WALKING THE WALK

By:  Holly Horning

I have a question for you. Well, several really.

Would you hire…

… a doctor who smoked?

…an emaciated chef?

…a nutritionist who eats junk food?

… or even a wardrobe consultant who didn’t dress well?

Of course you wouldn’t.

Now, would you hire a trainer for your sports team who didn’t look physically fit?

We all know the answer to that one but obviously those making the hiring decisions for the Tigers don’t.


(And for those of you who are about to jump to conclusions and raise the issue of discrimination against certain groups, I’m going to stop you right here. The only thing that matters is whether an individual is suited for their profession and fully capable of performing at least the minimal standards that their jobs require. Nothing else.)


Once again, we were forced to watch the Tigers’ team trainer struggle to get to a fallen player on the field the other day. The Tigers’ Niko Goodrum had a violent collision with his teammate and was lying still on the ground for a disturbing amount of time. Several players rushed over to him and everyone stood around waiting for the trainer to come out.

Then we saw him. Obviously having difficulty climbing the stairs of the dugout with his hand firmly gripping the railing to help him ascend. And then the walk. He is not capable of running or even jogging.

And the Tigers, and Niko, waited.

On the other hand, later in the game, the Astros trainer had to attend to one of his injured players. In stark contrast, he took the dugout stairs two at a time and went racing to the scene. His player was down on the ground, like Niko, but this trainer had the capability of also getting fully prone on the ground in a better position to ascertain more about the injury.

If you think that Jeremiah Randall, the Astros’ head trainer, is the exception, he is not. I have spent most of this year checking out each team’s head trainer and can report that the majority are just like Randall.

They look physically fit. They look like personal trainers. There is minimal body fat and maximum lean muscle tissue. They are not big and bulky. They are lean machines who look like professional athletes or at least active military personnel.

You see the muscle definition in them. You see the biceps and when they are in shorts, also the calf definition. And you know that there is a 6-pack lurking under their team shirts.

Most of them skew on the younger side – 30’s and early 40’s. And all of the men appear to be in the 170 lb. range with ideal BMI. There is also MLB’s second female head trainer, Nikki Huffman, to whom I can attest that almost every woman out there would swap bodies with in a flash.

And if you went to the gym looking for a personal trainer to get you in serious shape, you’d want to hire most of these team trainers to do the job.

I know personal trainers. I’ve worked with them regularly since my 20’s. I also coordinate with several professional sports team trainers when I work with my athlete clients. I know what they do and the discipline required to do it.

I also work out at a serious gym owned by a former Olympic athlete. He is a perfectionist and all of the personal trainers he employs are the best, including my own.

She’s a tiny thing with a loud voice, constant high energy and continuously moving.  She also has the uncanny ability to coerce me into doing any exercise she wants, no matter how terrifying it is. And she is right there with me, doing the same exercises and correcting my form.

And then there’s my physical therapist who regularly keeps me aligned in order to prevent injury. She’s got the face of Jessica Alba, the body of a ballet dancer and the hands of a killer. She is also high energy and the perfect specimen of someone who keeps their body in tip-top shape.

The point is that both of these people look the part. They look physically better than the majority of the population. And that is one of the most important reasons why I hired them. They are walking advertisements for the quality of the work they perform. They sell themselves.

They walk the walk.

And when you look at all the head trainers for each MLB team, almost all of them also look the part. In fact, many of them came from backgrounds in which they were experts in their field and ran entire companies or were in residency at medical centers focused on promoting and practicing the latest and greatest physical health advances. They have multiple degrees and certifications.

A number of them, like Randall, are highly sought speakers in the off-season to the medical communities and PBATS conferences. And Randall also spends part of his off-season working with rehabbing seriously wounded war veterans in addition to his regular work keeping the Astros healthy and conditioned.

I don’t see any of these patterns with the Tigers’ staff. I can’t even tell you the last time I saw a head trainer there who looked like one.

And I wonder how someone who has a hard time moving around, who lacks flexibility and agility, can work with a player and show him proper form. How to perform an exercise and not get injured doing it. If you are not capable of even kneeling on the ground to tend to an injured player, how can you show them proper training form?

And if it appears that core exercises are not part of your regular routine, what are the chances they will address it with their own players? And now that Iggy has been shelved for what may be his last performance as a Tiger, have you also lost count of how many Tigers have been downed over the past 4 years because of core muscle-related injuries?

The former head trainer now oversees the entire training, conditioning and medical programs for both the Tigers and all of their minor leagues. He was promoted. He’s been working for a series of Tiger management since 1993. The current one has also been with the Tigers since 1993. The new assistant trainer has been with the Tigers since 1996.

There’s that dang pattern again.

No other team in MLB has any trainer with multiple decades of employment. We’re talking a quarter of a century. Heck, many of today’s trainers were toddlers when Dave Dombrowski hired his when he was still in Montreal and Florida.

Maybe the Tigers need to realize that it’s no longer the 1990’s. Things change in 3 decades. Training changes. Advancements are discovered. New strategies succeed old ones.

But will the Tigers actually change? Will they finally decide to enter the 21st Century and show us updated training programs led by trainers who walk the walk? Will we actually be able to go to Lakeland and not be horrified by the antiquated conditioning drills we see?

That is the real question.


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/.

NEVER CAN SAY GOODBYE

By:  Holly Horning

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. He was supposed to be a Tiger for Life. Mr. I tried to see to that.

He was supposed to retire as a Tiger, having played his entire career here.  And we expected that 7 years later, there was a good chance that he’d get elected on the first ballot for the Hall of Fame.

But now, every time we see him, it’s like – as Miracle Max in The Princess Bride would say – pouring lemon juice on a paper cut. He’s traded in the “D” for an “H”. Different city, different hat……same number.

Same JV. Same pitches. Same intensity. And you could say, as he’s gotten older, the resources of the Houston Astros have allowed him to stay at the top of his game. Maybe even better at times.

So why has it been so hard to say goodbye? When all the other stars left the team via trade or free agency, they were forgotten. Even JD and Max.

But Verlander. The local press has documented his every move as if he never left. Everything from his new team to his wedding to impending fatherhood, Kate’s pregnancy – and all his new cars. And all in the sports pages no less.

In fact, yesterday, the two main newspapers had a combined 14 articles about JV. A tad overdone maybe?

There was the video the Tigers ran Monday night as JV warmed up and headed to his new dugout. Timed specifically to play so he could watch it.

And fans could see that Detroit held a special place in his heart. He touched his hand to his heart as his nose started to turn red and his eyes welled with tears.

Can you remember the Tigers doing anything at all like this for any other players?

Me neither.

On the surface, it was a wonderful gesture. Beautifully done.

But was that all it was? Were there other reasons for the Tigers to offer such a unique tribute?

Did the organization also use this moment to prove to fans that they still love JV despite trading him? Despite the recent row when he questioned his medical treatment? To help quell some of the lingering fan ire over having to trade the fans’ overwhelming favorite player? The franchise face?

Was it an attempt to keep JV tied to the organization in the future? A job? Or to help mitigate any deep feelings he develops for the Astros that may provide complications down the road for Cooperstown? What if JV stays in Houston longer? What if he wins another Cy Young Award to go with his only World Series ring? What if his stats from both teams are comparable and cause debate about which hat he wears into Cooperstown? Does he decide to go into the Hall wearing no hat at all?

It’s always hard to keep the love when you move on to another team. Memories fade and are replaced by newer, shinier ones. Like World Series rings and banners flying over the stadium.

Or, have the Tigers decided to ride the JV coattails and still claim him, unofficially, as their own? A rationale of having the best of both worlds? Or do the Tigers simply have no other player on which to currently hang their hat? Remember, Miggy is out for the year, his future health remains a question mark and he’s been dragged through the PR minefield this year with his personal life.

Even with all the promos about JV’s return, sadly, the stands were empty that night.

A definite sign that the glory days have now come full circle. Shiny excitement has been replaced with harsh reality. And seeing JV wearing another uniform and pledging allegiance to another team is part and parcel of this new era.

Most of us know the Tigers traded him for business, not emotional or performance, reasons. But for a number of fans, it’s still hard to accept. Seeing him in another uniform and succeeding symbolizes the failure of the Tigers organization to get that ring despite over a decade of having the best players in MLB, the best starting rotation and a number of guys who are headed to the Hall when all is said and done.

Of course, it’s wonderful to see Verlander succeed. He’s earned it. But it will always be a sad moment when we see him wearing another team logo. Wondering what could have been. What should have been.


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/.

THEM’S FIGHTIN’ WORDS

By:  Holly Horning

I’m starting to think that if the Tigers showed as much fight on the field as they do off of it, there would have been at least 1 World Series ring by now.

If you consider it, this organization has been in-fighting since 2006. Rumors over the years of clubhouse clubbings and, as we’ve seen with our own eyes, plenty of dugout dust-ups. The most infamous being the alleged clubhouse brawl between Prince Fielder and Avisail Garcia that required multiple players to break up the fight and resulting in serious injury to Miguel Cabrera as he tried to hold back Prince.

There was also the memorable incident with Delmon Young in NYC when he tussled with some pedestrians.

And speaking of Miggy……. Who can forget his multiple verbal and physical threats against police, his own wife, a restaurant, a manager and several patrons?

Over the past 4 years, the incidences only increased. JV wisely fought an equipment rack instead of his manager. Iggy started gettin’ jiggy with James McCann in the dugout. And Bruce Rondon seemingly fought everyone, including himself.

But last year was the worst. Reports about how the clubhouse continued to disintegrate until its final denouement with players not talking to each other, cliques forming and regular skirmishes breaking out. And veteran players like Victor Martinez becoming ostracized by his own teammates. Is it unreasonable to consider that potentially his heart issues were a by-product of all that stress in the clubhouse?

There were fights with teams, most noticeably the Yankees, which involved 9 players, sucker punches and a beanball war. Once the two teams were separated, the Tigers then had to deal with Tiger-on-Tiger violence. Who can forget VMart trying to go after Justin Verlander and being held back by Nick Castellanos?

And now things have gotten so bad that the broadcasters are duking it out with each other, too. Apparently, the rebuilding process is hard on everyone.

But what’s hard to understand is why Mario Impemba and Rod Allen remained together for so many years. It was no secret that they didn’t get along and that there was increasing acrimony. So much so, that several years ago, the Tigers and FSD brought in new revolving co-hosts for Mario in order to give the two a breather from each other.

Granted, there are instances when conflicting personalities are kept together but the rationale usually involves top talent and high stakes. But let’s be honest here – Mario and Rod are mediocre at best and easily replaceable.

There was no reason to keep them together unless it involved a financial reason. More likely is the strategy that it was easier to simply keep everything as it is instead of exploring new candidates and doing test market auditions.

Potentially, the higher ratings due to the Tigers being in solid contention year after year facilitated the “do nothing” approach. A lack of action known as coasting. And it’s practiced by the lazy and uncaring. Other MLB teams change their broadcasters frequently unless they have a known top commodity and are killing it in the ratings.

I do, however, give props to both the Tigers and FSD for resisting the urge to put Impemba and Allen back together in the booth with cameras to catch every moment. That alone would have boosted ratings to their highest level in over 2 seasons and in a year when the media contract expires.

But allowing this relationship to fester until things came to a head doesn’t speak well of the decision-makers. It doesn’t speak well of their priorities. And it doesn’t speak well of the minimal performance goals they set for themselves and their organizations.

And alarmingly, we’ve seen this same practice in other areas of the Tigers’ system. In the clubhouse from 2015 through 2017. A clubhouse that grew increasingly unhappy, disparate and fractured. Increased in-fighting. Battles that moved from the clubhouse to the dugout and finally to the field. Battles caught on prime time tv.

And once again, you have to ask why it was allowed to continue. Why it was allowed to grow worse with each year. Why it was allowed to get so bad that players weren’t talking to each other. Why the decision-makers sat back and did nothing despite watching the growing frustrations evolve from the verbal to the physical.

And those issues are primarily why the team was widely described as underperforming for the past 2 years.

Yet, ownership and management chose to maintain the status quo. A manager increasingly ineffective and disliked – yet inexplicably kept for 4 years despite all the rumors, calls for change and a window of opportunity about to slam shut.

Of course, there are other examples of conflict within the organization but if we cut the chase, what we’re seeing is a pattern of behavior. A pattern that is part of their acceptable corporate culture. A pattern of ignoring the evidence, taking the path of least resistance and hoping for the best.

A pattern of ignoring a ticking time bomb and hoping it will all go away.

A pattern not seen with teams that win on a regular basis. And a pattern that tends to pop up in other areas of the organization if left unchecked. A pattern that allows violence to seep from the clubhouse into the dugout, onto the field and now, into the broadcast booth.

And a pattern in which those involved are rarely or meaningfully punished for their behaviors.

We can only hope that things don’t further disintegrate where we see members of the analytics department start to bash each other with their laptops next.


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 SECOND ACT?

It is tough being an ageing athlete with an expensive contract. And ironically, many fans blame the player and not the person who developed and OK’d the deal.

Take the case of Victor Martinez.  Mr. I personally made that contract happen when Victor came to him almost 4 years ago to tell him that another team had made a higher bid for his services. It was Mr. I who added that fourth year and VMart accepted it. You’d do the same, too.

Most of us knew the day of reckoning would come sooner or later.  But during the first 3 years of his contract, Victor put up some solid numbers – despite the age, the injuries and the knees.

And towards the end, the ageing process gained the upper hand. Say what you will about VMart, but he was always serious, dedicated and disciplined about the game of baseball – and the art of hitting. I always appreciated his work ethic as he returned from the field and immediately picked up a bat and headed off to the hitting cage.

Or the other day when he woke up with a fever and achy body but told his manager he would be ready. And he was.

And there is evidence that Martinez was and is a personal favorite of the team. It was said that he was one of Mr. I’s chosen players and almost like a son. And when Victor was so disabled a couple of years ago, dragging one leg behind him, no one could get him to go on the DL. Except Mr. I.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that VMart has stayed in the lineup, hitting regularly all year despite the many calls for him to be released so a youngster could come up and take the roster spot.

First of all, he is loved within the organization and the ranking vet on the team. Any move to let him go would be disrespectful and seen by other organizations and players as also unprofessional. You don’t do that to esteemed players. And say what you will about the Tigers, but the organization has always made professional moves that respect the people involved.

Martinez has always been one of my favorites. It was difficult to watch him last year become someone unfamiliar in tone and action. Hearing that he had turned into an angry player. And many of us thought that it was because he could not come to grips with his ageing body and declining performance.

That is, until we heard about how Brad Ausmus treated him. The refusal to listen to his veteran player or have any substantial meetings with him. Then, the last straw – dropping the esteemed veteran down in the lineup and not telling him first. Victor found out by looking at the lineup card. No communication, no explanation, no preparation – and no respect.

What a difference a year – and a new manager make. When you see VMart now, he is happy and smiling. He is also connecting with all the younger players and giving them advice. He is one of the first to congratulate a hitter when he successfully returns to the dugout. He is also a dedicated serial hugger.

You can also tell he loves his new manager. And the feeling by Gardenhire is mutual.

So it’s no surprise that the Tigers have been in talks with Victor about how to keep him within the organization going forward. Don’t worry, it doesn’t involve a roster spot.

I am hoping that their thoughts go beyond the spring training special hitting instructor role that lasts for a mere 6 weeks. I’m also hoping that Victor doesn’t love his cattle ranch in Florida as much as he loves baseball.

Who wouldn’t want to see him take over the role of the Tigers’ hitting coach?

Well, other than Lloyd McClendon, that is….

He would bring the highest dedication and work ethic to that role. Also the discipline to lay off the bad pitches and wild swinging at anything that comes within 4 feet of home plate like we’ve been seeing for awhile.

Even though Victor is a shell of his former self, look at one of his stats. He ranks 4th in all of MLB in plate discipline and working the count. He makes every pitcher really labor when he’s at the plate. He rarely strikes out.

So isn’t he the guy you want as your hitting coach? Someone who teaches all the hitters how to work the count, battle the pitcher, make him throw strikes and force him out of the game early?

You betcha.

He’s the perfect guy to bring in to teach all the rookies the fundamentals of hitting the right way. Imagine a lineup in which every player battles at the plate.

Which is why my heart skipped a beat when I saw Martinez in the dugout with McClendon, obviously discussing hitters at the plate. It looked like a training session.

So will it really happen?

Will the Tigers actually allow Gardy to hire his own hitting coach next year instead of having Lloyd continued to be forced upon him by unseen powers? (Probably the unseen power with the initials of JL.) Afterall, McClendon was hired back as the hitting coach for a second time after his firing by Seattle.

Will the team that is loath to fire anyone, actually fire someone for their performance in this decade?

Will the Tigers risk taking on negative press by releasing a minority during a time when this industry is under increasing criticism and scrutiny for not having enough minorities holding coaching/managing/Front Office positions?

Will the team want to give someone with no coaching experience the top hitting job? Or would they feel more comfortable making him the assistant hitting coach?

In one month, we will find out the answer to all these questions. Stay tuned…


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/.

NUN BETTER

By:  Holly Horning

They are everywhere.

Hard to miss. And they love baseball.

And earlier this spring, basketball.

They are nuns. And hard to miss considering they don’t wear the usual shorts, t-shirts and baseball caps to games.

And we shouldn’t be surprised to see them at games. In fact, they should be required to attend games, especially those of teams having ugly seasons. Those organizations need lots of prayers.

First, there is Sister Jean who was linked to the success of Loyola in basketball.

Recently, there was pitching phenom Sister Mary Jo who threw out the first pitch for the White Sox. Before throwing a perfect strike right down the middle, she bounced the baseball off her bicep. Check out the video:


https://www.today.com/news/nun-throws-perfect-strike-ceremonial-first-pitch-mlb-game-t135965


Then, the nuns last month who decided to help their LA Dodgers. A bunch of them who sat right next to the team dugout and sprinkled players with holy water when they felt a higher power could help.

The Dodgers are now 2 games back in their division.

And nuns now are so popular that those who aren’t, want to be them. And the Philly Phanatic loves to bust a move with them on top of the dugout.


https://www.mlb.com/cut4/nuns-take-in-phillies-game-dance-with-phanatic/c-185184842


So why aren’t they in Detroit? That entire organization can use lots of extra help. Payroll and personnel can only do so much.

Just think about it, folks. Think about all the things they can help the team overcome:

– Praying for certain players.

– Sprinkling holy water on the Tigers’ in-game equipment.

– Helping to organize an exorcism of the Tigers’ bullpen.

– Blessing the starting pitcher before a game.

– Instigate a chain of prayers focused on the team’s training and conditioning program.

– Assist Al Avila and Chris Ilitch in seeing the error of their ways.

And for the most difficult individuals, I’m told by friends who attended Catholic school, that nuns with rulers can get the job done.

They can do anything. Except wear rally caps.

And Sister Mary Jo? Why haven’t Tiger scouts gone after her?

She obviously has the talent. And Chris Ilitch would love her because she has taken a vow of poverty. No additional payroll costs.

Heck, shouldn’t the Tigers be sending scouts to watch the talent at convent baseball games?

In fact, they did. But only once.

Al Avila told his scouts to briefly watch the nuns play. But considering all the team has to do with rebuilding, he asked them to minimize the time spent.

In other words, he asked them not to make a habit out of it.


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/.

PONDERING PLAYOFF POTENTIAL

By:  Holly Horning

As we await the September call-ups, for those of us currently without a competitive team, the stories about other organizations start to attract more attention. And when you live in a city like I do, with a team that has decided to go full-speed over the cliff, you start to think about what skills, other than throwing, running and hitting, make for a solid team. Or not.


Here are my Top Ten thoughts about what currently piques my interest about teams widely expected to be in the running for October baseball this year.

1. Out of the 5 rookie managers hired for this year, only 2 of them – Kapler in Philly and Cora in Boston – are seeing success. Boone with the Yankees is generally seen as less successful than his predecessor (even with injuries) while Martinez with the Nats and Callaway with the Mets merit disastrous ratings.

2. Dave Dombrowski hit a home run in hiring Alex Cora, a rookie manager. How could he have hired one of the worst MLB managers in Detroit and then one of the best?

3. When Dombrowski left for Boston, he immediately signed one of the top relievers and built a real bullpen. Later, he hired an effective manager. Did he actually learn lessons from his time in Detroit or was he really hampered in what he could do by Mr. I’s decisions?

4. Who says managers don’t make the difference? St. Louis fired Mike Matheny while the Cards were 11 games behind in the standings. With their new manager, Mike Shildt, they are 2.5 games back, playing almost .700 baseball.

5. I shake my head every time I hear how JV, Max and JD are described as the catalysts for the success of their new teams. The Tigers had all of them together, including 4 standing and future Cy Young winners, and couldn’t make it happen. You have to ask why.

6. Speaking of pitchers, the Red Sox may have the best record in baseball, but they should be very worried about their performance in any playoffs. Their starting rotation has 2 wins and 14 losses in playoff games with their ERAs ranging from just over 5.00 to 8.38.

7. Fans shouldn’t take comfort in their team’s MLB-best regular season record taking them deep into the playoffs. It’s one thing to play well during the season and entirely another strategy when October hits. Just ask some of those Tigers teams as well as several years of the Nats. Watch out Boston. (See #4.)

8. The Oakland A’s – baseball’s version of Kmart – have become relevant again and have taken how to run a baseball team to new levels. The surprise team of the year is working off of a $68 million payroll and featured prominently in the Wall Street Journal for successfully identifying all the best strategies and trends in the sport and incorporating them into their organization.

9. Teams with players that all get along harmoniously with each other are being given credit for fostering top performance. Boston and the current St. Louis teams are mentioned as having the best team-think.

10. Teams without leaders, little to no rapport and friction between players are more often to under-perform and disappoint no matter how talented the team is. The Washington Nationals remain the poster child. Especially when a player challenges his GM to a fight and there is a history of fighting and choking teammates in the dugout.

Now it’s your turn. Take one of these statements above and make your case!


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/.

WHAT’S THE GOAL?

By:  Holly Horning

When Mike Ilitch gave Al Avila a 5-year contract to take over the GM position, he explained that it would take Al that amount of time in order to show real results.

But 3 years later, we still don’t know that much about where the team is headed. Almost 2 years ago, Al made the first of many statements about starting to rebuild the Tigers but nothing was done until late last year. For 2018, we’re still seeing a lot of the old familiar faces playing for the Tigers.

For fans, the issues have become the lack of a general timeline, the absence of speed in significant rebuilding and the hesitancy to bring up the youngsters and give them substantial playing time.

Interviews with Avila have been done recently but not one single local writer (surprise!) asked him anything about an anticipated timeline. But you knew they wouldn’t….

At one point, over a year ago, Al had mentioned a 3-year timeline. Then, at the end of 2017, he changed it to 5 years. Now, he’s not sayin’ anything.

At the rate he’s going, we may be looking at a decade. Or longer.

But the bottom line is that none of what we’re seeing – or not seeing – is particularly comforting or inspiring.

There is a big black hole of mystery and it’s located at 2100 Woodward Avenue.

In all fairness, the GM does the bidding of the owner and is expected to protect him and take all the hits.  He’s always supposed to make the owner look good.

He also works with the parameters the owner gives him. Budget, payroll, resources, talent. If a GM is not bringing in certain experts that most of the other MLB teams have, it may not be due to him. It may be due to the owner clutching his wallet closely to his chest.

In Avila’s case, we don’t know what his relationship is with Chris Ilitch. We’ve read that Al was particularly close with Mr. I, who treated him like a son. But just because Mike and Chris shared a last name doesn’t mean that the son will be anything like his dad.

There have been numerous articles about the Ilitch finances. Questions about how they structured the trust the Tigers were put in, how impactful estate taxes would be and the amount of all their loans. Questions about how they would finance all their new projects. Questions about how many of the Ilitch relatives were pushing Chris to sell the team so they could receive their inheritances sooner rather than later.

And the move to cut large chunks of payroll and load the farm system may also be signs that Chris is looking to right the books and prepare the team for a sale. Or it could be part of the rebuilding strategy.

Or both.

There are signs that the Ilitch family is exploring the sale of the team. They have been meeting with the experts who make their living helping owners buy and sell professional sports teams. Some of them have been seen meeting with Chris. The same ones who helped his dad buy the Tigers.

One of them is Steve Greenberg, son of Hank, who is considered the king of putting together sports sales as well as being the former Deputy Commissioner of MLB. Ironically, cameras caught him last year at Comerica and filmed him by his father’s statue. No one remarked or asked him why he was wearing a pinstripe suit and carrying a briefcase. To a ball game.

And there are also rumors that Chris is exploring the potential of a regional sports broadcasting network. This would allow him to retain, at least in part, a share of the Tigers’ tv revenue even after selling the team. We already have seen him consolidate the local sports business dealings. Of course, owning the Tigers and Red Wings and adding the Pistons to Little Caesar’s Arena. Conveniently, Pistons’ fans will now also be paying Ilitch Holdings to use their facilities, hospitality services and food.

It’s one-stop shopping at its finest.

But now, let’s return to the question of the Tigers’ rebuild and the relationship between owner and GM. Truthfully, Al Avila and his entire Front Office probably don’t know if Chris is planning on selling the team. They may have hints but chances are that the conversations and backroom meetings are being kept from them.

And it would be easy for an owner to sync his directions to Al that would both support rebuilding and the selling of the team. It’s just that Chris’ vision may not go beyond the next 2 years.

If this is indeed his goal, then hiring a new GM, bringing in fresh talent and expanding, say, the training and conditioning programs, won’t matter. Leave all of that for a new owner to address. It costs money.

And this may be why Ilitch’s announcement about adding improvements to Comerica did not provide a date – even a ballpark estimate. (Sorry, it was there and I just had to say it.)

And why he said that the Tigers hadn’t yet discussed adding statues of Trammell and Morris.

Because it all costs money.

If you’re going to sell the team, you won’t be making any further investments. You won’t be discussing any rebuild in earnest. You won’t be firing and hiring a new GM, other executives, a new manager, new coaches – or even new broadcasters.  You’re going to maintain the status quo because extra effort means an additional expenditure.

If you’re going to sell the team, you’re going to put the team’s activities on auto-pilot. You’re going to let the new owner worry about completing that rebuild.

And you may not push your GM to speed up the rebuilding process as a result. Because you – and your GM – won’t be around in a couple of years.


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/.

DAY OF RECKONING

By:  Holly Horning

The end of the 2017 season brought managerial changes to 6 teams. And it was the first year that teams got creative about “doing in” their managers. Afterall, “firing” someone tends to either attract potential threats on the part of the injured party or lots of negative social media blowback. None of it good.

The Red Sox were the only team to officially fire their manager . In Detroit, NY (Yankees) and DC, they refused to use the term “fired” and simply chose to wordsmith their decision as “opting not to renew their contract.” Although, the Nats wonderfully-mannered GM, Mike Rizzo, did utter the “f” word to Dusty Baker over the phone instead of in person, after he led his team to the best record in MLB.

Btw, if you listen closely, you can hear Dusty laughing…..

The Mets manager resigned and in Philly, they really got creative by “moving” their manager into the Front Office.

In the off-season, the Giants fired some coaches and their GM and the momentum continued into the early part of the 2018 season with the firing of 2 managers in St. Louis and Cincinnati. The Reds also changed their GM.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we know the Tigers won’t make any changes (other than potentially hiring a permanent pitching coach to replace Bosio) after this year. It’s not in their DNA. Al Avila still has 2 more years left in his contract and if they can’t say “buh-bye” to the fired former manager’s coaches, everyone is pretty much safe here. That is, until a new owner takes over.

One can hope.


So who’s at risk of being separated from their team in September or October? Here are the candidates..

RED SOX – This time, it’s all on Dave Dombrowski to push his team into the playoffs and perform much, much better after firing his manager and coaches, depleting the farm system and running the payroll up into the stratosphere. It’s his third year and no GM in recent Bosox history has lasted longer than that.

BLUE JAYS – Manager John Gibbons has been rumored all year to be leaving.

ORIOLES – One of MLB’s biggest messes. A GM who has tried to flee (I kid you not), a manager who doesn’t want to be there and 2 sons of an ageing owner now running the place without a clue.

ROYALS – One of the biggest gambles in keeping their best players backfired big time. It could be a double beheading of both manager and GM.

ANGELS – Owner favorite Mike Scioscia (Moreno and Scioscia’s wives are best friends) may finally be gone as the payroll and talent have gone way up with little to show for it. And Mike Trout only has 2 more years to get that ring….

RANGERS – Jon Daniels has been extended as GM and the team is rebuilding, however there is a growing demand for accountability and manager Jeff Banister may just be the sacrificial lamb.

METS – GM Sandy Alderson has taken a leave of absence. The team continues to be a mess and the new GM this fall will undoubtedly make changes in personnel.

NATIONALS – I’ve lost count how many managers have come through the revolving door. The only constant is a meddling owner combined with a GM who don’t have a clue about how to hire competent personnel. In what has become an annual tradition, expect the bloodletting to once again commence in October.

DODGERS – No team spends as much as the Dodgers. And few teams have routinely disappointed more. And now, manager Dave Roberts has gotten the dreaded “vote of confidence.”


Nine teams with obvious issues. Ironically, there may be more personnel movement within the Front Offices than there will be of free agent signings this off-season.

It will be interesting to see which of these teams will actually recognize that they have issues to resolve.

And the Tigers? Will we see definitive signs of a real rebuild and new direction? Or could maintaining the status quo simply be a holding pattern strategy as ownership explores selling the team?

Let’s watch for the clues.


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/.

BFF

By:  Holly Horning

You see their comments in the social media threads……

The ones who chastise anyone who dares to criticize the team.

The ones who say you aren’t a “real fan” if you aren’t on board with everything the team does.

The ones who ignore reality and only see the upside of every player and management move.

More recently, they are the ones who kept arguing about how great Brad Ausmus was as manager, however could never provide any proof when prompted.

They are the ones who claim Nick Castellanos is a great outfielder and when presented with the stats, claim that they aren’t facts and that the numbers are merely “opinions.” (You simply can’t make this stuff up.)

And they are the ones now attacking Justin Verlander for his interview that questions the ability of the Tigers to diagnose, treat and resolve injury issues. Calling him names and insisting that he can’t speak with any authority. Ignoring the fact that JV was in pain, unable to perform simple exercises and identifying the experts and specific actions that brought him back to health.

Don’t you often shake your head over these people? Wonder why they live in denial?

You’re not alone. Psychologists have actually done studies about sports fans and come up with a number of categories based upon their beliefs and behavior.


They call this group BLIND FOLLOWERS or BLIND FOLLOWER FANS (BFF).

This group is defined as those fans who follow a team unquestionably. They always believe that their team is the best. And when faced with those who question the performance or decisions of the team, are unable (or unwilling) to grasp the facts and arguments.

And unlike other groups of sports fans, they don’t have a clear understanding of  that specific sport. But they will constantly indicate that they know more than anyone else.

They use argument and loud voices to try to counter facts and logic. And they will never supply you with facts or logic of their own to support their case. And if your comments make them upset, they may insult you or call you names.

It’s no use trying to get them to change their minds. They will not consider the information or stats presented. But they will always want to have the last word, no matter how many posts they have to make.

And it’s these BFFs who are the dream of any organization. Blind loyalty. Fans who don’t question. Fans who support their team no matter what.

Even when that team makes bad decisions. Even when the talent on that team is questionable.

These are the fans who will support the team both in voice and with their wallets.

That team finds comfort in the fact that they aren’t being questioned by these fans. That their feet aren’t being held to the fire. That they won’t have to make changes or be exposed to criticism. All of which can force change and cost jobs, promotions – and money.

And these BFFs are the bane of fans who seek competitive, quality teams. Get enough BFFs together and teams can safely wallow in mediocrity for years.

Sports economists will verify this as well. They have found that there is a direct correlation between the number of BFFs and the level of complacency by their team.

Simply put, an organization has no reason to improve their team if a significant number of their fans are not calling for accountability. If the fans aren’t holding feet to the fire. If not questioning the moves or performance of the organization.

And especially if those fans are supporting the team financially by attending games, buying food and merchandise and otherwise paying for team-related costs.

On the other hand, teams who see poor attendance, a drop in the overall value and diminished merchandise sales are more likely to work towards making their team more competitive.

Look no further than the recent Yankees. They spent no more than half a season doing almost a full rebuild on their team. A rebuild that took them to the brink of the World Series.

When asked to explain why the Yankees did such an accelerated rebuild, GM Brian Cashman said that Yankee fans would not have tolerated anything longer. He described them as an overall opinionated, vocal and impatient group.

Say what you will about the Evil Empire and their fans, but they get the job done. And that’s one reason why this team has been successful for so many years.

And not having those same opinionated, vocal and impatient traits may be a significant reason why Detroit fans lament the long droughts their teams experience in reaching the playoffs.

The 4 major sports teams don’t see a strong financial reason or enough fan unhappiness that would inspire them to change things. They continue along the same path because they are making a nice profit.

Remember, these teams aren’t in business to bring joy and championships to their fans, although that is what they will always tell you. To do that would cut into the profit margins by increasing expenses. Their job is to make money. To emulate the pre-Theo Epstein Cubs, which for decades produced one of baseball’s most mediocre teams, while also being MLB’s most profitable franchise.

On the East Coast where I live, fans are much less tolerant. And much more realistic. They demand more, expect more and let teams know when they are letting them down. Maybe Detroit fans should be a little less Midwest Nice and a little more East Coast Impatient. Could you see Yankee fans being happy with a 34-year drought between winning the World Series?

Logically, couldn’t we say that fans who have the ability to call out both the good and the bad about their team are the true fans? Those who are willing to look at what is wrong and call out the team in hope of changes being made?

Looked at another way, which group of fans are most likely to inspire the Tigers to rebuild more quickly and successfully?

We just need to get enough of them…….


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 LONG JOURNEY TO DISCOVERY

By:  Holly Horning

Many fans thought about it. Wondered about it. And given the pattern and numerous examples over the years, came to believe in it.

And if you were looking for confirmation, you’ve come to the right place.

So what is it?

It’s the long-running hot topic about some of those who care for Tigers’ players when it comes to keeping them healthy. They may not be doing their jobs as well as they could be.

And you’d have plenty of proof even if you only looked at the history since 2012.

You could even ask Justin Verlander because he did an extensive interview that called out the Tigers’ staff for poor conditioning and “misdiagnosing” him over a period of 3 years.

If you haven’t read it by now, the writer starts by describing JV’s “scars” – both physical and mental – and his anger over that long journey to get healthy.

To understand the arduous, frustrating process, let’s explore the timeline and related information documented by both writer and JV in the article, sprinkled with a few bits of background information.


2013

– In early 2013, JV’s arm started to hurt and the pain only grew worse as the year went on. Nothing was done to address the concern. (It is unclear how much the Tigers knew about the issue or when.)

– At the end of the 2013 season, JV hurt his groin doing a squat and an MRI was performed that also showed an undiagnosed core muscle injury. This had created the groin injury because he had a long-standing weakened core.

– Doctors, physical therapists and yoga/Pilates coaches will tell you that all strength and alignment of the body emanates from the core. A strong core keeps you healthy and flexible, while a weak one makes you susceptible to injury.

– JV and Miguel Cabrera both had identical core injury surgery within several weeks of each other.


2014

– JV came back in 2014 but his arm was still hurting a year later. The pain increased and his performance and velocity declined.

– In August 2014, almost 2 seasons after the pain in his arm began, one of the Tigers’ coaches suggested he get an MRI for the first time.

– The MRI showed multiple signs of tendonitis and tendinosis but no structural damage.

– But he still had pain in his arm and there was no detail offered that suggested the next course of treatment.

– As JV explained, he listened to the Tigers’ trainers and believed that only the best of the best worked at the MLB level. He trusted their guidance, but in October, he had enough and sought outside professional help.

– Two years after the first signs, he saw a physical therapist in NY who told him it wasn’t his arm that was the culprit, but that the symptoms manifested in the arm because of problems elsewhere.

– It was the first time anyone had told him that his arm wasn’t the problem.

– During their very first meeting, the PT found the problem. JV couldn’t do a simple squat. Since his surgery a year earlier, he had done no squats while training and not a single trainer or coach noticed.

– The diagnosis? JV wasn’t flexible, not even the tiniest bit according to the PT – and it was the source of his pain and decline. Worst of all, it started years ago and eventually forced JV to compensate in his pitching style because his range of motion had decreased significantly.

– The PT looked at his videos and immediately saw what was going on. JV was over-rotating his hips and had no power in his legs and glutes. He was pitching almost exclusively with his arms. Neither his manager, pitching coach, trainers and presumably doctors saw any of it.

– JV described his body as a “disaster.”

– But before enough therapy could be completed, JV hurt his arm again and the Tigers’ trainers diagnosed a triceps strain. They told him an MRI wouldn’t be needed because it was so mild.

– Several weeks later, he got hurt again and this time an MRI was done to show a tear in his back.

– At this point, Verlander started to work almost exclusively with the NY PT according to the article.


2015

– With his regular treatment, JV started to come around in July 2015 and returned to normal in 2016 when he finished a controversial second, instead of first, in the Cy Young voting.

The article was a summary of a three-year odyssey characterized by a lack of urgency, at least 1 “misdiagnosis” (according to JV) and failure to provide a well-rounded training and conditioning program.

And sadly, the examples appear to go beyond Justin.

Miggy, for example.

He has not had a healthy year since 2011. Fourteen different injuries and 4 major surgeries in just 6 years. Remember the back “tweak” he suffered during the WBC that the team said was minor? The same one that never went away during 2017 and contributed to his worst year of performance ever? The same tweak that turned out to be a double herniated disk problem?

The core injury from 2012 that wasn’t addressed for a full year before requiring surgery (at the same time Verlander had the identical surgery).

The ankle surgery that “surprised” everyone when they also found an unexpected broken bone in his foot that he had been playing on for a year?

The groin strains, hip flexor problems, back problems and the resulting core surgery that mimics many of the symptoms that JV had?


https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2018/06/19/a-long-time-coming/


Let’s not forget the odyssey of Jordan Zimmermann. The perplexing initial injury with a diagnosis that kept changing. Again, fans were reassured it was a short DL stint. And two years later, he’s still being treated for it.

But like JV, JZ got frustrated with the treatment he was receiving. He ended up returning to his long-time doctor in Washington for help and solutions.

Sense a pattern here?

In all fairness, we don’t know how and when the players communicated with the team about their injuries in the beginning. And if there was only one player with these issues, we’d probably think it was a single example. But there are at least 3 that we currently know about – and potentially have an inkling about another. And that is a pattern.

We also know that this has nothing to do with the official number of players who go on the DL. Those stats are deceiving and don’t tell the whole story. Afterall, these 3 were on the DL 1-2 times over the span of multiple years (or decades) and instead, played through constant pain and injuries that significantly impacted performance.

It’s also not about players who sustain injuries from direct collisions with players, balls, sliding hard into home plate and walls during games.

It’s about those players who get injured from doing the simple things, getting repeatedly injured and having a difficult time fully recovering. It’s about the soft tissue injuries that involve the groins, backs, hammies, obliques, tendons and other bits. And when there’s a lot of that, it points to a weak link in the program.


The takeaway from the article on JV hints at:

1. A lack of proper conditioning and ignoring the importance of flexibility and developing strong cores.

2. A lack of urgency in addressing injuries.

3. “Misdiagnoses” (according to at least 1 player) that have sent 3 of the most expensive players on the team to seek outside help.

One would think that when you have 2 of MLB’s most highly-paid athletes, you would take extra care in protecting your assets. That you would even be proactive about it.

To miss 1 injury, maybe. But to miss multiple injuries on multiple players speaks to something else. And it’s not good.

And as many have questioned, a number of those who oversee the physical programs have been with the team since being hired by Dave Dombrowski for the Expos and the Marlins. The same staff that hasn’t won a single award for their work since 2006. One of that same staff who is now in charge of overseeing the entire Detroit Tigers’ athletic training for not just Detroit, but for all of their minor league affiliates.

JV may have apologized for disparaging a former colleague but he didn’t apologize for being wrong. And the fact that his own comments are missing from the latest articles, as well as his refusal to clarify his statements, speaks volumes.


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/.