FIVE FOR FRIDAY

by Holly Horning

When it comes to running and developing a baseball organization, each team has its own system for putting out their product.  This is true for the very good teams, the average, mediocre and poor ones. 

Some teams will vary in how they are classified from time to time.  It can take a change in ownership, front office leadership, financial concerns and decisions related to their other businesses.

When organizations take a turn for the worse, we need to look at the factors involved.  Is poor performance a temporary situation or does it appear to be long-term?  Is the team run well but having a momentary lapse of competitiveness?  Or is the organization dysfunctional despite having solid resources?  And then there are the teams that seem to have fallen through the cracks and don’t understand or care enough to improve their situations.

We currently can’t say with absolute certainty into which category the Tigers will fall and remain.  Chris Ilitch took over during the 2017 season and has only been in charge for 3 full seasons and 2 partial ones.  With any sports team, turnaround often takes awhile before we see the true characteristics of the organization.  And in this case, we need to take into consideration that the team was being torn down most of these years and may not reflect the actual intent.

Or at least we can hope.

But now, both Ilitch and GM Al Avila have told everyone that the “rebuild is over.”  It’s time to start looking at the team with fresh eyes to see if they are on the right track.

I believe everyone is in agreement that they aren’t.  That this is the first year in which significant money was poured into the roster and didn’t make a single bit of difference.  And then there’s knowing that the team will finish much worse than they did last year – and may even hit double digits yet once again in losses.  That’s what tanking teams do, not ones that are rebuilding.

Everything this year, except for the bullpen, has been a mess.  For the first time in years, so many fans are saying that the Tigers are literally “unwatchable.”

We’ve seen the problems almost all year long.    But things are getting worse. 

This is no longer about a bad team.  Increasingly, we are seeing the hallmarks of an organization that is being ruled by incompetency.

It just didn’t happen, but it’s been hidden for awhile. 

Before Chris took over,  Mike Ilitch threw more money at the roster than 28 other teams.  Money has a tendency to cover up a lot of mistakes and bad management. 

But now that Chris is in charge, those insane payrolls are gone.  This means that organizational talent must rise to the occasion.

And so far, they are falling way short.  In fact, we’re seeing problems that have been around for awhile becoming bigger and more noticeable. 

And because of this, the Tigers are increasingly being exposed.  And everyone is noticing it.

We’re aware of the ongoing problems but now we’re seeing these problems reach critical mass, especially lately.

So today, here is my top 5 list of the most recent biggest changes and growing problems the Tigers have to address as soon as possible.  They are so large that they have reached the point of no return and the team must ensure that they are resolved before next season.

1. RETURN TO THE BARGAIN BASEMENT BIN

Granted, there are tons of injuries to pitchers but the Tigers have been going on a spree signing multiple DFA’d pitchers in addition to pitchers on their current roster who have been DFA’d 3+ times and keep returning to the club to pitch.  Recently, 3 pitchers, including Daniel Norris, who have been assigned to Toledo.  The Tigers are looking to turn Norris back into a starting pitcher and bring him up in August.

The rationale for this is undoubtedly due to significant injuries and pitcher limitations, but also because the Tigers are hoping to sell off some of their current top pitchers. As it is, the Tigers have currently used 15 different starting pitchers this year, which leads MLB.

These moves scream desperation and a lack of sufficient depth in the minors, especially for a team that is in free-fall.  It also is damning proof of the next category….

2. UNACCEPTABLE TRAINING AND CONDITIONING

The vast number of injuries to Tiger players hasn’t gone unnoticed in the national baseball reports.  It is just ridiculous at the vast amount of players, especially pitchers, who are injured (not including those who sustained injuries by hit balls during a game).  At one point recently, the Tigers were losing 1 pitcher per day for 4 days straight.  This is not normal and cannot be excused by bad luck or being “overworked.”

If everyone is getting injured, it points to a lack of proper and current conditioning.  It’s always been bad with this team but if this horrendous year doesn’t get the entire T&C staff (and maybe even some medical personnel) broomed, I don’t know what will.  Imagine what this team could have looked like, especially the starting rotation, if the right people were in charge.

3. FANS REVOLTING

We’re well beyond noticing the unhappy fans who complain.  We’re at the point now where they are taking action.  Tweets going viral on a regular basis with #fireavila.  And now, the growing group of fans who are organizing protests at games, complete with chanting, signs and sporting paper bags over their heads.

They’ve waited long enough.  And it’s no longer an issue of waiting for the team to rebuild.  It’s all about the incompetence of the GM.

4. POOR MLB REPUTATION

Other teams are talking about the Tigers and none of it is flattering.  They are anonymously speaking poorly of Al Avila to the press and how he is in over his head.  They question the goals of the team and the steps of the rebuild.   

We’re now reading these reports weekly.  Expect more as the trade deadline approaches.

5. NATIONAL MEDIA

It started in earnest 3 weeks ago and has picked up speed.  Multiple articles in the major national media (and now 3 segments on MLB Radio) about how bad the Tigers organization is and how Al Avila is not up to the task of rebuilding this team.  Many questions about the team’s flip flopping on where they are headed and even if the Tigers know what they want.  Multiple articles questioning this year’s free agent signings.

As I write this, yet another national article that pulls no punches in discussing Al Avila’s ineptness and history of mistakes. A piece that doubts Avila’s ability to rebuild this franchise.

The chorus of national sportswriters are now so prominent in their assessments that the local media is now emboldened and joining the chorus.

Once that Pandora’s box is opened, the media will continue to have a field day.  And right now, they are painting the Tigers as the most incompetent baseball organization.

Can you think of another recent development that has reached the critical mass stage?

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21 thoughts on “FIVE FOR FRIDAY

  1. With the help of their propagandists in the local media, this organization convinced many fans that being horrible for several years was a good thing and a necessary remedy because of Mike Illitch’s profligate spending. It is ironic that Illitch and Avila are now “hoisted on their own petard”: “The rebuild is 100% over” and “very pleased with the progress.” Now their apologists can only cry, “Injuries! Injuries! Injuries!” and even that points to systemic failure.

    Liked by 7 people

  2. This reminds me of the Lions circa 2008. They teased in 2007 by starting 6-2 and ended up a year later with a historically bad record. I feel like the Tigers are in a similar spot – a flash of competitive baseball last year with the hype and excitement of a new manager and some young upcoming talent. Now, they are totally exposed and feel further away than ever from truly being a competitor.

    Liked by 6 people

  3. Glad you tell it like it is Holly, but frankly I am so frustrated that almost everyone rightfully labels Avilla as being incompetent without the same sentiment about Ilitch, who is even more incompetent than Avilla since he is the one who not only hired this complete failure, but insists on keeping him indefinitely. It all starts at the top, and these two executives are unquestionably the worst in the major leagues.

    Liked by 7 people

    • I met a gentleman yesterday who said he knows Randy Smith. He had a long talk with him years ago after he got fired in Detroit. Randy readily admitted his faults, but also said that working for Mike Ilitch at the time was excruciating and at the time many in the industry considered him to be a terrible MLB owner.

      Liked by 4 people

  4. I think if Ilitch was going to fire Avila he would have done so before the draft and the trade deadline. Chris seems resolute in his overall support of Al to fix this mess and get back on track. As Avila has said obviously mistakes were made so I’d expect a combination of trades, players DFA’d or outright released along with changes to the coaching staff (new hitting coaches) along with overhauling the Strength & Conditioning department.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Anyone can say “mistakes were made”, but until the speaker of those words acknowledges responsibility for those mistakes, the words are meaningless. The mistakes have been piling up since 2015 (Zimmerman, Pelfrey, Ausmus, Gardenhire, and so on and so forth) – all Avila’s doing, and he isn’t competent enough to fix it. Chris needs to take off the blinders and accept that he allowed this mess to happen.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. I don’t think there is anyone in the organization capable of making the tough decisions to make this a winning team. CI is all about making money and as long as that’s happening, he’s satisfied. He may fire AA but more likely he won’t extend him whenever he’s contract expires. As bad as things are right now, I expect them to only get worse.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. If Chris does anything (which I doubt he will), it will be after the season. The other big issue with the Tigers is the fact that they are loyal to a fault. People simply don’t get fired – they get moved up. My hope is that whoever comes in after Al brooms out the Tigers “old guard” and their outdated ways. I’m talking to you Jim Leyland, Lloyd Mac, et, al.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Al could save his job: 1) fix train/conditioning and 2) gets Shohei Ohtani! Give up Green, Torkleson, Mize, Manning, Candy and next two first round picks. Ohtani and Baez can anchor lineup. Use Cabrera money in 2024 to get FAs. With all that is wrong desperation is needed. Remember Tigers got Cabrera at his prime!

    Liked by 1 person

        • Call me crazy but I think Baez will start to hit. He is from National league so it takes some time to adjust to new pitchers and such. When he gets more than 500 at bats he hits more than 29 HRs. He is only power hitter on Tigers so they basically pitch around him and he swings at anything because he sees nothing good.

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      • Baez, Ohtani and Meadows 3,4,5 in lineup. Skubal and Ohtani 1-2 pitchers. Bullpen good. That is a good base for a team. Look at Baez stats he can hit HRs and RBIs. With Ohtani protecting him he should get good looks as long as he lays off the outside slider. Need to work with Baez as he isn’t going anywhere for at least another year.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Let me follow Hughie Jennings’ beautiful use of Shakespeare to add that AA’s “resolution” to improve the Tigers is “Sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought”–and we all know what finally happened to Hamlet: Farewell sweet prince…..

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Is CI really gonna get rid of AA though? How much money is he gonna eat? He just waisted 243 mil or so..when does AAs contract end? I thought it was open ended or sonething..but if he cuts AA he has to eat more $$. I don’t think he does it. And I don’t see him spending miggy money on anyone after 2024 but I could be wrong. My bet is hes not happy now

    Liked by 1 person

  10. These columns are tough to read. This can’t be easy for the players either. I hate to be redundant but the team, each individual player, needs our support now more than ever.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Not a bad sentiment but the best support we can give them is to demand better for them from team leadership. That starts with a purge of Al and the leftover cronies: they’ve had their chance, and it’s time to step aside, and out; get them out of the way. Just changing the narrative will be a breath of fresh air and addition by subtraction.

      Liked by 2 people

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