TWICE AS NICE

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

As the Tigers have settled into a downturn and subsequent rebuild, fans can surely share in the agony after watching the window close on 10 years of failed opportunities and rosters full of great talent.

So about that rebuild and what the Tigers have done so far in Las Vegas … How do you think it’s going? The Tigers have made some moves and our writers have first dibs on evaluating what has taken place so far at the Winter Meetings.

As always, Holly and Kurt have not shared their responses to the topic below in the interest of offering a wide range of perspectives. So what will readers get today as Totally Tigers  addresses a question about the moves the Tigers have made so far?


The Winter Meetings are almost over. Were you happy with what the Tigers accomplished – or couldn’t?


HOLLY

I did not expect the Tigers to do as much as they did – and as soon as they did. I thought the presumed bargain-bin shopping would happen in January as more players were signed, making others more amenable to making a deal.

The Jordy Mercer signing was a surprise simply for the amount of money spent which may mean that the Tigers were so intent on getting a SS because they didn’t realistically see anyone in the farm system coming up at all this year.

I also didn’t expect Al Avila to trade Nicholas Castellanos – yet. He’s not going to be a top choice for teams and much more likely to be traded as the Hot Stove season winds down, the top players are moved and GMs who haven’t checked off their entire shopping list are now a little more desperate to fill their needs.

The most telling events of the Winter Meetings didn’t involve players. In an interview, Al Avila said the team’s top 2 goals were to collect prospects and to cut payroll, which means he’ll be pushed by ownership to trade more players like Castellanos, Greene and Hardy – the remaining highest paid players.

But most disturbing is that I’ve seen or heard more reports about how busy Jim Leyland has been than I have Avila. Broadcasters laughing about how often they see him, describing how he’s running from meeting to meeting and the report that he was instrumental in the selection of Mercer, overruling Ron Gardenhire’s preference.

In this case, the visible moves may be taking a backseat to what is happening behind the scenes.


KURT

I am befuddled by the moves that have been made, and it has nothing to do with the names or the faces or the spots they have filled, but how they arrived at the decisions.

Since we cannot trust the decision makers, it is hard to draw conclusions, to support or to argue. I understand the overall goal behind the transactions; the one-year low-dollar signings, the stopgaps, the place holders brought aboard to hold down the fort until the young guys arrive next season.

But to comment on Jordy Mercer, endorsed by Jim Leyland but not his manager; that’s just typical Tigers right now. Did they consider Troy Tulowitzki or did they enquire only to receive no returned interest?

The signings of the 2 veteran pitchers who will compete for starting spots seem fine but how thorough were the Tigers in their search and consideration? We have to question them. We can’t trust them, so any move they make will immediately be met with skepticism, at least on my end of the blog.

You may ask what it will take for us to trust what is a flawed leadership team. Well, maybe something even the slightest bit innovative instead of just ordering off a menu and settling for the soup of the day.

Have they at all considered under-the-radar major league talent out there, who may blossom in a new environment; not for future trades but to potentially be a part of the future?


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THE OTHER PLAYERS

By:  Holly Horning

A lot is happening in Vegas during the Winter Meetings and it’s not all player-related. Personnel are changing teams at a rapid pace.

You could also call it “Poaching Season.”

Teams are going after each other’s Front Office brains. GMs have been moving to rival teams such as Farhan Zaidi leaving the Dodgers and heading north to the Giants. Presidents of Baseball Operations, like Dave Dombrowski, have been expanding their offices to include more high-level decision makers.

And many coaches, especially bench coaches from top teams like the Cubs, Astros, Red Sox, Dodgers and Cubs, have been moving upward professionally with other organizations.

Team employees and coaches are not safe. Except if you happen to work for the Tigers.

Please tell me the last time any other team wanted to poach personnel from Detroit. Lloyd McClendon doesn’t qualify because the Tigers turned him down for the managerial job so he felt he had to look elsewhere – before, of course, returning to the Tigers after he was fired.

Dave Dombrowski made it known that he wanted to leave the Marlins because of the team’s fire sale and sent out his resumes.

Dave Littlefield and David Chadd both applied for positions with other teams this off-season but did not make the initial cuts. Lloyd and Dave Clark appear to have permanent jobs.

You have to go all the way back to 1996 when the Tigers hired a third base coach by the name of Terry Francona. And after that year, he was hired away by the Phillies to become their new manager. Twenty-two years ago……….

Granted, there’s almost zero turnover in Detroit. The Front Office personnel, managers, coaches and training/conditioning/medical staff all seem to have jobs for life. Even the current manager, Ron Gardenhire, was not permitted to hire the majority of his coaching staff. He “inherited” many of his coaches.

And then there’s Omar Vizquel. A Tiger coach for 5 years. Released from the team when Brad Ausmus’ contract was not extended and ended up finding a home with the White Sox as their Class A Manager. After 1 year, he was just promoted to the AA Manager after showing dramatic results and being named Manager of the Year.

Omar was singled out for his exceptional talent at developing young talent, establishing a “winning culture” and possessing “strong leadership skills.”

And for 5 years, the Tigers couldn’t see his potential. It had to take another team.

And all of this is worrisome. A pattern of personnel not being able to see the weaknesses or strengths of their own employees. A pattern that prohibits looking beyond their doors to find talent or to gain a different perspective on how to do things.

A group of people so firmly entrenched in the system that they have been together for decades – and with multiple teams.

And now, if you are watching the Winter Meeting events, the broadcasters have mentioned how visible – and active – Jim Leyland has been at these meetings. They described a guy who was running from meeting to meeting with other teams to discuss trades.

And Wednesday, we learned of the Tigers signing Jordy Mercer. A top journalist wrote that Leyland was “undoubtedly a key factor” in his signing. It was also mentioned that Gardy had wanted and pushed for another shortstop but failed in his attempt.

So while other teams are getting younger and hiring guys with sports economics, statistical/analytical majors and MBAs, the Tigers have transferred a significant chunk of their decision-making to a 74-year-old man. (And I’m not being ageist here. It’s based upon it being well-known that JL is traditional and resistant to baseball’s new concepts and ways of doing business.)

This team is moving in the opposite direction, if that is at all possible. And what’s even more curious is the conflict between JL’s philosophy and that of the analytics department. Remember, this is the same guy who was sitting on A Avila’s immediate right during the summer’s draft.)

Scarier yet is his stance on analytics. If you didn’t read it several weeks ago, here it is again:


https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2018/10/31/a-dinosaur-in-detroit/


And it’s when you have such an extreme conflict of beliefs, combined with giving an ageing, old-fashioned individual an extraordinary amount of power, that you have to question the vision and goals of the organization. Or whether there even is one.

The majority of baseball teams are getting younger with each year. Except for the Tigers who continue to skew much higher with the vast majority of their personnel well-above the average ages in baseball. They have one of baseball’s oldest Front Offices, if not the oldest, because no one leaves and there are very few, if any, younger employees joining their ranks.

The fact that no other teams are interested in hiring away their personnel speaks volumes.

And in this case, during these Winter Meetings, what happens in Vegas – sadly – doesn’t stay in Vegas….


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TALENT TRUMPS CHARACTER

By:  Kurt Snyder

You could say it was almost unprecedented.

For some reason, the Tigers had been watching JD Martinez for years, during his days in Houston.

Trades were proposed but deals were never made.  But they continued their interest until the Astros, seeing no more future in JD, released  him in March of 2014, only to be snapped up and signed by the Tigers just 2 days later.  They had grabbed the player they had coveted for years.

The timing was perfect as JD was in the middle of transforming his game, in the effort of resurrecting his career and becoming a better hitter. And as we all know, it could not have turned out any better for both Martinez and the Tigers.

He became a star in Detroit. And since his trade to Arizona and then his signing with the Red Sox, his numbers and his career have exploded,  culminating with the ultimate – A World Championship with Boston.

Is all of this what you would call unprecedented? Not at all.

But it was the period  between the end of his time in Arizona and when he was finally signed by the Red Sox that was the biggest of head scratchers.

His rise as a big league hitter, both for average and for power, had lifted him into a position among the leaders in many hitting categories. But his defense? Well, that’s where he has struggled.

And because he struggled defensively, JD sat unemployed until the end of February before the Red Sox finally broke the ice and signed him.

It was an incredible circumstance for a player who in any previous year would have fielded several offers and been snapped up pretty quickly by a team looking to upgrade their offense in a big way with a big time hitter.

But between November of 2017 and March of 2018, the new order of baseball reared its head. Being a great hitter was not enough anymore. Your overall game was scrutinized before big money was spent.   And the very fact that JD struggled defensively, made teams question how much they could invest. And most decided they would not.

So one of the greatest students of the game, someone who had retooled his swing, who kept copious notes after every at bat, and became one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball, couldn’t find a team that wanted him. Not one.

Unprecedented? Almost!

Just before the end of spring training, Boston bagged him and handled him perfectly. JD spent most of the season as the designated hitter, playing in the outfield in only 57 games. And meanwhile, he continued his rise at the plate, crushing American League pitching and routinely slamming baseballs over and against the Green Monster.


If you look at some of the top dollar prizes on the market this season, one player who is dominating discussions and the free agent landscape is Manny Machado.

Already, you can see that this will be no instant replay of JD Martinez. There has been plenty of talk, lots of rumors and a number of potential destinations being bantered about. Machado is going to be signed – and soon.

He is a more complete ballplayer than JD Martinez. In fact, it isn’t even close. He is a dynamic offensive player and an elite defender on the left side of the infield.

But there is one factor not mentioned since the World Series. Manny Machado spent the playoffs showing his character. And quite frankly,  it stinks. He has been classified as one of the dirtiest players in the game. He admittedly doesn’t hustle because it’s just not him.

But because his game is so elite, teams will look away from a player’s dark side, one that could end up getting him suspended at some point with his next team. That’s the risk with Manny Machado.

But these character issues will not hold Manny back like JD’s defensive shortcomings did last off-season.

A model citizen and monster at the plate couldn’t find a team for weeks and weeks because of his play in the field. It was as simple as that.

But the character issues that Manny Machado will bring to the negotiation table, when he signs the biggest contract of his life, may never be discussed.


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IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY, HONEY

By:  Holly Horning

The Hot Stove season is here – or as Tiger fans used to call it while Mr. I and Dave Dombrowski were in charge, Christmas Comes Early.

But now, it is anything but. We fans can’t expect anything these days that is even close to room temperature. That is, unless you get excited over the thought of signing a journeyman shortstop for one year as a stopgap measure.

The times, they are a-changin’ and many fans have yet to realize that. Read any one of a number of forums and the expectations are still there. Expectations that well-known and solid players will be signed. Should be signed. And for a decent chunk of change, too.

They expect it because they were spoiled under the previous ownership. They expect it because the Tigers were in “win now” mode for so long. They expect it because it is reasonable to assume that all teams want to win – and not lose.

They expect it because they assume that owners want to please the fans.

To quote Alicia Silverstone’s character, Cher, in Clueless – “As if.”

I hate to be the downer in all of this, but sports owners don’t buy teams to please fans. They buy them for the quickly rising investment value. They buy them to raise their own profile and credibility. They buy them to enhance the value and income of their other businesses. They buy them to feed their egos.

And most importantly, they buy them to make money.

The only time owners care enough about fans is if they are sitting in enough seats. And spending money on parking spaces, food and merchandise.

And yes, fans want a winning team but the owner is not going to give it to them unless it benefits said owner. All because a winning team costs a lot of money and tends to drive down profits in many cases.

It really is up to the owner to decide whether it’s more important to build and pay for a championship-level team or to find that point in the payroll where s/he is maximizing profit. And every once in a while, you get an owner on the shorter end of the life arc who decides they need to add that ring sooner rather than later. Like Mr. I.

And like Ted Lerner, owner of the Washington Nationals. Mr. I’s twin brother in a way. He is 93, in failing health and really wants that World Championship. And he is duplicating almost everything Mr. I did during his ownership.

Lerner’s payroll has skyrocketed, in part due to all the expensive free agent signings – done mostly with Scott Boras.

Sound familiar?

And when Mr. Lerner fully turns over the reins to his son, said son is going to have different ideas about how to run that team.

Speaking of which……

As we look forward, Chris Ilitch is 53 years young and appears to be in great physical shape. A guy with a business degree from U of M who is undoubtedly focused on the bottom line. Time is on his side when it comes to developing a winner.

Previous blogs here have mentioned his need to clean up the overspending mess created by his father. No small task and one that, quite frankly, has no end in sight, given the huge contracts that remain on the books for the next 2-7 years.

And it’s precisely those contracts that will be the albatross around the neck of the Tigers. And it’s the reason why players have been traded and others non-tendered in the battle to right the books.

And it’s the reason why the Tigers will not be signing anyone of note or real bucks for at least the next 3 years. Maybe longer.

Who really, in their right mind, is going to spend more money on players over the next couple of years who might make their team average? Or good – but not good enough to make a real difference?

The focus really, is to field a team that will put enough fannies in the seats. A product that will produce profit. A product that will maximize profit.

Look no further than the other local team, the Detroit Lions, who earned over $341 million in revenue last year. Do you think ownership is anxious to change their winning formula? A winning formula, btw, that earns them a tidy profit every year even when they tank in the standings.

The Tigers are hoping that they can harness the new strategies being practiced in MLB. Signing and developing multiple young players who will earn the MLB minimum and play for years before arbitration really kicks in. And when they start earning bigger bucks, they are traded off for prospects.

So while this team is in “rebuilding” mode, they are not going to spend a nickel more than they must. Expect to hear more now about “bargains” and “value” signings. Oh, and that now-tired phrase uttered by the Front Office – hoping to find another “diamond in the rough.”  It’s all code.

The Cubs, for many decades before they recently became successful, were MLB’s most profitable team. Even with all those years in the cellar. It’s also one reason why they stayed so non-competitive. Money.  it was good – no, really great – and there was no need to change.  No need to mess with a good thing.

The Houston Astros, before they finally put together a championship team, were baseball’s most profitable team for 5 straight years. They also had MLB lowest payroll for most of that time.

Contrast that to the Tigers during their best 10 years under Mr. I. That payroll of theirs created operating losses for the team 7 out of those 10 years. Winning does not always create profit.

For the most part in MLB, there is a correlation between increased profit and lower payroll, especially if your team is not in a major East or West coast market.

And if fans want to see ownership change their ways? Enough of them need to shut their wallets. That is the only way to truly inspire change.

The bottom line is that owners place their priorities on profits. It’s not championships – although it would be nice for the right price. And it’s definitely not about making the fans happy.

It’s about making just enough fans happy.


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WRONG SIDE OF THE SHIFT?

By:  Kurt Snyder

What if I just fell in line?

When questioned about the shift and the potential for Major League Baseball to dump it, should I just adopt the position of the majority?

After all, why would I want to dump it? When a powerful pull-hitter is greeted with 4-5 infielders on one side of the field, maybe even one positioned shallow in the outfield, isn’t that how every fan wants to see the game defended?

Sorry, but fans should greet the shift the same way they respond to an intentional walk to the hitting stars of our game, with boos.

But no, the shift has been supported like no other.

Supportive fans are asking, ‘Why wouldn’t baseball want this? If hitters cannot adjust, by hitting the ball the other way (and abandon what has made them so successful) then they shouldn’t be big leaguers.’ This is really the kind of response I have been reading over the last couple days; both on our site and other forums across the web.

In so many cases, when fans referenced players who would or could take advantage of a shift to one side of the field, a Hall of Famer would be referenced. Hall of Famers!

Players like Rod Carew are brought up, who incredibly, seemed to be able to hit the ball anywhere he wanted, at any time, regardless of the kind of pitch he was thrown and regardless of where it was thrown.   It’s what made him a Hall of Famer.

Players hitting the ball away from the shift has been rare. Mainly because it’s just not that easy to do. When they have, it’s been unintentional or lucky, and met by laughter when they reached first base. Pitchers do make mistakes, but when the shift is in place, they pitch inside, and even with that, we are asking hitters to hit it or bunt it the other way. Much easier said than done.

There are power hitters in the league, pull-happy power hitters, who have one job, to drive in runs and hit the ball out of the park. And their owners and managers are not looking for them to bunt single the other way in order to beat the shift. They are being paid big money to do the exact opposite.

Let’s just say, Bryce Harper goes 5-5 with singles the other way, 2 of them bunts. Who wins? Is it Bryce who found himself on base all night, or the opponent who employed the shift and forced him to play away from his strength as a hitter, keeping the ball in the park or avoiding a double off the wall?

The shift is silly and amateurish. It makes a game less exciting at a time when MLB is looking to engage new fans who are looking for more reasons to watch, not less.

Defensively, it has become less exciting. Offensively it has become less exciting. So, do we want the shift? Why am I being told the answer is yes?

Normally when we fight for a cause on this site, it is for traditional baseball, the way it used to be. But this is a departure. Yes, we have seen shifts before, and that’s when Hall of Famers are brought up, describing how they used to beat it.

I want to see great plays made again, and we are seeing less and less with the employment of the shift. Let’s let athleticism fill the gaps, not fielders fill them by shifting to one side of the diamond.

A hard hit ball into the hole, played routinely by the third baseman playing the rover position in shallow right field is not exciting. It’s softball!

Wouldn’t you rather see a second baseman making an athletic play to turn a sure hit into an out? Or a second baseman positioning himself perfectly to make the play? That’s baseball, folks. The shift takes away from the modern game that has more athletes capable of making more plays.

I’m not suggesting anything rigid. Let scouting and analytics dictate where infielders ought to be shaded, like they always have. Scouting reports can advise positioning, but radical shifts have to go.

Our commissioner has more pressure than most before him to change the game for the better. And no one can convince me that the shift makes the game better.

No one.


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QUESTION OF THE WEEK

It’s time again to hear from our readers!   Today is the day to let us know what you’re thinking on a selected topic.

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

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

We can’t wait to get your thoughts on the following topic.


What is your position on MLB potentially banning the shift?  


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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.

As always, we welcome your comments, so please vote and then submit your reasons ( 4 sentences max!) for how you voted in the usual comment box.  Don’t forget to come back later and view the results!



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TWICE AS NICE

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

As the Tigers have settled into a downturn and subsequent rebuild, fans can surely share in the agony after watching the window close on 10 years of failed opportunities and rosters full of great talent.

But what if you could go back and make a change or 2? What would you have done differently?

As always, Holly and Kurt have not shared their responses to the topic below in the interests of offering a wide range of perspectives. So what will readers get today as Totally Tigers addresses a question about past Tiger decisions?


Let’s play Back to the Future! If you could go back in time and change one thing about one year – that would impact the course of history for the Tigers – what would it be?


KURT

It was all lined up for the Tigers. After a gem of a pitching performance by Anibal Sanchez and a 1-0 victory to kick off the 2013 American League Championship against the Red Sox, the Tiger were cruising again in Game 2. They took a 5-1 lead into the 8th inning after Max Scherzer had stymied the Sox over 7 innings that included 13 strikeouts.

All the talk as the Tigers headed towards the late innings was how impossible things would become for the Red Sox should they go down 2-0 heading back to Detroit, where Boston would face Justin Verlander.

With 2 outs in the 8th inning of Game 2, Boston loaded the bases with 2 outs with David Ortiz coming to the plate; and a  decision was looming. In his career to that point, Ortiz had gone 2 for 18 versus Phil Coke, who was warming in the pen along with Joaquin Benoit. But Leyland chose Benoit and the rest was indeed history.

The Ortiz grand slam still turns the stomachs of Tiger fans to this day, and what is remembered most as time has faded, was how close Torii Hunter came to catching that ball. But what should be remembered most is the decision to bring in Benoit instead of a more favorable matchup versus Ortiz.

We don’t know if the results would have been different, but a win in Game 2 more than likely would have propelled the Tigers to a World Series they would have been favored to win. And one decision by Jim Leyland, one he normally would make based on matchups, could have changed the course of baseball history in Detroit – World Championship history.


HOLLY

The dials in my DeLorean are toggling back and forth between October of 2008 and September of 2013 with only 1 thing in common. The need for the Tigers to change managers while the window for winning it all was still open and the talent was at such a high level.

As I’ve often written, Jim Leyland was the best choice to manage back in 2006 because the clubhouse was an uncontrollable mess but when your team has evolved, you need a different voice to take you all the way there.

JL told Dave Dombrowski in early September 2013 that he was retiring and the Tigers had the chance to go after Leyland’s close friend, Ron Gardenhire, whose contract was expiring with the full expectation he would be cut loose from the Twins. Granted, Gardy may not have been the best choice, but he had playoff experience while never having the talent that the Tigers contained – and his contract was not renewed by the Twins until after the season had ended.

Leyland, after the surprise year in 2006 was allowed to coast for the next 2 – coming in 2nd place in 2007 and dead last in 2008. He would end up having a 4-year drought in-between playoffs which is inexcusable given the remarkable level of talent contained within this team that included Miggy, Max, JV and so many others.

After hitting the instrument panel in the DeLorean, it finally settled on October 2008 because that was the year some of the best managerial talent was available. Many new skippers were hired by other teams, including AJ Hinch, Clint Hurdle, John Gibbons, Dusty Baker and Joe Girardi.

Hiring one of these guys would have gotten the Tigers into the playoffs more consistently and the changes made to history would most probably have prevented the team’s knee-jerk reaction from moving from one of baseball’s oldest managers (in age and strategy) to hiring one with zero experience.


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MANY SHADES OF GREY

By:  Holly Horning

Ok, calm down. It’s not a blog about that. Remember, we are a family-friendly site.

But now that I do have your attention……….

…let’s talk about how we judge the talent that doesn’t play on the team.

If you think about it, how often we evaluate those who run the organization happens with just about as much frequency as those who actually play the game.

And now that the Tigers have failed in their quest to raise that flag above Comerica, and are rebuilding, it’s only natural that we seek answers.

Answers about who was at fault. Answers about what wasn’t done. Answers about failed strategy.

And for a little while now, many have been pointing their fingers and contributing to the blame game.

It’s only natural. We want to understand what went wrong. We want to be able to say that we knew who was at fault. We want to be able to avoid that factor down the road when the team becomes competitive again.

We want to wrap up this time in history with a pretty little bow.

But we really can’t. Not definitively anyway.

Life is so complicated that we can rarely say someone – or some group – was singularly responsible for what happened – or didn’t.

Life isn’t black and white. It is usually many different shades of grey.

And that applies to 6 of the Tigers’ top decision-makers. Guys who were instrumental in helping chart the success and failure of the team over the past 14+ years.

Fans have a love-hate relationship with them. Either seeing the good they brought to the team – or only the bad.

But what if they brought both? Let’s explore……..


MIKE ILITCH – After buying the Tigers in 1992, this owner allowed his team to languish near the bottom of the division for 15 years. During that time, the Tigers finished above .500 only once. Maybe it was due to getting older, receiving a health scare, business reasons or simply sick of owning a losing team, but a change in building this team started to gel a couple of years before 2006.

For the next 10 years, the Tigers became one of the top teams in MLB and regular post-season contenders. Mr. I routinely opened up his checkbook for free agents and made this long run possible. He brought in new management. But he also interfered with his GM’s plans with signings he pushed and a business model that was undoubtedly unsustainable.

CHRIS ILITCH – It’s hard to come in as the new owner when all the celebrations and good will have vanished. He inherited a mess from his father and is ultimately responsible for cleaning it up. He’s been put into a difficult situation in which only tough decisions now rule. None of this makes one popular but sadly, it needs to be done.

And now we see the team being deconstructed to levels not seen in decades. Salary being dumped and not a single employee being released that would tell us things are truly changing. Two years of nearly 100-loss seasons with the newest season indicating that it will be worse. And it doesn’t help when your new owner is reclusive and doesn’t try to explain and offer reassurance to the fans about the vision or timeline.

DAVE DOMBROWSKI – He built a winner in Florida and saw almost immediate success (in baseball years) when he came to Detroit. Dave was the absolute best in trading players. Getting players who mostly achieved high honors in Motown and giving up relatively few players who went on to be successful with other teams.

But he was also oblivious to many of the changes happening in baseball. He ignored the importance of the bullpen and hired a rookie manager when the team was at their highest performance level. And after 14 years of work, his strategy resulted in exactly 1 World Series game win. Yet, name another Tigers GM who was more talented than Dombrowski.

AL AVILA – He is in a similar position to Chris Ilitch. One of those in charge of mopping up the mess. He never had Dave’s generous budget or freedom of movement and publicly emerged as the figurehead for a team going downward. He made bad and yawn-inducing signings and now is the official face of the hatchet-man wielding his ax.

He’s no Dave Dombrowski, but then again, he hasn’t even had a smidge of what Dave was given.

JIM LEYLAND – When he was hired in 2006, he led the team to the World Series in his first year. Leyland was a no-nonsense manager who commanded respect and knew how to run a clubhouse. And quite frankly, he was the best choice to get the job because the players had been running amok and doing their own thing for a while. The same players who savaged their former manager, Alan Trammell.

JL was a successful ringmaster and lion-tamer but when your team takes it to the next level, your managing needs to evolve, too. And Leyland only knew how to run a team one way. He was given more chances than reasonable when the team had several under-performing years including a last place finish. And with his current continued involvement in the team, we see no signs that he has evolved his thinking about how the game is played today.

BRAD AUSMUS – He wanted to be a manager, but as is often the case, you don’t know what you don’t know. You can’t blame him for wanting to continue working within the industry and in a higher position. He was ambitious. And he interviewed well. And he got a job offer. It wasn’t his fault.

But Brad had no previous experience managing and it showed almost every day on the field. He also couldn’t relate to the players – the majority of whom later confessed to not liking him. We shouldn’t be surprised that this was actually a manager-in-training program for him. All at the Tigers’ expense.


So how should we regard these men? By recognizing their strengths and weaknesses. And also quite frankly, the different situations into which they were thrust.

For some, the work continues and we should hope that the current analysis about them continues to evolve – and to evolve favorably.


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PICK A PLAYER, ANY PLAYER

By:  Kurt Snyder

I would like to start by saying I’m sorry.

Despite all the time spent on my not-so-pleasant thoughts for November, I still realized that I just can’t continue to get caught up in the doldrums of this off-season, the state of the organization and the hopeless feeling of a misguided rebuild.

Sure, I can’t shut the water off altogether and put my head in the sand. That’s just not going to happen.   The Tigers front office and all their imperfections is a living, breathing and ugly animal.

But I would like to take a break and spend some time talking about what a rebuild can offer a fan when they are grasping at straws trying to find positives and hope. It is something I have touched on before but it was in a different context.

We have had special players on this team. Many of them over the last several years. And most recently, ‘special’ certainly described the defensive talents and what I often called ‘wizardry’ when describing Jose Iglesias. And as the team began to shed talent and shred this team down to the bone, he became one of the last men standing; one of the final pieces of real talent on this baseball team.

As the games get uglier and the losses continue to mount, you start looking around the field for anything positive. For me, I always had Iggy and I learned to appreciate a talent that would not be around much longer.   And we will spend this season scanning  the field, scouting the talent.

During a rebuild, we will get more and more opportunities to spend time evaluating specific players.

Last season, Jeimer Candelario was handed third base. It was the kind of opportunity he was looking for when he made is way over from the Cubs. He got to experience everything. Hot streaks at the plate. Slumps at the plate. Great plays in the field and stretches where he wasn’t very good at all. But the beauty of rebuilds was that the Tigers could afford to put him out there and leave him. Just get out there, play and have fun.

And it was true in all cases, not just the young players looking to gain experience and permanent spots in the lineup. Ron Gardenhire shut everyone up in regards to Nick Castellanos and his move to right field.

Gardy made it quite simple. What’s the best way for Nick to learn how to play right field? Well, by playing right field!   And he stayed there all season. He was good. He was bad. He made some great plays and pretty poor plays. But he was allowed to play.  The Tigers needed to see him out there a lot.  And frankly, they needed to see him improve and increase his stock should he become someone they wanted to deal.

Last season was also when the Tigers were truly able to take a Rule 5 player with some skills and put him to the test. During any other season, Victor Reyes would have spent significant time in the minor leagues. But they made that commitment and they learned a lot about him.

As was the norm with many of the new guys is that, offensively, they struggled. I remember Al Avila mentioning how we can’t have a lineup full of guys hitting .220. But we had plenty of them.

Yes, Reyes was one, but we learned a lot and having him on the major league roster for a whole season will help him a great deal. He showed where his talents are and right now they are all about speed. He is speedy and athletic.

Now he will more than likely spend some time in the minor leagues this season having established that base; knowing what he has to work on to really cement himself as a major leaguer.

This is how you learn your roster. Rebuilding is all about finding out what you have and what you don’t. It has nothing to do with wins and losses.   The bad news is that paying attention to our record is a lost cause for another couple of years.  The good news is that each season, we will have more and more new talent to evaluate.  The scouting continues, even for fans.

The Tigers are gathering and evaluating assets. And we should spend this season taking a look at players individually on the field, especially when we attend games.

When Iglesias was our shortstop, I spent entire games just watching him. And it was a very intriguing exercise and another way to watch the game within the game.

For those who are still attending games, I highly recommend picking a player and just watching their every move.  The whole game.   You will be surprised what you learn.  What you notice.  Things you never realized before.

So, be that scout for the Tigers. Make a determination based on what you see; the good and the bad.

Do anything  but look at that scoreboard.    Now is not the time.


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