SILENT PARTNERS

By:  Holly Horning

Baseball has been going through so many changes over the past couple of years. Time clocks, shifts, “bullpenning”, launch angles, high-speed cameras, length of games and more.

There’s one other change happening, but it’s not on the field.

And the Tigers were one of the first teams to practice this strategy. Imagine that! Finally, this organization is at the forefront of implementing new ideas instead of consistently being one of the last.

And they do it very well.

It’s………..

….controlling the message via the media.

(Insert rim shot here.)

Whaatt? You were expecting some new analytical discoveries?

We’ve all seen it. The articles by the local media that read like press releases. Often the same information in both major city papers at the same time. Articles meant to soothe the fans’ frustration and gloss over the mistakes of the organization. All for the purpose of deflecting criticism and maximizing attendance figures.

The same articles that deflect attention away from the bunglers and instead, accuse the fans of having “bad attitudes”, “misplaced beliefs” or being “shriekers.”

The “articles” that make us go back to the byline to see if it includes the team’s media department.

But you know what? There are a significant number of other teams starting to do it, too.

My ears perked up the other day when I listened to a conversation between 2 former GMs on the radio. They were discussing how there are so many more leaks of information in baseball. Players rumored to be traded to other teams before it becomes official, managers getting extension contracts, managers on their way out and potential trade conversations.

When Dave Dombrowski first came to the Tigers, he was victimized by leaks but able to effectively shut everyone down within months. No one was more secretive than Dave. We never heard a peep about anything he was doing until it happened. I hear he was so good that the CIA tried to recruit him.

But his successor, Al Avila, is not even in the same orbit as Dave. He’s good, but the leaks have been happening sporadically. And often, his non-stop public confessions have been the primary agent of information.

And the reason this is happening more and more within the baseball world is because those within the Front Office have found it to be a necessary tool in helping them navigate their jobs successfully.

One of the former GMs mentioned that those on their way up the baseball ladder feel it crucial to develop relationships with members of the media. By giving them information in advance, they curry favor with that journalist. And when the time comes, and that executive needs someone in their corner, it’s time for the reporter to return the favor.

As a result, blunders are conveniently either ignored or soft-peddled. Favorable reviews that deflect analysis and minimize criticism may also be written.

And the writers most likely to do this are the ones assigned to regularly cover local teams. Less likely are those who cover a team infrequently or primarily address the national baseball picture.

We’ve all read stories about how hard it is for some hard-hitting journalists to get press passes. And how allegedly, a local writer, considered to be one of the area’s finest, was removed from covering the Tigers regularly.

And things can get rather complicated when two organizations have relationships with each other that involve advertising dollars and clubhouse access.

Are you uncomfortable yet? Are you surprised that this is happening?

Should we be surprised that during the last crucial 4 years of the Tigers’ infamous “window”, that hard-hitting analysis of what was wrong was completely missing?

That Brad Ausmus was given a free pass, and staunchly defended, until he left his managerial position?

That at least one reporter knew Ausmus was leaving weeks before he did and wrote nothing about it?

Should we be surprised that multiple reporters are now admitting that they witnessed in-house fighting among players, clubhouse dysfunction and open dissention between a number of the players and their former manager? And that they didn’t say anything to their readers for 4 years? In fact, that some went out of their way to quell the rumors and discount the unhappy events we saw on the tv broadcasts?

It all, conveniently, is only coming out this year.

I know I’m not the only one who believes that if the media had done their due diligence, we would have seen changes made at least 2 years ago. Especially when it comes to the Big One – who’s to blame for wasting all those years and all that incredible talent for just 1 game win in the World Series.

The Society of Professional Journalists established their Code of Ethics back in 1909. It lists 4 principles of ethical journalism which is the exchange of information that ensures it is “fair, accurate and thorough” and supports the integrity of the reporter. Those principles are:

– Seek Truth and Report It

– Minimize Harm

– Act Independently

– Be Accountable and Transparent

But in the end, no matter the team, no matter the city, no matter the media organization, when information is withheld, discounted or manipulated, the trust factor is gone. And as well, performance accountability. Look no further than the shockingly bad professional sports situation across the board in Detroit with the Lions, Pistons, Red Wings and Tigers.

Simply a coincidence that all 4 teams have been in performance droughts for years?

You know the answer to this one.


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/.

THE CORPORATE CULTURE OF CONTINUED EXCELLENCE

By:  Holly Horning

This past weekend, Mike Matheny, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, was fired along with 2 of his coaches. His team was above .500 and sitting in third place behind the Cubs.

Matheny had been the manager for 6.5 years, had an excellent .555 winning percentage and took his team to 43 post-season games including 6 division titles and 2 pennants.

What team wouldn’t be happy with that?

More importantly, what teams would find that record to be a firing offense?

Well, the Cardinals. They hinted, in part, that there was a concern about his losing playoff record (1 more loss than wins). But they clearly stated that the organization wasn’t willing to go 3 years without an appearance in October. They believed that players weren’t playing up to their potential and the fact that there was some friction with one of them was the tipping point.

This is an organization that not only wants to be good, but they want to be excellent. And not only excellent on occasion, but excellent most of the time. Excellent as the norm.

The Cards have set one of the highest bars in MLB for performance, expectations and results out of all 30 teams. Just look at their recent history.

Since 2000, the Cards have had only 1 season under (barely) .500 and finished in first place 10 times out of 17. Played October baseball 12 years out of 17. Four World Series with 2 rings.

That just doesn’t happen on its own. It doesn’t happen solely because a team has a great amount of talent. It doesn’t happen because you have solid pitching and defense. Or great offense.

It happens because of a strong, solid corporate culture that is communicated effectively from the very top to the very bottom of the organization.

It starts with the owner who sets the standards and expectations. The Front Office that develops the best path in order to achieve the goals and stays on top of the latest tools and resources.

They describe themselves as an “aggressive” organization that values flexibility and the willingness to change as the games, talent and financial factors evolve and change. The GMs (past and present) say that teaching a love of the game, where players are involved and engaged is most crucial.

The Cards are considered to have the best player development program in MLB. A complete and detailed program that addresses the physical, mental and emotional aspects of the game. Players universally comment that they feel the Cards really care about each and every one of them. St. Louis says that building personal relationships between players and staff is crucial to developing talent.

The Cardinal mentality goes all the way down to ensuring that the players they sign come in with some leadership abilities. Every new player gets 2 mentors when they arrive in the majors who advise them on everything both on and off the field.

There are a variety of resources for them to use in the off-season (conditioning programs, nutrition, sports psychologists, etc.) and the progress of every player is monitored. They also have required programs all players must complete over the winter.

Daily batting and fielding practices are “optional” but every player attends.

And it was branded years ago as “The Cardinal Way.”

On the other hand, within that same 17-year time period, the Tigers had 8 seasons above .500 with only 4 of them finishing in 1st place. Five years of October baseball, 2 World Series and only 1 game win out of 9.

A team that kept 2 different managers despite 2 last place finishes for rosters that were expected to go all the way in October.  One, who even had his option year picked up despite, once again, not having his team in the mix.

And since 2006 until this year, the Tigers have had higher payrolls than the Cards every year.

The Tigers certainly had the talent. Absolutely had the starting pitching and some of the best offense in the game.

We understand the impact sketchy defense and the lack of a bullpen made. But did we believe that this was a cohesive roster with great teamwork and leadership?

A team that tracked player performance, conditioning and nutrition and enriched their off-season with programs? A team that offered software programs and state-of-the art analytics with most of the other MLB teams?

Or could it be that the Tigers period of glory happened because the owner tried to take a shortcut and throw money, instead of developing a philosophy, in order to get that one ring? Did the corporate culture, or lack thereof, have anything to do with winning?

I think we know the answer.

All I can say is that if I was the owner, I’d be holding baseball branding boot camp with every single employee. Oh, and trying to lure away as many Cardinals employees as I could find….


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/.

POSSIBLE & POTENTIAL PERFORMANCE PREDICTIONS

By:  Holly Horning

We know the Tigers are going through a rebuild. And we hope that the owner and management know it, too.

This has been a very different year and our expectations for a positive season, for the most part, do not exist. It is a year where we can sit back and hopefully watch for signs of meaningful changes and progress.

We are now at the halfway mark of this season with the All-Star game happening in less than 48 hours. So what will the rest of this year – from now until December – bring?


Here are my top 10 predictions……

1. Victor Martinez will remain on the roster until the very last day of the season unless he is hurt. It is not in the Tigers’ nature to release anyone early. Actually, quite the opposite. But they are also a professional organization and loathe to insult or embarrass employees even if they can no longer perform.

2. For the same reasons listed in #1, Lloyd McClendon will finish out the year despite the overwhelming collection of sitting-at-the-bottom MLB offensive stats and regular quotes from his manager about the poor and impatient at-bats. Maybe Al Avila will allow Gardy to hire his own batting coach next year.

3. Performance will get uglier and messier before it gets better, especially if Castellanos’ bat, Fulmer’s arm and Iggy’s glove move to other cities.

4. The Tigers will have a tough time making trades this season. Between Nick’s defensive weaknesses, Iggy’s inconsistency with the bat and Shane Greene’s injury, combined with a buyer’s market, the Tigers will have to decide how desperate they are to get something in return, especially for the first two.

5. Speaking of Castellanos and Iglesias, they have the largest salaries after Miggy and Zimmermann – and expected to earn even more next year. The Tigers’ payroll sits exactly at MLB’s average and just a couple million away of taking the top spot as the AL Central’s most expensive team. Expect the payroll cuts to continue.

6. If Castellanos gets moved, don’t be surprised by how little the Tigers get back in exchange for him. His value resides only with his bat – and his leadership skills.

7. Should Iggy get traded, expect Avila to work his magic in finding a solid infielder to replace him at a decent price. Don’t expect Machado to return.

8. Niko Goodrum, one of this year’s most pleasant surprises, will stick in Detroit beyond this year and potentially turn from a super-utility player into the regular second baseman – at least for the short term. Afterall, he has the most experience playing that position. The Tigers may just end up searching for another utility guy to replace him.

9. The Tigers will finish this year with a better record than last year despite having significantly fewer solid talented players on the roster. They had a .395 record in 2017 when they came up 2 games short of 100 losses.

10. While the team finished dead last in 2017, and earned that #1 draft pick, ironically they may not be as “lucky” after this season. There may be as many as 6 teams – and as few as 4 others – who will end up with worse records when all is said and done.

What about you? What ONE prediction do you see happening by the end of 2018?


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/.

THE KNEE BONE CONNECTED TO THE THIGH BONE…

By:  Holly Horning

Back in early 2016, he started off the season with a 5-0 win/loss record and a microscopic .55 ERA. By early June, he was 8-2 with a 2.58 ERA and being talked about as an early Cy Young candidate. Al Avila was hailed as a genius for signing him.

But then he got hurt and that’s when this $110 million/5 year investment went down the dumper.

The team said at first that it was a lower body “strain” and typically described it as nothing major and a quick recovery. But as we know, that didn’t happen and a stint on the DL was the result. That’s when they said it was his back. Then they said it was a lat issue.

You know who I’m talking about……

Fans – and everyone else – were confused as to what was ailing J-Z especially when the team came back a fourth time and said it was now a lower back injury. Yes, really lower back this time.

Their best pitcher of the year ended up missing half the season – pitching only 4 times during July, August and September with disastrous results. And during the All-Star break, Zimmermann became very frustrated about how his injury was being addressed that he headed back to Washington to consult with his own long-term doctor.

Despite diagnoses that ranged all over the place, and half a year lost, the Tigers did not send him to a specialist until December 2016 – a full 7 months after the injury. That’s when they found out it was a neck issue.

Nothing like having a sense of urgency, right?

The next year, 2017 was the year of neck injections that resulted in more time lost and a 8-13 record with 6.08 ERA. Many believed Jordan was done. A bad signing. A poor choice. An albatross.

But was it really about his skills or was it more about his injuries? Was he really pitching because the team was desperate and trying to get something out of that expensive signing?

I think we know the answer. At least, I do. Anytime you have someone pitching extraordinarily well and then they get injured and do a complete 180, unresolved injuries are the most likely answer. Talent doesn’t immediately desert you on its own.

And it’s all based upon this pattern we have seen regularly over the years about the team not seriously or promptly addressing injuries. Look no further than what we’ve seen re Miggy’s health issues over the years.

How many times do we have to witness the bungling of a top player’s health? From their 4 incorrect diagnoses to taking over two years to get Zimmermann healthy again.

The lack of any sense of urgency is just astounding. And not just about health. We’ve watched that window of opportunity close every year with nary a change of strategy, the development of a decent bullpen and the piece de resistance, the hiring of a rookie manager.

Just think – if Jordan had seen a specialist earlier in 2016, instead of waiting a full year, he might have returned to being productive in 2017. He may have also avoided the shoulder impingement injury that characterized most of 2017. An injury, btw, that is a direct result from neck problems.

Why is there not a single person, as it currently appears, who is capable of moving quickly to help prevent as well as correct injury concerns? It is ridiculous that what was initially characterized as a “minor tweak” turned into a 2+ year odyssey before getting resolved.

I can safely say that as an East Coaster, if this had happened to any of the teams here, the fans would have come after management with torches and pitchforks. Let’s also include tar and feathers.

But now after working with a specialist, J-Z may have returned to his regular ways. He is currently the only Tigers’ starter with a winning record: 4-0. And if the bullpen hadn’t blown 2 games, he would be 6-0.

His ERA also leads the rotation – 3.51. He is pitching deeper into games with each month, completing 7 and 8 innings regularly in July. All good signs.

Hopefully, a happy ending. But geez, the team’s decision-makers are slower than sap in a Vermont winter.

Maybe they need a momager.


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/.

SURPRISES SO FAR THIS SEASON

By:  Holly Horning

We’re almost at the half way mark of this 2018 season and while a number of teams are still considered to be half-formed Jello, we are starting to see some definite patterns. Some will prove true, while others will change mid-course.

But what surprises have we seen so far? And what have we seen that doesn’t surprise us?  Here’s my list.


THINGS THAT MAKE ME GO “HMMM”

1. He’s failed at big signings, but Al Avila has turned into quite a successful bargain-hunter when it comes to finding and signing the players who have worked out well this year – Liriano, Fiers, Goodrum, Hicks and Martin.

2. Even the mighty Max Scherzer can’t save his team after losing 4 of his last 5 games (through Friday) with his only win coming against lowly Baltimore.

3. Bryce Harper is having the worst year of his career hitting a mere .211, possibly negatively impacted by the pressure to earn baseball’s highest contract record after this year as well as the pressure for his team to earn that ring in October.

4. The Washington Nationals, favored once again to go the World Series, have gone through losing streaks and just managed yesterday to climb 1 game above .500 playing what analysts are saying is overall horrible, sloppy and underperforming baseball.

5. Anibal Sanchez (through Friday) is currently 3-2 with a 2.89 ERA and pitching very well for the Atlanta Braves according to analysts.


THINGS THAT MAKE ME SAY “IT’S DEJA-VU ALL OVER AGAIN”

1. The Yankees rebuild in a NY minute, continue to be regular in their winning and are expected to win over 100 games this year all due to the foundation laid by their strong corporate culture and bold, fast, aggressive moves.

2. After suffering at least 1 significant injury for each of the past 6 years, Miguel Cabrera is on the DL for the entire season after sustaining a series of multiple injuries in less than 2 months.

3. Justin Verlander is ranked as the top starting pitcher (or tied with Max Sherzer) in MLB with several Hall of Fame analysts saying he may even be pitching better than his 2011 award-winning year.

4. In 2 short years, Dave Dombrowski has led the Boston Red Sox in overtaking the LA Dodgers with MLB’s most expensive payroll ($250 million), gutted their top farm system (now ranked 24th with the Tigers at 21st) and was told at the end of 2017 by ownership that he can no longer trade away any top prospects.

5. Chris Ilitch was front and center at the recent signings for the Red Wings’ draft picks but was nowhere to be seen when the Tigers had a ceremony for theirs.

What about you? What has surprised you – or not – this season in baseball?


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/.

THE OTHER 29 TEAMS

By:  Holly Horning

I can’t help but compare the other 29 teams with the Tigers because it helps put what our team is experiencing into perspective. It also gives us insight into how Detroit’s organization is run and where they stand in the mix of performance and strategy.

With that said, here are 10 things that have been on my radar screen as we head into the thick of summer…


1. The Evil Empire (you know the one) appears to be back and not going away anytime soon. All this after only a couple of months rebuild.

2. The Nationals, Dodgers, Angels and Red Sox are showing signs of taking a page out of the Ilitch/Dombrowski/Boras playbook about how to bet it all on a ring and come up short. Things are going to get really ugly at the end of this year for most or all of them.

3. Clayton Kershaw has pitched in only a single World Series game while Mike Trout has played in only 3 division series games and both have only 2 more years until free agency. What a waste of talent and strategy by both of their teams.

4. Teams with higher payrolls have more options when assembling their rosters. Shouldn’t it follow that teams without those means should be hiring the best Front Office talent and adding to their resource arsenal in order to balance the edge given by money?

5. The Red Sox have a recent habit of firing their GMs within 1-3 years. Dave Dombrowski’s teams have only won a single playoff game in the past 2 years with one of baseball’s largest payrolls – and he is in the third year of his contract.

6. Once again, MLB-affiliated tv and radio were mum on the firing of Chris Bosio and left it to others to do the reporting. You’d never know there is a real issue within the industry re insensitive comments and actions of a sexual, racial and cultural nature (including those highly placed within the top tiers of MLB) if you only listened to the stations officially run by MLB.

7. Any woman can tell you that long hair is really hot in the summer. So why do baseball players now voluntarily coat their entire heads in long hair and beards?

8. Baseball teams never report their actual attendance and run with the number of season tickets sold combined with no-shows and actual ticket sales. MLB attendance overall this year is down almost 7% and facing their lowest numbers in 15 years while ticket prices and food/parking costs have risen 3% on average.

9. With all their money and resources, how did MLB end up hiring a retired couple to put together 30 teams’ schedules for the past 25 years via paper and pencil? Shouldn’t they have hired a math expert who can use a super computer instead of going very cheap and very old school?

10. In a recent survey, professional baseball players believe that the PED problem is larger than believed. And the decision-makers within MLB believe it is smaller than thought. What a surprise.

Which one of these 10 observations intrigues you the most? Pick one, share your thoughts and support your argument.


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/.

TO TRADE OR NOT TO TRADE, THAT IS THE QUESTION

By:  Holly Horning

To trade or not to trade: that is the question

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous rebuilding

Or to deal with a sea of troubles against arms in the bullpen.

(The blogger has taken unparalleled liberties with this quote from Shakespeare. Apologies to everyone. It could not be helped.)


With a little over 4 weeks until the July trade deadline, the baseball world is starting to heat up over which players will end up being traded to which teams. And, of course, the Tigers are expected to continue the process they started last year.

But is it as easy as simply trading off parts of the roster? Is it a clear line thought process from “rebuild” to “trade”? Or is this a complicated process in which a variety of factors will be considered before a single trade is attempted?

To argue that the trading process is as simple as Al Avila or another GM making a call with a proposal is a rather simplified rationale for an organization employing multiple decision-makers. Everyone needs to work in tandem.

Ron Gardenhire’s priorities are probably different to some degree than the visions of Al Avila. And while Avila may have his sights firmly set on rebuilding this team and making it competitive, the organization’s de facto owner may have other ideas.

And the kicker is that he is probably not sharing them with anyone within the Tigers’ organization. Chris Ilitch may have other priorities.

If you read the social media threads attached to the local media’s articles, readers can make a case for trading or not trading certain players. They have different understandings of what constitutes a rebuild. And they have concerns over whether this is a viable rebuild with a time schedule or a plan to consistently keep “rebuilding” for years.

The bottom line is that it always comes down to money. How much to spend on players. How much money can be saved on payroll. How appealing a rebuilding team can maintain itself with the fan base before permanently losing real attendance figures. How much revenue can be generated outside of ticket sales. And whether real value can be extracted in a trade.

In other words, it’s complicated. We may be surprised – or not – by what happens before August 1st rolls around. And if a move, or lack of one, doesn’t make sense, then we may not be privy to what is going on below the surface.

Sometimes a rebuild is more of a zig-zag line than a direct one. And sometimes that road may be temporarily shut down or detoured. Maybe even washed out and requiring a new rebuild.

Logically now, we want to identify the factors that will make a difference in who and how many are traded. We’re wondering how much or how little will be done. And it will all depend upon what the decision-makers see – and what ownership’s long-term plans are.

With that said, here are many, but not all, of the issues that will impact what the Tigers do over the next 4+ weeks.


REASONS FOR NOT TRADING

1. Little-to-no interest in the players by other teams identified as likely trade bait.

2. A buyer’s market where supply is greater than demand.

3. A proposed trade where the Tigers don’t see enough of a return in players to make the trade happen.

4. Better than expected attendance figures that would be negatively impacted by the trading of popular or impactful Tigers.

5. The new tv rights contract negotiation dependent upon attendance and viewership.

6. The inability to replace a traded player with someone not yet deemed ready in the farm system.

7. Given the unexpected better-than-expected performance and attendance figures, a strategy of extending hope and revenue for a longer period of time.

8. The potential that the team is being readied for a sale and thus the desire to maintain higher figures of revenue.


REASONS FOR TRADING

1. Reduce payroll so it is more in line with what is spent in the AL Central and move it below the average payroll in MLB.

2. Trading off players making more than MLB-minimum in order to help negate the albatross contracts of Miguel Cabrera and Jordan Zimmermann.

3. A true rebuilding plan with long-term vision.

4. Viable farm talent that is ready to come up.

5. The need to stock the farm system with as many new prospects as possible.

6. A division that is truly horrible with multiple teams in a position to reap greater talent benefits than the Tigers at the end of the year.

7. A desire to continue to get the #1 or very high draft picks by significantly depleting the current talent and tanking performance.

8. The potential that the team is being readied for a sale and thus the desire to chop payroll as much as possible, balance the books and load up the farm system in order to generate better offers.

Let’s keep these two lists in mind as the trading begins. In the meantime, are there other factors that can be added?

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/.

COMMUNICATION IS KEY

By: Holly Horning

It’s readily apparent to all how much better the Tigers are as a team this year with Ron Gardenhire taking over as manager.  The signs are everywhere from how they play, to their intensity and fight and to taking responsibility for their performances.  Even the national media believes this team is playing above expectations.

But there is also the non-verbal aspect to consider.  This is a happier team.  You can see the comfortable body language in every player.  You see it in their faces.  You see it in the hugs the players – as well as the manager and coaches – give each other.  They are a cozy bunch in the dugout, congregating in clusters and talking to each other unlike the “every man is an island” attitude we saw over the previous managerial reign.

But this just didn’t happen because a manager was replaced.  This was planned.  And it took skill to make it happen.  This is a sign of a good, maybe even great, leader.

Communication.  It’s what makes everything work well.

For the last 4 years, we never heard a player give a ringing endorsement of Brad Ausmus.  We saw a group of men increasingly distant, unfocused and unhappy as time went by.

The local media, undoubtedly spurred by the media powers that be, went into overdrive to protect the former manager by constantly telling fans that Brad was good but always failing to include the supporting points.  They called everyone who questioned Ausmus “shriekers”.  Remember?

And it really started to remind us all about that fable involving the emperor and his new clothes.

It’s just too bad that the local media hasn’t communicated all the information with their readership over the past 4 years.  If they had, the Tigers may have been forced to make some leadership changes that the players and many fans knew were way overdue.

But the signs this year are unmistakable.  So much so that the media cannot deny it.  They’ve done a complete 180 about how a manager doesn’t make a difference.  Apparently now he does.  Revisionist history at its finest.

We are now hearing more and more what it was like for the players under Ausmus.  Information that was stifled over the past 4 years is now coming out in dribs and drabs.  We saw a lot of it over those years but the local media chose to ignore it or churned out “all is well” press releases instead of articles.

We saw Justin Verlander going ballistic in the dugout and slamming equipment.  Mound visits in which you could clearly read his lips.  And JV could give any sailor a run for his money when it came to telling his manager how unhappy he was with him.

Of course, there was David Price and the infamous “no-show” to the mound to pitch another inning.  It was blamed on “miscommunication” between the pitcher and his manager.  Baseball history was made with that event.

There was the dugout battle between Rajai Davis and Brad in which Rajai got benched for successfully stealing a base because he saw an opportunity and took it without asking permission first.  An episode that undoubtedly inspired him to later sign with Cleveland, rather than return to Detroit, for approximately the same amount of money.

We saw Max looking uncomfortable.  And Miggy made what we already knew official.  He also didn’t like Brad.

Within the past couple weeks, we’re learning more.  Jose Iglesias in an interview recently expressed his happiness with Gardy because his manager allowed him to make decisions and take responsibility.  And to grow as a player.  He alluded to the fact that Brad always told him what to do.  He frankly admitted that he felt very frustrated being so severely restricted in what he was able to do in the field or at the plate.

And then there’s Victor Martinez.  A much different man this year than in 2017.  He looks happy.  He’s smiling a lot.  And he’s once again having positive interactions with his teammates and they are returning the affection.

We didn’t like what Victor had become last year.  We thought it was entitlement.  Or a stubborn, ageing player who refused to see what he had become.

But VMart’s reason for being upset much of the year?

Brad.  (Surprise!)

We learned from an interview, that VMart’s former manager didn’t confer with his players.  Didn’t discuss strategies or visions with them.  A man who said repeatedly, almost proudly, that he never went into the clubhouse.

And Victor, to his credit, didn’t throw his manager under the bus last year.  But this year, he’s admitted that Brad never talked to him.  That Ausmus never acknowledged any of Victor’s ideas or concerns.

The breaking point was the day Martinez came off the disabled list.  Ausmus moved him in the lineup without having a conversation or even giving him a clue.  VMart only found out he was moved when he saw the lineup card.

“I think at least I deserve to be called to the office and at least tell me,” Martinez said. “I have time enough to at least tell me know ahead.  The only thing is I ask for respect. That’s why I respect everybody. You respect people to get respect back and that’s it. I’ve never asked for special treatment or nothing. I show up and play. That’s it. That was the difference.”

To say that Ron Gardenhire is on the opposite end of the spectrum is an understatement.

He meets with all of his players regularly.  They discuss the vision, goals, ideas and possible changes that will be involved during the year.  He explains why they need to happen.  He gets their input and discusses their concerns.  And every player interviewed has said they appreciate being allowed in on the dialog and being able to understand their exact role.

Almost to the man, they reported feeling as if they were equals in the conversation.  They felt respected.  And they appreciated that they would not be blindsided with moves they didn’t expect.  And they felt comfortable knowing that decisions and moves were being made that respected the soul and integrity of each of them.

You see it now in the dugout.  Players who come down the stairs and are usually greeted by their manager or another coach.  A few words of wisdom, a lesson in the making, strong eye contact and all followed by a hug or a pat on the back.  This never happened under the Ausmus regime.

You see players grouped around a coach or each other during a game and a discussion about what is happening on the field.  It’s a cohesive bunch now.

Gardenhire will also tell you that he holds regular meetings with the entire team or groups of players.  That he feels it is one of the most important aspects of a manager’s job.

A far cry from the stories of player-led meetings in the clubhouse over the past couple of years because there was no communication from their former manager, who was holed up in his office.

Gardy has simply established an optimum learning and working environment for his players which allows them the opportunity to focus on performance and be the best they can be.  He has created a culture and a supportive network all through his emphasis on strong communication.

And that’s what good managers do.

A LONG TIME COMING

By:  Holly Horning

Let’s say you have the ability to buy a car. Not just any car, but a very special one. One that is very rare and one of the most expensive ones ever made. A high-performance car considered to be one-of-kind.

A car that would make everyone stand up and take notice. People who would want to see your car and remark on how well it runs. Viewers interested in seeing its power and performance.  A car they have never seen in their lifetimes.

So if you had this car, how would you treat it? You’d take very good care of it, right?

You wouldn’t ignore having the oil changed. You’d make sure that the fluid levels were checked frequently. The tires rotated and regular check-ups every 5,000 miles. And only fill her ‘up with high-performance gas.

Heck, you’d also make sure to hire a specialized mechanic who understands how to take care of this high-performance beauty. Nothing ever too good for your one-of-a-kind.

The point is, you’d never neglect your car. Or forget to take care of it. Or even assume that it will continue to run smoothly as it gets older and the mileage starts to add up. Because if you did, it would be spending more and more time sitting in the garage instead of purring in the streets.

You would not be taking care of your investment and risk having the ability to drive it whenever you wanted. It, and your money, would be gathering dust in that garage.

Does this sound familiar? How many of you understand that this tale of caution parallels how the Tigers have failed to watch over their biggest investment?

Miguel Cabrera.

A one-of-a-kind player destined to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot if he can only stay healthy and continue to produce. A player already paid over a quarter of a billion dollars by the Tigers alone and expected to retire from Detroit having earned at least $392 million and potentially up to $452 million. Not including all the incentives and bonuses.

He’s earned more money than it took to build Comerica.

Miggy makes $185,000 per game, whether he plays or not. Even when he’s on the disabled list. He’s still owed $17.4 mill for 2018 and because baseball contracts are guaranteed, he will be paid every single penny of it. His salary constitutes 23% of this year’s total team salary and will climb once again next year.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have refused to confirm if they have insurance on Miggy. Or even, at this point, if they were able to get insurance on him given his previous injuries. Historically, they have not taken out insurance on their players and continue to pay Prince Fielder his salary as a result.

And then there’s Jordan Zimmermann and Victor Martinez – both not insured and stories for another day.

Given all of this, am I the only one shaking my head over the Tigers’ failure to protect their most expensive investment ever? If you had such a spectacular player at a jaw-dropping price, wouldn’t you protect him?

Wouldn’t you ensure that special precautions were taken to keep him as healthy and as fit as possible? Wouldn’t you have a plan for the long term, especially considering that he is signed through 2024 (or 2025)?

Instead, the Tigers essentially left him on his own and allowed him to solely focus on weight-lifting instead of practicing a balanced fitness routine. They allowed him to ignore his core which any professional trainer will tell you is the center from which all physical health and strength emanates.

There were some years when he came to spring training significantly overweight.

Did they allow this benign neglect because of organizational practices or because they were afraid of his star status and the power it gives him? And why was he allowed to play for at least 2-3 years, obviously injured, and not go on the DL? To allow injuries to linger and fester, increasing the potential for long-term damage?

And now, it appears that our worst fears about keeping Miggy healthy are being realized. Let’s hope we are very wrong about this but the timeline and increasing frequency shown below are cause for alarm.


2010 – ankle sprain

2012 – core muscle tear (unreported and a result of breaking up an alleged clubhouse fight)

2013 – groin injury, core muscle surgery at end of year

2014 – ankle problem, broken foot both surgically corrected at the end of the year

2015 – torn calf muscle

2017 – back injury, hip flexor strain, groin strain, 2 herniated disks

2018 – 2 hamstring injuries, 2 herniated disks, hip flexor strain, bicep spasms, bicep tear


During this current year, Miggy has had 6 injuries that forced him to miss a minimum of 3 days or more for each of them. Six injuries spread out over 10 weeks. And now, he’s out for the rest of the season with the bicep tear.

It obviously brings up serious questions about how the organization oversees its operations. And then there are the perennial questions surrounding whether the medical and training/conditioning programs are as proactive, updated and advanced as they should be.

And then there is the question of entitlement. Did this gargantuan contract allow Miggy to call all of his own shots and be essentially unaccountable to the rest of the organization?

But if we look at this rationally, should anyone have signed off on a benign neglect policy for a man with a pattern of impulsive behavior? A man not known to impose a structured, disciplined routine upon himself in the off-season like Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton and Derek Jeter.

What would Miggy’s stats have looked like these past 2+ years if the Tigers had been more proactive in protecting their investment?

All good questions and many that will go unanswered. At least publicly.

Now that his name is no longer on the lineup card, there is one thing we do know. And that is, the Tigers did him no favors.


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/.

I’VE GOT QUESTIONS

By:  Holly Horning

If you’re reading our blog, then chances are you are what we call “the thinking fan.” Someone who likes to dig below the surface of an interview, play, game, month, year and direction of your team. A fan not afraid to ask questions or consider what something may say about the team – good or bad.

And if you’re a thinking fan, it means you have questions that keep popping up. Some of the same questions. And sometimes, you just don’t have answers.  And probably, no one else does either.

So it’s apt that as we move into third full month of the season (if you don’t count games called due to snow), I have questions. And not just the regular questions. I don’t do simple. Or normal.

But I do have a top 10 list so far of questions I keep asking myself. Some of them substantial, some of them questions for the ages and some of them, well, er, a little off the beaten path.

Let’s get to them, shall we?


1. Since the Tigers are doing better than expected, and pulling in more attendance than previously believed, will ownership order that the remaining stalwarts of the team not be traded – thus slowing the rebuild – in order to take advantage of a continued revenue stream, especially as attendance and viewership will assist them with the new tv contract negotiations?

2. I understand the need to trade Justin Verlander, but am I the only one shaking my head that the Tigers are actually paying 30% of his contract for 2 years to the Astros while he puts up Cy Young numbers?

3. Am I the only one who has to inch closer to the tv screen and look long and hard to see if it’s Ron Gardenhire or Chris Bosio making a mound visit?

4. Why did Dave Dombrowski completely ignore developing a bullpen for the Tigers for over a decade but one year after arriving in Boston, the Red Sox have had 1 of the top 3 bullpens in MLB for both 2017 and 2018?

5. Have the plethora of players hitting the DL this year been due to an actual increase in injuries or because Brad Ausmus was unable to influence them/allowed them to play hurt?

6. Why do all the other teams in MLB have trim, toned physical specimens as trainers except for the Tigers?

7. Who is the power within the Tigers organization who forced Miggy to go on an extended apology tour and explain over and over how much he loves Detroit, his team and the fans?

8. If Al Avila tells us that the Tigers are moving in a different direction and employing different ideas and strategies, why was Jim Leyland sitting in the seat of power to Avila’s immediate right (Chris Ilitch to the left) in the front row of the Tigers’ war room during the MLB draft last week instead of, say, Dave Littlefield (VP Player Development) or Sam Menzin (Director Professional Scouting)?

9. After officially confirming that Miggy, VMart and other players (who now join Justin Verlander, David Price and Max Scherzer, among others) in admitting they didn’t like Brad Ausmus as their manager, why then, did the Tigers refuse to fire Brad and inexplicably pick up his option year to boot?

10. If Miggy did indeed tell the Marlins former President that he wanted to return to Miami, was his desire based upon his dislike for Brad Ausmus or to be near both of his families?

So you, dear thinking fan, which questions do you have?


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/.