HOPE.

(Part One)

By:  Holly Horning

Are you perusing the papers every day looking for updates on the Tigers? Good luck with that.

Even if you go to the major local papers, where any news at all should be located, there is “Nix! Zip! Diddly! Bupkis!” (Forgive me, I have to regularly include a quote from A Fish Called Wanda in my blogs.)

And there won’t be anything for awhile. (Imagine how hard it is for Kurt and me to write about this team every day. The beat writers are weenies compared to us.)

Chris Ilitch has said he’s “extremely pleased” with the progress. He’s extended Al Avila, who is doing a phenomenal job. So is the Front Office. The manager is still gainfully employed as are all of his/Jim Leyland’s/Brad Ausmus’ coaches because they are great at what they do and the stats prove it.

As for players, we’re not expecting anyone from AAA to make the jump until maybe late next year. Or, should we say, deserving to make the jump.

As well, we’re not expecting free agents of any significance to be signed. If any holes need to be filled, the Tigers will sign a journeyman or two. Maybe.

More than likely, they will sign guys who have been around and trying to get back to the bigs by accepting minor league contracts. Bargain basement shopping at its finest. Ron Gardenhire said as much in an interview a week ago. He commented “I’ve been told there’s very little money to spend on players for 2020.”

So there you have it. A team that finished with MLB’s worst record for 2019 with 114 losses and a .292 winning percentage is quite happy with how things are going. No need to fire anyone, hire anyone new or spend any money to help the team get better.

This either means that the world’s biggest idiots are running this organization or that MLB needs to start an investigation focused on the owner’s intent to be purposely non-competitive. There’s a phrase for this now – “tanking is banking.”

But, wait!

Don’t go near that ledge, readers. Just not yet.

What we’re seeing could actually be a good thing. A great thing even.

This frozen-in-time situation – this nonsensical lack of action – we’re seeing, most logically supports the strategy that the team is closer to being sold.

The drumbeats are getting louder, folks. And more frequent.

And people are talking. People who have connections to the team, like former Tigers.

I know I’ve been writing about this move for 2 years now with the first clues appearing. And like any big, expensive organization for sale, it takes time to make it happen. Pieces have to be put in place, the books need to be righted and the organization has to be stripped down and made as efficient as possible so it looks good to a potential new owner. Afterall, you want to get the maximum price when you sell.

So, the clues. I’ve got lots of them. Some big, some small. All logical. And all support each other.

And when you add them all up, there is a pattern. And you know how I feel about patterns if you’ve been reading Totally Tigers for awhile…

In fact, too many clues to write about all of them in one blog, so I am going to split this discussion into two parts. This means you have to promise to come back next Tuesday because I’ll be saving the best for last. And if you don’t, I’ll be coming for you…..


Let’s get on with it!

First of all, who is the buyer?

Dan Gilbert.

Everyone who is talking only mentions his name, no one else’s. And it’s also been said that his stroke put a kink in the timeline of the sale – but that it is still happening with some reports saying as soon as “this spring.”

Gilbert, as you may know, already owns one sports team – the Cleveland Cavaliers. And he’s from Detroit.

But did you know that he really wanted to buy a baseball team instead of basketball? Back in 2004, he tried to buy the Milwaukee Brewers. Now is just the perfect time to buy his hometown team. Baseball teams don’t come up for sale frequently.

Buying the Tigers would also enhance and complement his current downtown projects. Projects, btw, that are actually in progress, unlike Chris Ilitch’s District Detroit.

The biggest clue that there is a deal brewing is Gilbert’s continuing efforts to sell all of his casinos. As you know, MLB forbids ownership of them.

Dan’s casinos are reported by the financial media as being “hugely profitable.” If so, why would he want to sell? He’s given no reason at all despite the imminent signing of papers with the new owners.

Gilbert is selling the Greektown Casino for $1 billion. Conveniently, it is close to what the Tigers are asking for their team.

On the other hand, several financial papers are speculating that Ilitch Holdings is having some cash flow issues and needs to free up some greenbacks in order to pursue some non-baseball-related projects. Remember, most baseball owners don’t buy teams because they love baseball so much. They buy them for the investment – the very safe and very lucrative investment that they can later sell at a huge profit and use to inject into their other businesses.

It’s clear that Chris doesn’t have the connection with baseball that his dad had. If he did, we’d be seeing much more of him at Comerica. He’s absent from the owner’s suite and makes only 1-2 appearances each season for mandatory events. Heck, he didn’t even appear at the contract extension of his GM, Al Avila.

Chris’ real passion, however, is hockey. He has played since a kid and continues playing every weekend for the past 20 years in an adult league. He’s also grooming his kids to play the game. There are a number of national articles in which he gushes about the game.

And baseball? (Insert the sound of crickets here.)

“Nix! Zip! Diddly! Bupkis!”

You’re simply not going to keep a team that doesn’t interest you. You’ve got enough going on in life and other projects that require your time and attention.  You can’t spread yourself thin with too many businesses.  Your other businesses will suffer.

Meanwhile, at Comerica, a number of reports are coming out. Employees reporting that the team is in “budgetary lockdown.” That Ilitch is only focused on saving money, not on improving the team, from all of their interactions with ownership.

Articles have come out about employees being laid off and Comerica shops being closed. Especially this year. And it helps support the financials in which the Tigers drastically cut their operating expenses which used to be double the average in MLB. The organization made their first profit last year – even after 98 losses – after over a decade. It helps to make the books look good when you want to sell.

Several employees have reported that they are seeing a swarm of new, non-Comerica people in suits, digging around. Whether they are accountants hired to reduce costs or investigating on behalf of Gilbert is unknown. But the employees sense that something is happening.

To come full circle, it now makes sense that the Tigers aren’t making any personnel moves. They are keeping everyone, despite the 114 losses this year. They are not going out to hire anyone new and logically, that is because the team is going to be sold. It doesn’t make sense to spend the time and money to bring in new people who will most likely be gone in (maybe) months.

If you’re selling the team, you really don’t care about its progress anymore. You’ve moved on.

You simply care about the sale price now.

Next Tuesday, come back for Part Two in which the biggest clues will be revealed that point to the Tigers being sold. Until then, please limit your comments to those topics listed above only, saving your thoughts on other subjects for next week.


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MAX FINALLY ‘WINNING’ IN WASHINGTON

By:  Kurt Snyder

The possibility is quite real all of a sudden. Just a couple more Houston wins and the matchup is on.

Verlander’s Astros vs. Scherzer’s Nationals.

I may be jumping the gun on this just a bit, but I never considered the possibility until now.

The Nationals, even though they have been one of the hottest teams in baseball for quite some time, have never found my radar as a serious consideration for the World Series.

But boy, have we learned over the last couple weeks how serious we should be treating them as a legitimate championship contender. And now that they are in, after dispatching the Cards so quickly, they have every right to believe they can win this.

The Astros? They have work to do to set up a match-up that so many Tiger fans want to see. JV vs. Max.  But I really shouldn’t spend too much time considering it until it actually happens.

But what’s the fun in that? Let’s talk for a minute.


Max Scherzer left the Tigers having turned down the money they offered him to stay. There was a much bigger bag of money awaiting him in Washington if he chose to sign there. So he did. And if that wasn’t a big enough kick in the throat for Tiger fans, he explained how he didn’t leave for the money. He left because he wanted to win.

We know the story. The way Scherzer packed up and headed to Washington left a bad taste in the mouths of so many Tiger fans.  I tasted it. So many of us tasted it.

Justin Verlander, on the other hand, needed every last second to consider whether or not he could leave Detroit. Until finally he decided it was the best move for him.

JV’s departure was painful for all of us.  More painful than the loss of Max.

Why?   Well, Max’s departure was ugly. It made us mad.

And JV? His departure was more about sadness. What was the state of our team, when maybe the face of the team could be sent out of town for, to this point, not a whole lot in return?

Quite a bit of time has passed now since both JV and Max anchored a great Tigers starting rotation. Max has thrived in Washington. Cy Young Awards and no-hitters have come his way. But the winning he said he became a National for, hasn’t  arrived until now.

The shadow he lived under in Detroit, continued even after he left for Washington. Who was casting the shadow?  Justin Verlander himself, who upon leaving for Houston, immediately won a championship.

Max was catching up to JV in all the personal awards and accolades. But it was as if Verlander was still thumbing his nose at Scherzer, riding a renewed wave of dominance after leaving Detroit, adding a championship to his resume and continuing to challenge for one every year since.

Do you get the feeling that Max, despite continued success in Washington after leaving the Tigers, is still living in the shadow of Justin Verlander? You could ask him and I’m sure he would never admit it, but I’m not sure what Max wants more.

What would please him more? A championship over Verlander or a just a championship?  Without choosing, I would gather that Scherzer would be quite conflicted over making a choice.

From Max’s perspective, who do you think he is rooting for in the series between the Astros and Yankees?

Is there any question? There are so many boxes to be checked when it comes to Max vs. JV.


To have the opportunity to face JV’s Astros in the Series.

To have the opportunity to start against Verlander during the Series and potentially beat him.

To have his team beat JV’s, winning a World Title, equaling Verlander.


This is all about the shadow. And Max is 2 Houston victories away from a chance to even the score in the best way possible.

Remember, this is the same pitcher who won the Cy Young with the Tigers and the following season, had to sit on the bench on Opening Day in Detroit and watch JV take the mound as the starter.   It was fresh off Max turning down Mike Ilitch’s $144M contract offer.

Remember?

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/03/21/verlander-pays-opening-day-price/


I believe it was never the same for him in Detroit after that day. I believe his decision to leave Detroit may have been more about making his own mark, becoming the man and emerging from the shadow. JV was always the man in Detroit, even after Max was awarded the Cy Young.   The Tigers made it quite clear where he stood.

Well, he’s now standing at the cusp of his first championship.  He is THE man in Washington.  He awaits the icing on the cake.

And the cherry on top.


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COINCIDENCE OR COMPETENCE?

By:  Holly Horning

It’s been yet another difficult year watching the playoffs. Don’t get me wrong – it’s exciting baseball. But I don’t know whether to cheer or cry for the all-too-familiar names I am hearing over and over.

Hearing how great they have been. How they have helped take their teams to October.

JV, of course, yearly since 2017. Price, Porcello and JD. Cespedes, Mike Fiers and Mad Max.

And now…Anibal Sanchez.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen a Tiger leave the team and have a great season somewhere else. And the sample size is starting to get too large for someone to claim it “just happens sometimes.”

If you remember Anibal, you’re more than likely to remember his last 3 years with the Tigers, which happened to be the worst ones for him. But if you dig back to 2013-14, he also had his best years. He won the ERA title, finished 4th for the Cy Young and holds the Tigers record for most strikeouts in a game with 17.

But after the 2017 season, despite having one year remaining on his contract, the Tigers cut him loose with a $5 million buyout.

In early 2018, Sanchez struggled to regain his form and finally found the answers later that year in Atlanta where he went 7-6 with a 2.83 ERA. This year, with the Nationals, he finished 11-8 with a 3.85 ERA. His best year before then was 2014.

And now in the playoffs. He becomes the first pitcher in post-season history with multiple innings pitched of 6+ allowing 0-1 runs. His first time was in Detroit against Boston.

Did Anibal merely just “find” himself?

No.

What really happened is that he left for teams with better pitching coaches and analytics to help him figure out how to pitch.

Sanchez’s best years with the Tigers coincided with Jeff Jones as his pitching coach. After Jones retired (or “retired”), Rich Dubee took over. Dubee, who (surprise, surprise) was Jim Leyland’s pitching coach with the Marlins. It was reported that Leyland recommended him for the job and Al Avila, the Marlins Assistant GM at the time, signed off on the deal.

They hired someone who was fired by the Phillies and couldn’t get another job in the majors for 2 years until the Tigers came calling. Not exactly in high demand.

During Dubee’s tenure, Anibal had losing records with ERAs of 4.99 to 6.41.

Coincidence or lack of coaching?

The latter if you read the official analyses. Both Atlanta and Washington adjusted his arsenal, much as Houston did with Justin Verlander. They took his slider and changed it to a cutter, which became a dominant pitch for him. They also taught him to increase usage of his change-up.

He has also stranded runners for the past 2 years at an eye-popping rate – 79% with the Braves and 75 % with the Nats. Both higher than the average MLB rate and the best of his career. More than one analyst has mentioned that both these teams are “miles ahead” of the Tigers in using analytics for defensive positioning.

And once again, we read that other teams have taken former Tigers, and via sophisticated analytics, have turned them once again into solid, well-performing players.

And it would also appear that the coaches hired by the Tigers are much older and not analytically-minded. Their roster is playing at a disadvantage.

And it’s unlikely that, even if the Caesar program is further developed, these same coaches will use the tools available. It is often said in MLB the older coaches simply don’t want to learn how to coach differently by using analytics. Even Jim Leyland has spoken publicly about how he doesn’t believe in analytics.

And most of the coaches are “his guys.”

Have you seen anyone in the Tigers’ dugout using tablets?

As for Anibal, he’s just another example of a Tiger under-performing who goes to another team and thrives. The Tigers routinely have gotten returns well-below expectations and other teams have spun them into gold.

And it’s cost Detroit dearly in human capital.  The same human capital they were counting on to successfully rebuild.

Under Mr. I, they signed expensive players and went cheap on the people who oversaw and managed the roster.

They brought Jim Leyland out of retirement. The same man who resigned from not one, but two teams, when the going got tough and he didn’t want to coach weak talent.

The coaching staff for over a decade now was almost universally on the older side and most had/have ties to Leyland. Simply, the game changed – and they didn’t.

The Tigers never went after the best and brightest non-roster talent. They never tried to poach coaches or execs from the Cubs, Astros, Yankees, Dodgers or other top teams. When they did hire, they brought in the unemployed and the fired. Never the guys who were desired.

And that is the problem.

It really won’t matter what the Tiger do to try and rebuild if the people in charge are still operating as they did in previous decades. The times have changed dramatically and these men are firmly entrenched in the ways that worked for them decades ago. Old dogs don’t learn new tricks.

And the cycle – and lack of awareness – can be vicious and never-ending.

At the end of 2017, the Tigers traded JV and released Anibal. In need of new starters, they signed Francisco Liriano and Mike Fiers. Liriano had an amazingly bad year and Fiers, who won 1 more game than he lost, was used as trade bait towards the end of the season. The Tiger received Logan Shore and Nolan Blackwood in exchange. Another great Avila trade.

Since that transaction, Fiers has also resurrected himself. Throwing a no-hitter and seeing October baseball. He’s gone 20-6 since being traded by Detroit.

It’s really becoming a pattern.

Which brings us back to Sanchez. I, for one, am thrilled to see him once again pitch successfully. And to be part of playoff baseball. He was always known as one of the Tigers’ nicest and most gracious players. Good things come to good people.

But I also have to wonder how many Tigers are silently hoping that they will also be traded so they can better their stats and have a chance to see October………….


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SO MUCH TO SEE

By:  Kurt Snyder

So I’m noticing something. There is something different about these playoffs.

I feel like baseball is cutting the ribbon on a new game and they are willing to share.

Does it feel different to you? If so, have the playoffs helped to make it feel that way? Or are you concerned with what you are learning?  Maybe it has done the opposite for you. Maybe you are watching the playoffs and shaking your heads. I won’t lie, there certainly are some reasons for why you would do that.

Length of games? Sorry, it’s a non-issue. The games are longer and they should be. There is so much more at stake and so much more to think about as a manager, as a pitcher and as a catcher. So even though pitching changes are frequent enough to make you pull your hair out, it’s more a part of the game than ever before.

And because of what is at stake we see more of the new game, where strategy reigns like no other time.

The advent of bullpenning is at work even when teams are beginning games with a conventional starting pitcher.

We saw the Yankees the other night head to their pen less than 3 innings into the start by James Paxton. In past playoffs, this is something a team would only do when behind in a series and in an elimination game. Now, there is more of a sense of urgency, even in Game 2 of a 7-game series they are leading.

Of course, we saw the Tampa Bay Rays, who have perfected the ‘art of bullpenning,’ dedicating an entire playoff game to it’s now well-known craft.

In television coverage, are you noticing more of an attention to detail when it comes to the game-within-the-game? Players checking their cheat sheets; catchers checking their wrists, outfielders pulling them out of their back pockets, pitchers checking the bill of their caps.

Players are studying all the time now, even while on the playing field. And when they come off the field, coaches are ready with tablets, fresh with the latest information on an incoming pitcher.

Sure, as loyal fans we know all of this is going on. But you can’t discount the importance of the fan watching maybe for the first time all season. The fan who only watches October baseball.

Coverage of playoff baseball today is clearly showing an emphasis on strategy and how creating advantages and seizing opportunities is at the forefront.

For instance – analyzing the potential that starting pitchers could be tipping their pitches. Players are having obvious discussions with their teammates about what they should look for when it’s their turn to hit.

Without an in-depth broadcast, viewers don’t get to see that.

Again, this has always been part of the game. But in most cases, it’s during a discussion with the media after games when you learn about it.

Have you watched Yadier Molina behind the plate during the Cardinals series with the Nationals? With a runner on second, catchers can’t risk a sign being stolen, so they not only switch signs, they motion to switch to a different set of signs.

Isn’t it important for the fringe fan to recognize the strategy, the game within the game, the intrigue and theatre? These aren’t just buzz words. It’s important that all fans know that all of it exists within the fabric of the game.

There is more to a baseball game than meets the eye and it’s important that MLB showcases all the hidden elements.

The message to fans? There is so much to see if you are willing to watch.


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OPEN MIKE!

microphoneIt’s Columbus Day folks! So to recognize the holiday,  this is a bonus day for you to be heard. Today,  you get a bonus 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/.

 

 

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 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:


Home runs are down in the playoffs. What’s the reason?


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THE SATURDAY SURVEY

The Saturday Survey offers another way for readers to weigh in on a relevant topic.   So here is a 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

With the playoffs now reaching the end of the Division Series, fans may start to get a sense as to how teams are successful or if a team has been eliminated, why they failed.

Each and every game has its own feel depending on how a manager responds to the other team’s strengths while trying to take advantage of weaknesses – if they can find any.

Kurt and Holly have not shared their answers to the following question for the purpose of offering a wider range of perspectives.

So let’s get on with it and see what our writers have to say.


Watching the playoffs for the past two weeks, what singular factor or common theme has each of our two bloggers discovered about any or all of the teams playing?


KURT

Based on what you have read from my side of the blog this week, it’s not difficult to determine what has stood out for me over the last couple weeks of the playoffs.

The Tampa Bay Rays are a team that plays the craftiest brand of baseball I may have ever seen. Every game they play, they remind you consistently and without fail how they intend to beat you.

It’s a surgical 4-headed monster of a game plan.

They are maybe the most fundamentally sound of all the teams in the playoffs and it runs through all phases of the game. Great defense, great base running, disciplined hitting and the most creative use of a pitching staff you are ever going to see, led by the perfect manager to orchestrate the entirety of it all.

No other playoff team is like them, demonstrating a style of play tailored to put pressure on the opponent by making them uncomfortable. They do that at the plate, on the mound and in the dugout.

Almost of all these teams are loaded with stars, except one. Tampa surely has talent; you don’t have the success they have had without it. But it’s an unwavering system that’s the real star in the Rays dugout and bullpen.

I could certainly come up with something that has caught my eye for every team, but it’s Tampa that has turned my head the most.


HOLLY

Ten teams, ten great teams and they’re all in the playoffs because they employed one of five strategies that creates solid, winning baseball.

One strategy is actually on the downward and practiced by the Washington Nationals, who are still trying to kick it old school by proving that a team loaded with expensive free agents can buy you a ring in these days and times.

Two other teams – the Yankees and Cardinals – haven’t made significant changes to how they do business because they have the strongest and best corporate cultures in baseball. They both demand excellence and accountability from everyone within their organizations, creating rock solid cultures of winning and plenty of first-place finishes. They accept nothing less and aren’t afraid to let go of very good people because they want the very top employees within their organizations.

The Astros and Dodgers typify teams who have dismantled their organizations and rebuilt from the ground up with a focus on leading MLB in analytics and technology – hiring the best and the brightest who are up-to-date on all the latest-and-greatest to run the organization.

The Braves, Twins and Brewers are contenders because they saw the power of the broom and the need to change strategies and directions by bringing in new GMs, new Front Offices, new scouts and new strategies as their claim to fame.

And finally, the A’s and Rays have shown that when you aren’t afraid to be creative, take risks, go beyond the comfort zone and be the first to implement new ideas, you can succeed on MLB’s lowest payrolls. Both teams are the trend-setters in baseball, implementing new strategies before the rest of MLB’s teams catch on.

The one common denominator between all 10 teams is their willingness to make changes in order to succeed.


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WEIGHTING AROUND

By:  Holly Horning

Actions speak louder than words, they say. If you’re going to talk the talk, you better be walking the walk. And in this case, Miguel Cabrera has once again promised that he’s going to come back better and stronger for the next season.

He said the same thing a couple years ago when he needed to strengthen his core. He dutifully posted pictures on social media almost daily of workouts at the gym back then. But before the 2019 season, there was nothing showing him working out. Conceivably, those two legal battles encompassing his personal and business lives were keeping him busy.

And at spring training, it was reported that the Tigers were really shocked at how much weight he had gained in the off-season.

And that is why there is a continuing problem.

Everyone, except for the local papers, of course, noticed. Even Jack Morris skewered him recently on a broadcast, laughing when it was mentioned that Miggy is listed at 250 lbs. Morris said that he was 250 and that Miggy weighed way more than that.

Morris also said, along with an anonymous Tiger staffer, that Miggy’s girth this past year was so significant, that he was unable to fully get around on a pitch. That his reaction time was much slower as a result. That opponents realized this and thus threw him more fastballs.

Yet Cabrera threw his teammates under the bus this year by stating the lack of protection in the lineup was the reason he wasn’t hitting for power. Not the excessive weight.

Nor was it about the deteriorating knee that is used to generate power. A bad knee the Tigers knew about back in 2018 (at the latest) which generated comments from Ron Gardenhire about spelling Miggy at first base and Al Avila’s request of Nick Castellanos to move there from the outfield.

This year, the team finally officially revealed that Cabrera has a serious, permanent issue with his knee.

Even if your only exercise is to fetch coffee in the morning, we all know that the heavier you are, the more strain and pressure that is put on your joints. And the more likely you are going to have joint issues if the problem is not addressed. It’s one thing if you are an average human being and a totally different conversation if you are an athlete and your career, teammates and baseball organization depend upon you to perform.

And the real concern is that the Tigers knew about his knee last year and sent him home without a plan to preserve it as much as possible. Not to mention the 2 herniated disks in his back that are also impacted by weight.

In fact, he came into 2019 at his worst shape ever. Several journalists have speculated that he is 40-50 lbs. overweight.

Does a coach’s or trainer’s job stop with the last day of the season? Do they take the winter off and not check in with their players? Of course, not. There are plenty of stories about other trainers who sit down with each player and carve out a winter fitness strategy. Many of them travel the country to personally check in on their players, too. Whether the Tigers do that doesn’t seem to be supported by their reactions or by the initiative that other players take during the off-season.

But Miggy is not the only example of a player who has come to spring training significantly out of shape. There was Bruce Rondon and more recently, Joe Jimenez.

You would think that one of baseball’s most expensive players would be receiving some guidance from the team. It’s called protecting the investment. Especially when it is well known that Miggy has a very hard time guiding himself when he’s not playing in a game.

We’ve now been privy to the carnage resulting from his lack of discipline when it comes to his family life and now, his business. Even his financial dealings with the Tigers when the team had to go after him because he owed them a big chunk of change for promoting his candy and had not paid them.

Miggy is one of those people who has a hard time controlling and guiding himself. Unlike someone such as Justin Verlander who is so disciplined and goal-oriented. All the more reason to be proactive.

And unless the Tigers are blind, they’ve seen it, too. There’s really no excuse to give a free pass to him instead of implementing more structure and accountability in the off-season. There is now proof that they don’t monitor him in the off-season.

Until now, presumably, when his physical condition has become such a great concern.

A little too late.

It has been suggested that Cabrera will focus on strengthening his lower half this winter, increasing his flexibility and range of motion. The Tigers want him to become stronger and leaner overall.

What took them so long?

And who is going to tell Miggy to lose weight? Doug Teter?

I want to make it clear that my intent is not to shame or discriminate against anyone. But everyone has to represent their job without being hypocritical. A physical trainer who is significantly overweight and has a hard time climbing up the dugout steps is a concern. The same as a doctor who chain smokes and lectures patients about adopting healthy habits. Or even an image consultant who is a shabby dresser, rude and slurps his soup while trying to convince a potential client that he can elevate their professional image to the top levels.

Take one look at the head trainers for professional baseball (PBATS) and everyone, save one, all appear to be in peak physical form. Watch the games when a player gets hurt and other trainers run out to check on them.

Teter has been with the Tigers for 27 years. And this is the second part of the problem in addressing Miggy’s physical health.

There have also been revelations that Miggy was playing with injuries that could have been exacerbated while he played. The hernia, broken foot and knee were ignored until they couldn’t be. Was it the priority to have him play and fill the seats or was Miggy preventing them from taking action to get him the necessary medical care?

You have to wonder about the strategies the team uses – or doesn’t – with Miggy. Do they try to guide him? Do they simply leave him alone? Do they treat him differently from the other players because he is a star? Did Miggy come to the Tigers similar to how he is today or did the Tigers simply look the other way because of his production and “face of the franchise” status?

Does the organization feel they need to appease him? It was very curious that the Tigers nominated him for this year’s Roberto Clemente Award instead of Matt Boyd, who is deeply involved in 2 charities including adopting dozens of girls, setting up schools and homes in an effort to prevent them from being sold into sex slavery.

MLB says the Clemente Award is “the annual recognition of a Major League player who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.”

Uh, huh. Riiiight.

And the Tigers made a presentation to him at a game which was not mentioned in a single Detroit media publication the next day. Appeasement or an attempt to bury his recent problems and rehabilitate his image?

And there it is. That lack of urgency the Tigers have repeatedly shown over the past decade. Waiting too long until something becomes a significant problem. And often, the results have not been good ones.

In Miggy’s case, there are two issues the Tigers need to address. One is offering him guidance and enough structure in order to prevent yet another personal implosion similar to the incidents involving the incidents surrounding drinking, spousal abuse, arrests, baby mama drama and failed business dealings. Personal character is a factor in election to the Hall of Fame and Detroit already has experience with another great, whose personal dealings tarnished his eligibility for baseball immortality.

The final factor involves how much longer he will be able to play as well as how productive he will continue to be. Remember the pace Miggy was on just a short couple of years ago? That pace has slowed down considerably with some records verging on possibly becoming doubtful.

And that would be such a shame for one of baseball’s greatest players.

And for the fans, too.


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WATCHING REAL BASEBALL

By:  Kurt Snyder

Watching the playoffs seems more enjoyable this season. Of course, most of the reason is the transition from the rigors of watching the Tigers to turning the page and watching real baseball.

And what comes with playoff baseball is also what is considered to be one of the bigger problems with the game.

What’s the problem?

The games are too long. We hear it all year. We hear it all through the regular season. And for the most part, it’s true. But the length of a baseball game all by itself isn’t what makes it a problem.

Are fans that bothered about the length of a game if there is action packed into those 3 and 3 ½ hours? I would venture to guess that the real problem is that so little is going on.

A 3-hour Tiger game rivals death by a thousand paper cuts. A team that struggled all year long to score runs, punished their fans with hours and hours of nothing; which makes the arrival of the playoffs so much more refreshing and enjoyable.

What we love about the game really shows up in October. But the games do get longer. They get longer than ever; like 4-4 ½ hours long. It’s completely typical for a playoff game. And it’s been pretty typical for a long time.

But guess what? It doesn’t bother me in the least. What shows up in playoff baseball is strategy. And intrigue. Playoff baseball turns from a game to pure theatre.

If you’ve been watching the Tampa Bay-Houston series, you are seeing strategic baseball at its finest. Apparently, it’s nothing new to the fans in Tampa. Out-strategizing the opponent is how the Rays win. And how they have won all year.

And it’s fascinating. At least now, during October anyway. But it’s still not for everyone. It all comes back to what baseball needs to do to capture the young fans and hold onto the new ones.

It’s not hard for Rays fans to appreciate their team because they win. But for someone new to the game, they are turning the channel on Tampa.

Give the Rays credit though for finding different ways to win with their pitching staff. Their manager, Kevin Cash, is a master at managing his bullpen and weaving his way through opposing lineups, breaking games down into small chunks.

It was a testament to Cash when Houston manager A.J. Hinch added him to his coaching staff for the All-Star Game because he was the only guy who knew how to use 11 pitchers over the course of 9 innings.

But it’s hard to find the beauty in a game loaded with pitching changes.  It’s just what the young fan hates. You couldn’t even get half way through the explanation of why many teams are using openers and primary pitchers. Those eyes are going to glaze over.

And I understand it. But for me and many of our readers, it’s fascinated during October to watch teams use different methods to win baseball games. Yes, there are more homers and more strikeouts, but I’ve noticed it is much more than that.

This is where you really see how much the game has changed. Strategy.  The kind of strategy you have never seen before. You have high dollar teams like the Yankees, with every possible financial resource to help build their team and then you have the Rays, with limited money, forced to find other ways to win.

But what’s incredible is that they have found one more way to skin a cat.  They have been so strategic navigating through 9 innings every day, they have survived the wars of the AL East.

If the Wild Card spot in the playoffs was ever made for 2 teams this year, it is the Rays and the A’s. Franchises with fewer financial resources. Franchises with the lowest of budgets. Franchises with the smallest of markets.

They won in 2019 with creativity; outsmarting their opponents.

On Monday, I wondered about how this type of game would go over in Detroit. Well, when it comes down to it, winning of any kind will be embraced.  I’m just not sure how much it will grow the game.

Think about it for a moment. If someone asks you what you did last night and you tell them you watched a 4 ½ hour baseball game, they just might question your sanity.

The difference is that you know baseball and they don’t have the time or the interest to understand.


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