentences please.


The 2022 season for the Tigers hints that it will be a promising year. There will be more hope, more excitement and more players to watch.

Which one of the options below will you look most forward to watching during the coming season?

To make it challenging, there’s no fence-sitting on this one!

And as always, feel free to explain your rationale in the comments section.

(Please follow the rules listed above in order to be published.)


What did you miss on our Twitter feed yesterday? (And why aren’t you following TT yet?)

  • The Tigers sadly lose their first base coach.

Get your Totally Tigers fix beyond this blog.  We publish breaking news, national stories of note, videos, observations and polls throughout the day.  Every day.

Click here: https://twitter.com/totallytigersbb or simply enter “totally tigers bb” (make sure you add the “bb”!) in the search box at twitter.com and click on “Follow.”

BASEBALL IS A BUSINESS

by Holly Horning

It’s not as sexy as home runs, but as I’ve been writing ever since Totally Tigers was born, money is the primary element that drives this game of baseball.

It is the key factor in how owners run their organizations, the people they hire, the players they sign and the level of competitiveness and winning they want.

Sorry folks, it’s not about the fans. 

Well, not a whole lot.  We take a backseat to the owner’s goals.

Let’s remember that baseball is a private enterprise.  Just because it’s entertainment doesn’t mean that those who rule the industry don’t run it like a business.

This stance was further enforced last week with an article written by Jules Posner in Forbes.

He explains how baseball has become more profit-driven and teams more efficient.

The rise of analytics is one factor.  A system that has the ability to put a “true value” on most free agents.

But Posner explains that it’s also Rob Manfred who brought in a baseball model that is more business-oriented and benefit owners the most.

As a result, owners are giving priority to putting ROI over winning championships.  The most business-savvy have found ways to maximize profit margins that combine as little payroll as possible while also fielding competitive teams.  We’re talking about you, Tampa Bay.

Jules goes on to explain that baseball is changing as the older ownership groups leave and are replaced by owners who are investment-minded.  Steve Cohen is the perfect example.  Other teams have increasingly moved to ownership groups that are run much like corporate boards.

The modern team now understands that the best money spent is not on players, but on R&D and coaching.  You could hire 50 new people and still save millions that would have been spent on a single high-priced free agent.  The benefit is that all these new people are focused on maximizing player production – esp. with the hidden gems found in free agency and the cost-controlled younger players.

And owners got that magic bullet by understanding that analytics is the key.  Teams were jumping on the analytics bandwagon, even enhancing and strengthening their departments, in order to use its results to cut payroll and improve performance. 

The bottom line as Posner concludes is “Analytics have emerged because baseball owners want to run better and more profitable private baseball clubs. Not because owners want to win championships.”

He states that “business is about efficiency.  It’s about making your business as profitable as possible while keeping your overhead low.”

There are additional benefits as well.  When you keep your payroll low and your team competitive, attendance, media contracts and other money-making sources go up.  Revenues – and profits – increase.

And so does the value of the team you own.

In case you ever want to sell it down the road.  (Another topic for another day so please hold your comments for then.)

As Posner summarizes, “Keeping payroll down keeps profit margins high and ownership happy. Most owners probably do not care about winning championships, but they care about being competitive.”

Winning championships costs more money.  Just look at the Tigers under Mike Ilitch.  The Tigers regularly lost money during their best competitive years.  They also didn’t have an analytics department.

But being good enough – and interesting enough to fans – generates a healthy dose of profits.  Especially when you’re not blowing up your payroll with expensive free agents.

Let’s look at the Tigers now.  How well do they follow the past and current business models?

As we return to when the team was owned by Mike Ilitch, we can see that it was a badly-run business in comparison with today’s formula and what other teams were doing back then.  During his last 10 years, the Tigers’ payroll skyrocketed and so did their operating expenses.  As I have written previously, the Tigers’ operating expenses were nearly double that of the next team.

And while the team was competitive and popular, the Tigers lost money every year.  This despite having attendance over 3 million.

The minor league system was neglected, if not decimated.  There were no coaches in the system that anyone else wanted to hire.  Or Front Office personnel for that matter.

There was no analytics department despite 25+ teams that had one.

You could say that Mr. I was simply throwing money at the problem.  Conceivably, it could have been a move of desperation in his attempt to win a ring before the ageing process claimed him.

And it was left up to his son to clean up the mess.

Chris Ilitch significantly changed how the Tigers were run. And in all probability, he’s not done yet.

Even though we hated every single minute of it, and often questioned it, it’s become more and more clear that a tear down had to be done if the team wanted to return to contention sooner rather than later.  It was going to be ugly no matter what.

But since the tear down, the rebuild has been very different and more in line with what other teams are doing.

Analytics was finally introduced and the department grew every year.  The latest in technology was brought in.  And personnel started to be broomed in favor of top hires from the top departments of other teams.

Coaching and managing improved – and expanded.  Over the past couple of years, the Tigers have hired a ton of new personnel working behind the scenes and responsible for player improvement. When you wondered why the team wasn’t spending on players, they were doing it in other areas of the organization.

Player signings got better with Robbie Grossman, Wily Peralta and Akil Baddoo.  This off-season, the Tigers earned 1 of only 3 A grades from the experts given out for their roster building.

And 2 years after taking over, Ilitch put this team in the black.  He also just brought in Chris McGowan who will be in charge of improving the fan experience – and raising prices (and profits) in the near future.

The Tigers are starting to turn out a better product at a much lower cost.  And a year after Covid, it is expected that they will make more money.

They are following the business model described by Posner in the Forbes article.

It’s often been said that Mr. I loved baseball and was beloved by fans.  Conversely, Chris Ilitch is often regarded by many as a businessman who doesn’t love the game – or team – as much as his dad.

But wouldn’t it be ironic if the changes he has implemented turn this team into a contender with the results that his dad never got?

(Please follow the rules listed above, including limiting your responses to 3-4 sentences in order to be published.)


What did you miss on our Twitter feed yesterday? (And why aren’t you following TT yet?)

  • MLB Radio gave their list of what the Tigers still need in order to contend.

Get your Totally Tigers fix beyond this blog.  We publish breaking news, national stories of note, videos, observations and polls throughout the day.  Every day.

Click here: https://twitter.com/totallytigersbb or simply enter “totally tigers bb” (make sure you add the “bb”!) in the search box at twitter.com and click on “Follow.”

MONDAY MUSINGS

by Holly Horning

Throughout the week, there are so many smaller stories hitting the media.  They may be bite-size, but often they are just as important as the headline-grabbing news.  Sometimes, even more.

And that’s what brings me to today.  A way to discuss some of these stories. A way to bring them out in the open for discussion.

And that’s the plan for Mondays.  Keeping track of these mighty little bits that hit my radar throughout the week and sharing them with you today because I know one or more will also resonate with you.

So, let’s kick off this week’s musings…


MONDAY MUSINGS

Buster Olney has reported that the Tigers made Carlos Correa a contract offer of 10 years @ $275 mill but that it was turned down.  Earlier this off-season, it was written that the Tigers were adamant about not venturing beyond $299 million.

Of course, this means that Correa is looking for a huge contract.  A record-breaking contract.

But it also means that the Tigers are serious about competing and that Chris Ilitch will open the wallet – smartly – for the right player.


Jim Leyland was in the news again this week trying to sell Hall of Fame voters on admitting Barry Bonds.  He did not directly address Bonds’ obvious use of steroids or his testimony in front of a grand jury in which he was found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice (later overturned).  Leyland also gave support for Roger Clemens, adding that if one of these players with evidence of PED use gets in, then everyone else should as well.

How disappointing is it to hear something like this where there’s a desire to lower the bar for admittance?

Or could the push for Bonds be part of Leyland’s strategy to strengthen his own case for the Hall? His chances are said to be slim in part due to his barely over .500 winning percentage despite having some of MLB’s greatest rosters.


Baseball has a mere 8 weeks before pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report for spring training.  But tell this to MLB and the Players Union who have had just 1 official meeting since the owners instigated a lockout shortly after the old CBA expired.  And no other meetings are on the schedule for the rest of 2021.

The lockout didn’t have to happen but owners did it to send a message.  Let’s not forget that Rob Manfred’s background is as a labor lawyer and he had a large role in the last CBA even before he became Commissioner.

I expect that both sides will stall as long as they can in order to get the upper hand.  I don’t expect there to be a work stoppage during the season for 2 reasons:

  • Fans aren’t going to tolerate another shortened season so soon after the 2020 season was abbreviate due to Covid.  If that happens, many fans will turn away from the game and find a replacement.
  • Baseball is a $10 billion industry and owners won’t want to lose significant money, including tv revenue, while shutting down the game.  For many teams, they’ve already invested a lot in their rosters and a shortened season will endanger players’ health (as we saw in the makeshift 2020 spring training) and create chaos among competitive teams in a shortened year.

Which one of these stories resonated the most with you?

(Please follow the rules at the link above, incl. comments limited to a max of 3-4 sentences, in order to be published.)


What did you miss on our Twitter feed yesterday? (And why aren’t you following TT yet?)

  • TT remembers Al Kaline on his birthday.

Get your Totally Tigers fix beyond this blog.  We publish breaking news, national stories of note, videos, observations and polls throughout the day.  Every day.

Click here: https://twitter.com/totallytigersbb or simply enter “totally tigers bb” (make sure you add the “bb”!) in the search box at twitter.com and click on “Follow.”

DEEPER DISCUSSIONS

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The Detroit Tigers are rebuilding this year at a faster pace with the addition of 3 new players and the hope that 2 top prospects will make the roster in 2022.

The Front Office is now talking about becoming “competitive” with the goal of making the playoffs in the near future.

But there is still a lot of work to do. A lot of holes to fill. A lot of weaknesses to overcome.

And that’s where you, dear readers, come in. Which area of the roster, when addressed sufficiently by the manager, coaches and Front Office, will do the most to push the Tigers into a playoff spot?

Today’s blog addresses this dilemma and allows readers to share their thoughts in more detail. And hopefully, to actively engage with others by responding to their posts and creating back-and-forth discussion threads. The more the merrier!

For this one blog only, you’ve got 10 sentences max to share your thoughts. Of course, you can respond to as many other readers as you want.

TT will supply the ammunition. One thought-provoking question. Several options provided. One hard choice to be selected. One vote.

Ready?

(Please follow the rules at the link above in order to be published.)


What did you miss on our Twitter feed yesterday? (And why aren’t you following TT yet?)

  • Happy Birthday to 2 of the Tigers’ biggest players!

Get your Totally Tigers fix beyond this blog.  We publish breaking news, national stories of note, videos, observations and polls throughout the day.  Every day.

Click here: https://twitter.com/totallytigersbb or simply enter “totally tigers bb” (make sure you add the “bb”!) in the search box at twitter.com and click on “Follow.”

SATURDAY SURVEY

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Until a new CBA is ratified, baseball teams cannot make changes to their roster. Before players were locked out by the owners, the Detroit Tigers traded for a catcher and signed a starting pitcher and shortstop. It is believed that the Tigers will still want to add another starter and outfielder before the 2022 season begins.

Currently the team does not have a full-time first baseman and the outfield in in flux. The majority of the rotation is young and still considered inexperienced. There are a number of question marks concerning the bullpen.

It is expected that at some point this year, Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene will make their debut in Detroit.

Given the state of the roster and the team still rebuilding, what year do you believe is a realistic one for the Tigers to earn a spot in the playoffs?

(Please follow the rules at the link above, incl. comments limited to a max of 3-4 sentences, in order to be published.)


What did you miss on our Twitter feed yesterday? (And why aren’t you following TT yet?)

  • An article explaining how teams are changing in how they are run and using business models. What does it mean for winning?

Get your Totally Tigers fix beyond this blog.  We publish breaking news, national stories of note, videos, observations and polls throughout the day.  Every day.

Click here: https://twitter.com/totallytigersbb or simply enter “totally tigers bb” (make sure you add the “bb”!) in the search box at twitter.com and click on “Follow.”