YOU ASKED

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Welcome to another edition of You Asked …

While we wait for baseball to resume, do you have questions and/or topics you’d like to see addressed? Submit them in the comments section and receive credit when Totally Tigers selects your entry. We’ll address your questions every Thursday.

Today, we have chosen questions from Robert Richardson and Sprocket.

Thanks for participating everyone!


Robert Richardson:

I’d like to have you discuss how the indefinitely delayed 2020 season will cause more young players to go to or stay in college rather than sign a MLB contract, and how shortening the number of draft rounds this year and next could impact our minor league teams.

HOLLY

There’s definitely going to be fallout, much of which won’t be recognized until next year’s draft. But already, I’m reading of young players who don’t believe they will be selected in the new 5-round draft pulling out of the draft entirely. If they don’t go in 5 rounds, they will be determined to be free agents and could sign with any team for a universal $20K.

In the past, they used those nice signing bonuses to support themselves in the minors but $20K won’t get you far at all now which we may now assume is going to be a financial factor in deciding how to approach baseball as a career….

This draft bears no resemblance to those in the past where players connected and signed with teams for figures in the 6- and 7 figures. There is a lot of uncertainty and understandably, some are hedging their bets and staying in college. I would expect a good number of them to decide to finish their degrees and graduate.
However, they are also pinched on the college side with many places of education eliminating baseball from their sports because of the pandemic (primarily). College teams only have so many slots and so many scholarships to pass around. Now, the competition will get even more extreme.

There’s going to be a log jam in college with some players deciding to stay on and the younger ones fighting for a position on the team. As well, it is believed that an almost double number of potential prospects will want to participate in next year’s draft which is going to make the process that much more challenging.

Many of these prospects, especially the seniors, will be a year older and that is believed to be a mark against them when it’s time to be drafted. Teams will want to go with the younger player in many cases.

Compound that issue with multiple reports stating that owners will never return to the 40-round draft. Going forward, they will only approve a maximum of 10 rounds.

And if you look at the sheer number of teams who are dismissing their minor leaguers or refusing to pay them, you wouldn’t be wrong if you thought MLB was waging war on the minor leagues. Don’t forget about the proposal to cut 42 minor league teams.

MLB owners are in the process of taking over (literally) MiLB (a topic of discussion for another day so let’s hold our thoughts for that right now) and all of these moves support that. Essentially, they are prepping this career stepping stone to be much smaller and more efficient (the cha-ching! kind) and that means fewer players.

It also means fewer prospects, less scouting and fewer MiLB farm teams, to name a few. And it means that teams will have to make fewer mistakes in their selections because they aren’t going to have the depth in their system if a top draft talent goes down.

What it also means is that lots of young dreams are going to be dashed because of fewer opportunities to play and get noticed as well as the difficulties in getting paid to support a dream.

Playing baseball with the hopes of getting to the MLB level has always been tough. But now it’s going to be even harder. I can’t help but think of all the talent that will go unnoticed because of the new restrictions. And I can’t help to think about all those players – many Hall of Famers who wouldn’t have made it to the majors in this new decade.   

See partial list:

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2020/05/13/major-problems-for-the-minor-leagues/

It’s strange times we live in….


Sprocket:

Read at Foxnews.com that Armando Galarraga just did an interview with the “Athletic” magazine about the possibility of MLB going back and awarding him with a “perfect game” in retrospect. They interviewed the ump and he said he thought they should. Armando also said he thought they would someday anyways and wanted to be alive when it happened. Might be a good debate topic for an upcoming TT issue.

KURT

It’s pretty surprising that we are sitting here 10 years later after Jim Joyce stole Armando Galarraga’s perfect game and MLB hasn’t made a move to overturn the call.

Instant replay would have saved both Jim and Armando. But for those who wish we never had instant replay and who have always preferred the human element and the human error part of the game, well, on June 2nd 2010, how did you like them apples?

There is your human element and human error, screwing up the record books. And ever since, MLB has been doing what? Have they been protecting the sanctity of the game? Or are they afraid that once they grant this and overturn the call, then every team who ever had a close call, messing up whatever, will come out of the woodwork?

I’m not sure who would feel better about MLB jumping in and making what is so wrong, so right. Jim Joyce would have a decade-long albatross removed from his back. And Armando Galarraga? Well, he would have his perfect game officially recognized.

I don’t think there was really much to debate here. But it will always be a story for the record books. And maybe fans remember that pitcher who had a perfect game taken away from him  versus ‘just’ being the guy who pitched the perfect game.

Galarraga’s gem may actually separate itself from the ‘other’ perfect games because of its unfortunate circumstance. And 10 years later, especially here in Detroit, we still can’t believe Joyce blew the call. And more than likely, he still can’t believe that the game of baseball hasn’t given Galarraga’s his rightful place in the record books.

The only debate is, who wants it more?


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THE VIEW FROM THE OTHER SIDE

By:  Holly Horning

This week will be crucial in determining whether baseball gets played this season. The issue of greatest concern, Covid-19, has taken a back seat to…….

Money.

Are you at all surprised?

We’ve been watching the ping-pong match that’s been going on between the players and owners. Each side trying to frame their counter proposals so that they appear to be the better party. And one of them, the owners, is doing a much better job at spinning public perception. (We’ll cover that in a near future blog.)

But somehow, throughout history, the players have always come off as the least sympathetic group when it comes to labor negotiations. Sometimes even when the other side was overtly practicing collusion when it came to signings and salaries.

But today’s blog is not really about assigning guilt. It’s not even about how bad both sides look squabbling about money during this pandemic when millions have lost their jobs.

It’s not even about how baseball has to be played because millions of jobs depend upon this sport for their livelihood.

We’ve all heard the stories. Millionaires vs. billionaires. Men who should be happy having jobs – jobs that pay millions – and should shut up, take the pay cuts and play ball. Even the discussion about how these 7-figure salaries shouldn’t even be paid – or baseball played – during a pandemic.

Rather, today we’re going to discuss the history and motivation of the players.

Why? Because it’s going to factor big-time into next year’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

It is widely-believed that the Players Association lost a lot of ground after the last CBA. Record owner profit, stagnant player salaries and grueling schedules, to name a few of the issues. But they conceded to soft salary caps and strategies that gave birth to the idea of team tanking, too.

And this is why they are loathe to give up any more power this year because of the fear that the owners will use these concessions to gain more power over them going forward. Strategies such as revenue-sharing which are hard to define, assign and calculate. Strategies that invite “creativity” if you know what I mean.

Strategies that eventually would put players at a financial disadvantage.

Players essentially are not just thinking about this year. They are also trying not to put themselves in a disadvantageous position for the next CBA.

However, there is an even bigger issue at play here. One which few are publicizing. One in which few in the public understand.

A lot of people don’t want to have to listen, read or address the financials of a sport. It’s boring. They just want to watch the sport.

But I’m here to tell you that money makes the world go round. It’s money that ultimately determines how a team works, what it does and how successful it is. It is the bottom line for every decision an organization makes.

And this stalemate we are currently seeing is a prime example.

It’s the fact that owners are experiencing huge increases in the monetary values of their organizations. That they are making huge profits (for the most part), despite the declining attendance. And they are making those dollars because of the players.

Think about it. Star players are signed in order to publicize a team, make them more competitive and get the turnstiles spinning. Players have their salaries but they receive none of the profit from increased attendance due to their place on the roster and in the field. Profits that make even the most expensive players’ paychecks pale in comparison.

The athletes also receive none of the profits for having their names and faces put on merchandise that is sold. Ownership gets every penny.

The Nike deal MLB signed to use the players’ likenesses? Literally, billions of dollars for the owners. The players? Nadda.

The same for the deal with Advanced Media (tv, websites, radio, etc.) that earns billions for owners every year. It uses the players to create content about them. And yes, you guessed it, the players receive nothing for their participation.

And during the playoffs? Those who make it beyond the regular season don’t get paid. It is, however, the biggest money-making deal of the year for owners.

I could go on but you get the gist. The players are used by owners to generate massive profits but are not compensated for it outside of salary. The players generate the money – billions of profits – not the owners.

So given this, if the players don’t earn a piece of the pie, is it fair to ask them to share in the losses?

Of course not, but that’s what the owners want them to do. A one-sided strategy in which owners want all the benefits for themselves but want to share the losses.

Scott Boras, not my fave agent, actually said it best: “You don’t privatize the gains and socialize the losses.”

Now you can see why the MLBPA is digging in their heels. And also why, for many players, it’s about principle and not just salary.

Is it fair to ask them to pro-rate their salaries because owners are taking a hit? Or even, as the latest owners’ proposal states, for them to further cut their salaries by as much as 75%? Owners want to slash MLB’s $4+ billion payroll down to $1 bill. And they want the players to take the hit for all of it.

Which is why fans now need to see this stalemate from the players’ eyes. It’s not so simple.

Especially when you see how extremely petty many of the owners have become. Teams cutting entire minor league divisions in order to save less than $1 million. Mass firings. Minor leaguers and scouts being let go without pay and then being told to “stick around.” As if.

Teams suspending 401K plans, getting rid of health insurance and other atrocities just to save a pittance when you look at their entire financial expenditures. And you’re not reading about the office types in these organizations taking pay cuts or being fired.

And my personal fave story involves the Washington Nationals, who cut their minor league stipends from $400/week to $300 in order to save a few measly bucks. A move that enraged the regular roster of players who immediately decided that they would chip in and cover the prospects’ losses. Until the public spoke up and shamed the Nats’ owner, who is worth over $5 billion, to change his decision.

You’ve got more than a couple major leaguers like David Price and Shin-Soo Choo who are paying the entire salaries of every minor league player in their system. You’ve got millionaires now covering the bills for billionaires.

How sad – and pathetic – is that?

These are the stories that should be covered in greater detail. The stories that put the proper perspective on what is really going on out there.

(However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how Chris Ilitch has handled all of this with the Tigers. He is to be commended for refusing to cut players, salaries or benefits. In what has been a difficult and depressing number of years now, I can say that I have never been more proud of how this organization has handled itself than during this pandemic. Ilitch is one of the very few owners who has brought some dignity to MLB.)

Multiple sources report that there are more than a few owners willing to shut it all down this year because they want to minimize the losses. They don’t care about the millions of jobs being lost within the baseball world and related industries such as sports equipment, food, advertising, media, newspapers, tv production and other categories too numerous to mention.

For them, the bottom line is money. Not doing the right thing, not taking care of people, not helping to restart the economy or refusing to see an opportunity to grow the sport in a world right now that has such a huge void and in need of a sport to help people feel that they are getting back to normal.

And that’s the saddest part of this whole negotiation.


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REMEMBER WHEN …

Well, folks, it’s time to take another look back.  We want your take on another key moment in Tiger baseball history.  Do you remember?

The year was 2014.  March 23rd to be exact.  This former Tiger turned down a 6-year contract extension that would have paid him $144 million dollars.

So, we have a simple request.   Feel free to jump right in with your memories on the topic.  But please remember, responses are limited to 4 sentences or less.


Heading into the 2014 season with the Tigers, Max Scherzer was the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner.   Only 5 pitchers in history had signed a deal worth more money than the Tigers offered Max.  Describe your reaction and your opinion upon hearing that Max had turned down a contract that would have paid him $24M a year.


Totally Tigers loves your comments!  But please be aware that there are specific rules for posting and that comments may be edited in order to meet our specific requirements.  Responses are only published if they address today’s topic, are respectful and do not exceed the maximum 3-4 sentence response length.  Please become familiar with all of the rules at:  https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/commentsrules/.

 

20 MAY THOUGHTS

By:  Kurt Snyder

A May without baseball was about as enjoyable as April. It left us wanting for more, or anything. But we wrap up each month the way it should be, regardless of what is going on, or not.

Just like normal, topics will be random and all over the map, the way we like them. Holdovers remain important for thoughts that need more time to simmer.

Now that the season would have been entering its third month under normal conditions, it is safe to say that these wrap-ups have never been more difficult.

But, it’s no time to shy away. We’re going to give it another go, wrapping up May the way we should.

So let’s get rolling! Please enjoy another monthly accumulation of 20 Thoughts.


1. With the MLB Draft approaching, a third name has entered the picture as an intriguing choice for the Tigers at #1. Drafting pitcher Esa Lacy would add a nasty lefty to the Tigers’ stable of talent. But here is the deal. Despite a high end arsenal of pitches, his deceptive delivery could be a good and a bad thing. It’s a delivery that appears hard to repeat and may even be conducive to injury down the road. Two high end position-player prospects await the Tigers if they want them. They should choose one of those.

2. With baseball on hold, one player always stays on the minds of Tiger fans. Miguel Cabrera. How is he? What has he been doing? Is he still in good shape? Well, Miggy has released a rap single. Is there anything else you need to know?

3. Austin Martin and Spencer Torkelson. They continue to be the most talked about players when it comes to the Tigers and who they will select at #1. I have read quite a bit on these 2 and the Tigers probably can’t go wrong with either, but there is one thing that may separate them. Martin is said to be a player who can play anywhere. And that is all well and good, but what that usually means is that he doesn’t have a position. Let’s take the slam dunk, Torkelson, who will play first base for as long as we can keep him, earn a ton of walks and flat out hit bombs. That’s my take. (Carryover – Let’s carry this one over through the draft.)

4. I am still simmering over the Commissioner and his proposal to dump 42 minor league teams. (This has been a carryover and will continue to be. Sadly, this appears to be something that has legs. Fans continue to fall down the priority list for the Commish.)

5. With the draft the biggest thing to look forward to other than, of course, a season, I am reminded of my dad who always felt that you could never have enough pitching and if there is one pitcher that separates himself from all the rest in the draft, then you should take him. Sorry Dad, but in 2020, I don’t feel that way.

6. It’s amazing what and who can be forgotten about on your team when there is no baseball being played. But if there is a season this year, Michael Fulmer should be part of the starting rotation. And that’s important news for the team. Remember the goal though. When the time is right, he needs to be traded.

7. Throughout the course of the “off-season”, there always seems to be a random article about Daniel Norris. His quirky personality seems to gather interest and for years people have been waiting for a reason to love him.  Fans have rooted for him throughout his bout with cancer and all the injuries that have kept him from having success. Will 2020 serve as just another roadblock for the career of Daniel Norris?

8. When I first heard that MLB was targeting the 4th of July as a potential date to start the season, my first thought was, how cool would that be? America’s game kicking off on America’s birthday? My second thought was, that’s going to be tough. (Holdover: Why? Well, think about it. America’s game opening on America’s birthday, without fans? Takes the pizzazz right out of it, doesn’t it?)

9. I have been looking forward to a season of baseball with the universal DH. There, I said it. A traditionalist has indeed gone to the other side. If MLB is going to insist on inter-league play, this is a change that is desperately needed.

10. Players on one-year free agent deals are in never-before-seen situations. They have been introduced in their new cities, met their new teammates and are ready for the next chapter in their careers. Incredibly, they may all be skipping their next chapter. Amazing times indeed. (Update: skipping that next chapter seems more and more real every day, opening up the possibility that these new Tigers will never put on a uniform in Detroit.)

11. It is almost more important from a franchise point of view, for notable prospects not be forced to ‘skip a beat’ this season. Burning a season without competitive play is no good for anyone, but from a developmental standpoint, your future is taking a hit. (Carryover – must stay until future of the 2020 season is decided.)

12. Remember, this is the year where the rule kicks in for the 3-batter minimum for relief pitchers. It’s a new rule I am good with and I am looking forward to seeing how it changes the game. I think it is one of the few good proposals which, remember, changes strategy. It doesn’t remove strategy.

13. If the time comes where minor league baseball is confirmed finished for 2020, the Tigers need to include those AAA arms on the major league roster. Whatever the role, it would be better than no role and going home.

14. We have seen on our own forum, some emotional responses to Justin Verlander and his disappointing responses to questions about the Astros’ cheating scandal. Tiger fans hated it and swore him off as someone they had admired, but no longer. Then Al Kaline died and JV’s fight to hold back tears showed us that he is still one of ours. I think in time fans will forgive him. Time heals. (Carryover: Personally, I have been pleased with how JV and Kate have been so active raising money for all the many causes during this pandemic; raising and giving as a matter of fact. It makes everything else that upset us about JV seem so petty.)

15. Let’s jump back to the DH topic for a minute. With Miggy continuing on as the Tigers’ DH for potentially the rest of his career, it begins to remind me of the tedious situation we were in when VMart was closing out his career on his last contract. Remember how restricted it was on the roster to have a full-time DH with no ability to play a position? Are we heading there again?

16. One more thought on the 3-batter rule. Situational lefties of the past have a job to do. Time to remake themselves. With the days of lefties coming in for one batter over, how many of those pitchers will still be able to be valuable on a major league roster?   Or will they make them at all?

17. So many of my thoughts continue to gravitate towards the minor leagues and specifically the Tigers’ system. It’s a shame that emerging talent like Riley Greene has been stifled. But I suppose, in the end, the cream will still rise to the top. Prospects who are able to power through this interruption in the game will show their resiliency.

18. From a fan’s perspective, there is a lot of disdain for any kind of baseball that represents a departure from what we are used to seeing. A drastically shorter season would diminish the accomplishments of the champions when the season is over. The winner standing at the end will always be that asterisk champion. But why is that a problem? Any kind of baseball in this disaster of a year would be huge for the game. And I think it would be huge for fans as well, who will not get the taste they prefer, but it is a taste all the same.  Keep in mind that the World Series champion of 2020 would never be forgotten.

19. Highlights from May? Classic games from that 2012 season. So much pitching. So much disappointment. But plenty of action.

20. I have been thinking about this return to baseball all month. What would it take for MLB to have a season? What would bring the 2 sides together? Well, after seeing so many minor leaguers clean out their lockers around baseball, my intensity and desire for seeing the big boys play has switched gears. What does the game need more than anything? It could be that we need a full-on minor league season. After all, the very lifeblood is being sucked from the game from the bottom up with minor league baseball getting bloodied. Sadly though, it is a major stretch to expect to see minor league games in 2020.


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OPEN MIKE!

Readers on deck to take the wheel! Again? Well, yeah, it’s the only way to end the month.  Today is one of the days during the month (normally) where you get the opportunity to comment on the Tiger topic of your choosing.

This is the one day of the week where we open up the comment parameters for you, so you can really get those juices flowing. Comments on THIS DAY ONLY can be expanded to a maximum of 8 sentences.  So pick a topic and let us hear from you!  What’s on your minds?


Totally Tigers loves your comments!  But please be aware that there are specific rules for posting and that comments may be edited in order to meet our specific requirements.  Responses are only published if they address today’s topic, are respectful and do not exceed the maximum 3-4 sentence response length.  Please become familiar with all of the rules at:  https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/commentsrules/.

 

 

 

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’ and starvin’ and pleadin’ for the crack of the bat peeps.

Today, we center the discussion on proposals for length of season should the 2020 season take place.

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!


MLB owners and the Players Association are currently exploring the details that would bring baseball back this year.  Several proposals are being offered by both sides in terms of the length of the season.  All of them have advantages as well as risks.  A few of them offer greater validation of a season and championship.  Others, less risk of a second-wave of Covid-19 interrupting and cancelling the rest of the season.

Please participate in the poll in order to share which proposal that you support.


Totally Tigers loves your comments!  But please be aware that there are specific rules for posting and that comments may be edited in order to meet our specific requirements.  Responses are only published if they address today’s topic, are respectful and do not exceed the maximum 3-4 sentence response length.  Please become familiar with all of the rules at:  https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/commentsrules/.

 

 

 

RAPID FIRE

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Be careful what you wish for! You, dear readers, have told us how much you like this new blog so it’s a keeper until something better – or actual baseball games – come along.

We’re taking one hot issue, 2 bloggers and 5 questions to get your Friday off to a conversation-ready start. To make it even more interesting, Kurt and Holly have a maximum of 2 sentences in which to make their points. Let’s roll with the questions!

(These questions pertain to the most recent proposals at the time of publishing, which is the owners’ proposal.)


1. What are your thoughts about the sliding pay scale proposed by MLB owners for players?

HOLLY

While it makes sense for those making the MLB minimum to keep more of their salary, owners are asking that the players cut baseball’s overall player payroll by over 75%, which seems amazingly drastic. Players making in the single-digit millions are being asked to cut their salaries by 50%-70% and those making multi-millions are reviewing a proposal in which they will only receive approximately 20% of their yearly salary.

KURT

Players are in a difficult position because if they decide not to play, an entire fan base is going to lower the boom and place the blame completely on them. People DO NOT CARE about how much they stand to lose, when they have been making so much prior to 2020.

2. Some players have been outspoken about the sacrifices, hazardous conditions and continued pay cuts being asked of them. Are they justified in their comments?

HOLLY

As an image consultant, I would have reached out to my clients Immediately (as their agents should have) and told them not to utter a peep because their words would always be misconstrued (they’re athletes, not public speakers!) and make them look bad to the public, like Blake Snell. But Max Scherzer, who sits on the MLBPA executive board, put out a thoughtful comment explaining that if so much was being asked of players, they had the right to receive documentation from owners that pertained to their “dire” financial situations necessitating these extreme cuts.

KURT

They come off as being the bad guys when they continue to post their opinions on Twitter. They could look much better by saying nothing and letting their representative, Tony Clark, speak for them.

3. Which side – the players or the owners – currently have the upper hand in negotiations?

HOLLY

Amazingly, it always seems to be the union that gets the most flack and critical analysis while the owners seem to sport that Teflon jacket. But it’s the group that makes the latest proposal that appears to be stronger because the opposing side then looks really bad and petty for criticizing it and threatening to walk away.

KURT

You won’t find ownership speaking out like the players often do and by simply keeping quiet, ownership takes the upper hand. However, no one looks good the longer this negotiation process continues, and it is beginning to appear like there is no common ground to be reached, especially when the players were so incensed with the latest proposal from ownership that they had no counter-proposal whatsoever.

4. What is most upsetting information to come out of baseball’s attempt to revive itself during this pandemic?

HOLLY

A number of teams, esp. the Oakland A’s, have started releasing some or all of their minor league players because they are cutting costs and don’t feel that dismissing 50+ players without an income is a bad thing in order to save just a few bucks. It is estimated that whole rosters are being dumped, including men with families and no income, in order to save a measly $400,000 per team.

KURT

My biggest concern through all of this when it comes to baseball is how it weighs on the minor leaguers, most of whom make pennies in comparison to the major leaguers. And when teams callously cast them aside to save money, they threaten the very lifeblood of the game.

5. Which side has more to lose during the current salary negotiations?

HOLLY

It’s almost a toss-up because you’ve got players who may not get paid at all this year (excluding the 6-figure stipends they received) and owners who will lose significant millions with a handful of them rumored to be forced to sell their teams. It’s a millionaires vs. billionaires battle but the side that will lose the most is the one in which the public believes killed the return of baseball – and millions of dependent jobs as a result – all because they didn’t earn their expected millions.

KURT

Again, I can’t pick a side because it’s the game of baseball that stands to lose. In the middle of an economic crisis, team ownership and players alike should be tip-toeing around these money issues as if each one is a land mine.


Totally Tigers loves your comments!  But please be aware that there are specific rules for posting and that comments may be edited in order to meet our specific requirements.  Responses are only published if they address today’s topic, are respectful and do not exceed the maximum 3-4 sentence response length.  Please become familiar with all of the rules at:  https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/commentsrules/.


YOU ASKED

Welcome to another edition of You Asked …

While we wait for baseball to resume, do you have questions and/or topics you’d like to see addressed? Submit them in the comments section and receive credit when Totally Tigers selects your entry. We’ll address your questions every Thursday.

Today we have chosen questions from McWatt and Greg Sanders.

Thanks for participating everyone!


McWatt:

Holly and Kurt, I can feel it coming. When will you address the “dream team” of 2008? Actually that might be an excellent discussion topic. A team is more than the sum of its parts – a WINNING team, that is.

KURT

What happened? One year removed from a trip to the World Series in 2006, the Tigers really began to inject some star power into their roster.  Prior to the 2008 season, the Tigers made one of the most high-profile trades in their history, when they acquired Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis from the Florida Marlins.

You know you felt it. This was going to be the trade to put them over the top. One by one, members of the media picked the Tigers to win the Central and the World Series.

But the Tigers didn’t even sniff the playoffs much less win it all in 2008. In fact, it was much worse. They finished last in the Central.

It was the most unexpected of outcomes for the Tigers. But what went wrong?

Well, first of all, before he ever threw a pitch for the Tigers, Dave Dombrowski signed Willis to a big money extension. And from the very beginning, Willis was a bust instead of a huge addition to the starting rotation, which many expected.

How big of a bust? Willis pitched in 8 games in 2008.

Miggy on the other hand, had a huge year, so he did his part. But there was little else in that lineup to support him. Only Magglio Ordonez and Curtis Granderson cashed in with solid seasons. Gary Sheffield?  He failed to hit .230 and drove in only 57 runs.

The Tigers also lost Joel Zumaya to surgery prior to the 2008 season, which limited him to only 21 games out of the pen, and only 22 strikeouts.

That’s a huge loss in the pen any way you slice it. Especially when your other late-inning arms, Fernando Rodney and Todd Jones did well to keep their ERA’s under 5. And I mean barely under 5.

What else? The Tigers acquired Edgar Renteria to play shortstop, which was intended to be a move to improve their offense. Sorry, but Renteria was a bust as well, contributing very little offense.

Another trade brought Jacque Jones to Detroit to play leftfield. The result? Right, another bust. He managed to hit .165 before he was mercifully designated for assignment in the first week of May.

Slowly but surely, you start to see what went wrong in ’08. Well, what went right?

Very little. The Tigers had more busts than a weekend pool party at the Playboy mansion.  (Thank you … I’m here all week!  Tip your waitresses!)

From a starting pitching standpoint, the Tigers had a 13-game winner but his name was not Justin Verlander. Here is the problem; JV had the worst year of his career as a Tiger, losing 17 games, while Armando Galarraga led the staff with those 13 wins.
Jeremy Bonderman, Kenny Rogers, Nate Robertson and Willis were a combined 19-30.

Unfortunately, if you thought the failures of 2008 were about lack of leadership or a disjointed clubhouse, well, not this time.

This was about failure.

Outside of Miggy, the Tigers suffered from poor acquisitions, poor performances from previously key contributors and key injuries.

You name it and it went wrong in 2008. In fact, given everything, they were lucky to win 74 games.


Greg Sanders:

This question is for Holly. In the 2016 draft the Tigers lost their 2nd and 3rd draft selections for signing Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Upon. If they had those two picks who was still available that they could have drafted? It would be interesting to see who would be in their farm system.

HOLLY

It’s always hard to predict selections beyond the first choice but we can get somewhat of an idea by using patterns. In 2016, the Tigers were 9th in the draft selection process and picked 5 pitchers in their first five (available) draft selections.
So let’s use that pattern to see what they potentially missed out on.

First, they picked Matt Manning. After giving up their 2nd and 3rd slots, they selected Kyle Funkhouser in the 4th round.

Let’s assume that if they had those slots back, they would have selected pitchers as well. Let’s also assume that they would have picked those pitchers also chosen from the 2nd and 3rd rounds by other teams.

After perusing the list, no name readily jumps out. A few now are recognizable as promising candidates. Maybe that’s because it’s still really early in the development process given that the draft was still fairly recent.

A better analysis of what could have been may possibly be made in a year or two when players have developed more.

From that list of pitchers selected in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, there is a sprinkling of injured arms and time off with some surgeries. Also, a couple trades of those prospects to other teams – mostly competitive teams with decent trade records.

But the biggest pattern I see is that most of those pitchers from these 2 rounds have hit the MLB level already and not just for a cup of coffee. The majority of them were promoted – and stuck – within 2-3 years.

Matt Manning, their top pick, is still technically in AA after those same 3 years. So are most of their other top prospects (1-2 are in AAA). None of the players selected 4 years ago have cracked the Detroit roster.

And you have to ask why.

Why is the process so slow for Detroit when other teams fast-track theirs? That’s the one pattern that really speaks – the ability for other teams to instruct and promote their prospects much more quickly than the Tigers.

To support this point, if Casey Mize doesn’t debut (and stick) with Detroit this year, he will become MLB’s oldest #1 draft pick in history to make the majors.

Do the Tigers just have an outdated system of development?

Are they purposely slowing things down in the minors for some reason in order to extend the rebuild (or “rebuild”)?

Do they believe the rebuild will take much longer than expected? If so, are they purposely creating a bottleneck – slowing things down – in order to keep team control over their minor leaguers for as long as possible? Something to consider as teams are getting stingier about service time.

In summary, my main concern is not which prospects the Tigers may have lost in the 2016 draft. For me, after reviewing the stats of 15+ other pitching prospects, my real worry is about what the Tigers are doing – or not doing – to their draft picks once they join the organization.


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PAGING BILL VEECK

By:  Holly Horning

Over the weekend, I heard the most fascinating interview with Sandy Alderson, a well-known executive within the MLB industry.

An interview, btw, that wouldn’t have happened if the baseball season hadn’t been postponed.

An interview that many within baseball’s Front Offices really would have preferred for fans not to hear.

An interview with a man who so clearly loves this game and is disheartened by what is happening to the sport.

For those of you not readily familiar with Sandy, he helped bring multiple titles (and several World Series trophies) to all of the teams for whom he worked – the Mets, A’s and Padres. He is currently back with the A’s as a senior advisor and was the inventor of moneyball (not to be confused with sabermetrics). He mentored Billy Beane. He also worked for the Commissioner’s Office.

He was one of the very first in the sport who did not come from a baseball background. Two Ivy League degrees and a first career as a Marine.

And he was known for consistently identifying great talent for teams with MLB’s lowest budgets.

With that said, what is consuming Alderson today is not the pandemic or whether the owners and players can reach a financial deal that will facilitate a baseball season this year.

He sadly reports that the game has ceased to be entertaining.

And he got it directly from the horse’s mouth. A team’s Front Office.

Over the winter, he had a discussion with a top executive from another team’s Front Office. When Sandy told him that baseball had become boring, he was met with (sic) “We are not in the entertainment business. Our job is to make this organization efficient and to produce as many wins as possible.”

Alderson said the guy talked to him like an accountant.

And if you need further proof, look to how the game is played today. A slow pace of play, games that run hours longer than they did before, constant pitching changes and the all-or-nothing strikeout or home run pattern.

Gone are the double steals, bunting and hitting into the gaps. Gone is the excitement of the surprise move or strategy.

It’s all now predictable. Formulaic.

Baseball has ceased to be entertainment and is now being run by super computers that tell the Front Office execs what to do.

The manager no longer manages and has become, in actuality, the middle manager. He is the conduit between the analysts and the players. He passes down the decisions from the offices to those who inhabit the dugout.

And it’s not me, or any baseball purist, saying this. It’s Sandy Alderson.

He laments that the game has become “super predictable” where the Front Offices have taken over and have consistently and methodically sapped the soul out of the game by implementing mathematical formulas that will help them save money and enhance the chances of winning.

He specifically points to strategies like the shift, video replay, spin rates and launch angles. Players told to hit home runs because the odds support it instead of trying to advance the runner. Strategic hitting is no longer a viable option.

But Sandy says it will get worse. The automated strike zone will become a reality in the very near future and will take the entertaining factor of conflict out of the game entirely.

Gone will be the days when managers could erupt at the umps and fire up their players and fans. Alderson even said that sometimes the arguments between umps and managers was done for show. Screaming that often was done for crowd entertainment – and in reality was an act where the two “adversaries” were asking about each other’s families while they acted out a scene.

Imagine how boring this sport would be without the likes of Billy Martin and Earl Weaver. Even my mother, a casual baseball fan, would watch the games when Billy was managing the Tigers because she was waiting for him to come storming out of the dugout. I remember her giggling uncontrollably when Ernie Harwell described Martin’s bulging veins in his face and neck during a typical tirade.

According to MLB, this is all about to go away. The game is being turned into a methodical product. A predictable product in which emotion no longer has a place.

Alderson’s interview sounded more like a plea. He says that baseball needs color, which it currently lacks.

This from the first man who attempted to sign Michael Jordan because he felt that there was a high level of talent and a great human interest story that would play well in baseball. A signing that would bring non-baseball fans into the fold and help raise the sport’s profile. And it didn’t hurt that Jordan had tremendous leadership skills that would work very well in the clubhouse.

Sandy also expressed his praise for owners like Charley Finley and Bill Veeck. Owners who knew that fans wanted to be entertained as well as see a good baseball game.

And sadly, he believes the bean counters have taken over.

So who will be the first to recognize and act upon baseball’s ever-diminishing fan base before it’s too late?

The opportunity is being handed to owners on a silver platter this year. Will any of them be smart enough to make the necessary changes?

It’s there for the taking, owners…………..


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IT IS TIME

By:  Kurt Snyder

So what do you think, folks? Are you ready to spread the good news of the designated hitter across both leagues, once and for all?

In my mind, if there was ever a good opportunity to introduce the designated hitter across the board, this is the year.

There isn’t a lot of risk associated with trying something different this season, assuming MLB works out a deal that will allow one to happen.  

With this forum of ours, I take a pretty big risk angering our trusted readers, when a fair amount of them can be found in the ‘traditionalist’ category of baseball fans. And those readers still yearn for the old days before the designated hitter.

But it’s been a long time now, since the American League introduced the DH in 1973. It’s been so long that I don’t remember what I thought about it when the AL made the move.

However, for quite a while now, I have appreciated seeing both sides. Watching NL games is like a refreshing return to the past when strategy was so much more a part of the game. But that doesn’t mean I am interested in ditching the DH. It is actually the opposite.

Since inter-league play began, AL teams had to make the adjustments when playing games in the NL parks. Adjusting to the NL rules with pitchers batting is a big deal for the American League; an adjustment that NL teams didn’t have to make when they were the visiting team in the AL park.

The only adjustment for the NL? Add a DH to your lineup. Here ends the adjustment. It just wasn’t right.  And it hasn’t been right for a long time.

It got worse when MLB started spreading inter-league games all across the schedule. Even in the midst of pennant races in September, AL teams were still saddled with visiting NL parks and all the necessary changes that came with it.   

It’s been crazy. And finally, our game is ready to make the appropriate change – the designated hitter for all. Meanwhile, traditionalists everywhere are screaming at their screens.

Sorry, folks. But the designated hitter in both leagues is what is right for today’s game.

Did you get that?

For today’s game.

Yes, there was a time when the game didn’t need the DH. But now, this is the time it is needed across the board.

Try explaining to someone who is new to the game, that half of baseball uses the designated hitter and the other half doesn’t. The first question is why and then when you tell them why, they will think it’s stupid.

Why? Well, because it is! And I can’t for the life of me believe that this arrangement has been in existence for so long. Having a professional sport exist under 2 sets of rules has been unprecedented. And I am being kind.

I do appreciate the strategic value of the game played in the National League, but I can also appreciate the need to make changes in order to jumpstart the game and this is the time to do it.

You know what the game has become. How offensive it has become. And you can interpret that statement any way you like.

But the game has become all about the home run. Manufacturing offense, which includes using pitchers to move runners along via the bunt in most cases, does not fit with the new business model.

New fans don’t understand the complexity of baseball and we need for them to understand it so they can grow to like it. Yes, traditionalists who cherish the strategic roots of the game must take a back seat. They must sacrifice. For the good of the game.

As you know, we are going to see the universal DH in action if and when the 2020 season kicks off. The NL will then get their identity back for 2021, as the game renegotiates the new bargaining agreement. But beginning in 2022, pitchers will more than likely never bat again.

It is sad. I completely agree. But it is also time. And it has been time for quite a while.


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