“Never let the past spoil your present or govern your future.” – Author Unknown
In order to understand what the future holds, we need to analyze the past. History is always a great teacher. That is, if you take the time to understand the cause and effect from past actions.
Which is why I was initially heartened by the news that the Tigers had started investing in the roots of their system after Dave Dombrowski had ignored it for 13 years. All that money Dave was given was poured directly into signing MLB-ready players.
In an interview, Dave Littlefield, VP of Player Development, mentioned that the team now has a structured (no longer voluntary) nutritional program. The Tigers, under Avila and Littlefield, have hired a mental skills (aka sports psychologist) coach who works with both the major and minor league players. And, they’ve added more resources to the strength and conditioning staff. Littlefield was quoted as saying that all aspects of the game have to be addressed which is why there is now this focus.
Of course, this all takes time in order to see results. But the fact that they are now, finally, addressing these issues, offers hope.
With the passing of the reins to Al Avila, the Tigers have adopted analytics and developed their own software program. And they finally started revamping the minor league system. For a team that is in rebuilding mode, these are all steps in the right direction.
But the alarm bells went off in my head after watching the game the other day. It was nothing that I saw. It was what I heard.
Kirk Gibson reported about how involved Jim Leyland is with the team.
And it’s worse than we thought.
Gibby reported that JL meets with Gardy every single morning to give his feedback and insights about the team. He offers his opinion on who should make the team, what the roster should look like and what waiver decisions should be made. He’s even been asked to weigh in about future draft picks.
So much for hoping that this team was finally shaking off its old formula. A formula that resulted in one of the biggest collections of the most talented MLB players ever assembled – and one that was unable to win more than a single World Series game.
Say what you will about the Tigers having many years of success and division titles. And if you don’t care that there has been a 33-year drought since the last World Series title, that’s fine, too. But the truth is that Mr. I hired Dombrowski, Avila and Leyland to get him that ring and they had 13 years to get it right.
So logically, this track record would tell us that the old methods didn’t work and that an entirely new strategy needs to be developed for winning. And logic also tells us that the same people responsible for the failed ability to reach the designated goal are not the ones to lead this team to the promised land. That new people, new ways and new thoughts are needed.
But for all intents and purposes, the same people, minus the new manager, are still in charge. And that is the definition of insanity.
Jim Leyland is not just a “special assistant.” He is impacting policy and decisions. And he’s doing it every day. He’s even going on many of the tv and radio broadcasts to give interviews that portray him as an essential cog of the organization.
Look around MLB. How many other teams keep their former managers around to impact policy? For allowing them to hover over their managerial successors? To have a significant amount of influence and not even hold the title of an upper executive?
It is a singularly strange and impractical way of doing business. Successful business, that is.
To give someone who managed his team to be good, but not good enough, that amount of influence, how can you expect real change to happen? For mistakes to be corrected? For different strategies and methods to be implemented?
Simply, you can’t. The Tigers, in effect, are trying to move forward, but their rear bumper is still firmly chained to the old mile post.
Is the decision based out of loyalty? We’ve written about that trait in these blogs.
Is it out of fear? A fear of change? Is that fear part of the reason why this team is always among the very last to catch up to the newer strategies in baseball?
Or is it based upon the corporate culture? Examples not being set? An unclear vision that lacks the necessary outline and steps?
Or a combination?
Your guess is as good as mine.
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