QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, KUDOS & CONCERNS

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

You would think that after all the awards have been handed out, there would be little to talk about outside of baseball’s most dominant topic, the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Our writers have kept plugging away.

Saturday’s segment is a day to touch on as many issues as possible. Let’s see what Kurt and Holly have on their minds this week. They don’t share their Saturday topics and it’s only for the readers’ benefit. So, expect a wide array of thoughts.


KURT

QUESTION

Has anyone ever denied entrance into the Hall of Fame? Nope – Alan Trammell would be the first if he is voted in next month. There would be no doubting his allegiance to the significance of his time spent playing side-by-side with Lou Whitaker. And given there is no guarantee they would both be voted in 2 years from now, it would be one heck of a statement by Tram, as a player, as a man and as a friend.

COMMENT

The Hot Stove speculation of the week has been about the Angels supposed interest in acquiring Ian Kinsler. If this is true, I think I hold onto Ian until a more suitable trade partner presents themselves. I don’t know about you, but when an organization’s farm system is described as barren, it might be wise to consider other offers.

COMMENT

As we prepare for a season of losing baseball in Detroit, one interesting sidelight will be the future relationship between Victor Martinez and his new manager, Ron Gardenhire. VMart has gotten used to treating his manager like a substitute school teacher up until now, but those days are about to end. Gardenhire will have no appetite for anyone who challenges his authority; something Victor often did when Brad Ausmus was (and I use this term loosely) in charge.


HOLLY

COMMENT

Imagine how the Tigers may have performed over the past 4 years if they had hired Torey Lovullo instead of Brad Ausmus. Lovullo, this year’s NL Manager of the Year, was the other finalist and had been a coach and bench manager for the previous 4 years, unlike Ausmus. In his first year, Lovullo took a team with a 69-93 record and turned it into 93-69.

COMMENT

On back-to-back days, earlier this week, local media reported on VMart’s return despite doctors not yet clearing him to resume his baseball activities. Followed by how Miguel Cabrera is working out and could be “stronger than ever” in 2018. The next day it all made sense as the Tigers launched their ads for Tigerfest tickets going on sale at the end of the week.

QUESTION

Has agent Scott Boras just limited his ability to market his new client, JD Martinez? Setting the bar at a requested $210 million and a 7-year contract, JD will be 37 when the contract ends – which especially doesn’t bode well given his already MLB worst RF defensive stats. This may limit him to the AL because of the DH element but the real question is whether any team will pay their DH $30 million/year just to hit.

TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

You know winter is fast approaching when the Hot Stove League gets cookin’. And in typical fashion, all the rumblings and speculation about trades for big stars and little stars are well underway.

As is the norm, our writers have not shared their responses to today’s topic. It’s the best way for our readers to get the best bang for their buck. So here is our main question to address.


The Hot Stove season has officially begun and trades are imminent. What do you expect the roster to look like by Opening Day?


HOLLY

How the roster looks in late March is a question ultimately for Chris Ilitch. Will he want a rebuild that still hangs onto fan favorites for purposes of keeping attendance respectable, will he OK a demo down to the studs – or is his primary purpose getting this team’s financials in order in preparation for a sale down the road? Those are really the questions to ask.

The clues will be uncovered by which players, which salaries and how many are traded.

First, there are the ones we know will probably be traded – should the market present itself. The Tigers have been trying to trade Ian Kinsler now for over a year and almost had a deal in place this past July. They’ve also had 2 near-misses with trading Iggy over the past 1.5 years to 2 California teams so 2018 is the ideal time to trade him 2 years before free agency which typically gets you the maximum return.

But if the Tigers deal more than them, it will say they are rather serious about a rebuild. Shane Greene, Daniel Norris and James McCann are making near league minimum and catnip to teams looking for controllable players with some experience in exchange for multiple prospects.

Alex Wilson is also trade bait given that he is making more money and hasn’t had the best 1.5 years.

But then there is the next level of cuts which will say much more about where this team is headed. Saying “buh-bye” to Michael Fulmer (maybe not now after his elbow surgery but more likely later in the season) supports a belief that the Tigers have a long way to go before contending again and that his best and most valuable trade years may be wasted on a struggling team.

Then again, if Fulmer is packaged with a more expensive player(s) to facilitate a salary dump that otherwise would not happen, it becomes less about garnering qualified prospects and more about the financials of this team. Dumping salary is almost always a precursor to a sale.

Nick Castellanos’ departure would be another indicator of a team eager to rebuild much more quickly and/or dumping as much salary as possible. With Miggy as a question mark, Nick is the only remaining viable bat in the lineup and trading him would lessen fans’ hopes – and thus attendance – by guaranteeing many more losses.

It could also mean that the Front Office sees him as either a first baseman or DH and currently, the Tigers have 2 other players who fill that need – one of which will remain with the team through 2025 with $184+ million more in salary. Miggy’s health, combined with 2 of the top 3 most expensive salaries on the team, could see Nick’s long-term viability disappear.

The only thing we know for sure is that Miggy is here to stay. A player who gets injured on a yearly basis, with 2 herniated disks in his back, a long-term contract and a yearly salary at $30 – $32 a pop makes him only 1 of 2 Tigers (the other being Jordan Zimmermann) who is not tradeable.


KURT

I don’t see a ton of high-profile trades prior to Opening Day. And when I say high-profile, I mean deals for starters and key bullpen pieces already in place.

As we have seen in the past, deals at the trade deadline in July are much more fruitful when it comes to talent you can get in return.

But for a team rebuilding, there are players considered part of your future who need to find their place in the lineup. Given all of that, the Tigers will try really hard to unload Ian Kinsler for prospects in the interests of getting younger and clearing a spot in the lineup for Dixon Machado.

Will Jose Iglesias also be dealt prior to next season? I don’t think so (and I hope not). The Tigers don’t currently have a shortstop waiting in the wings who is ready to hit the big leagues, but they may by July. Meanwhile, the Tigers will get a good look at an athletic double play combination. Who knows what they will do if they like what they see?

As I glance around the rest of the infield, question marks appear at 1st and catcher; Miggy still needs to make a move to DH and James McCann could be trade bait.

I think the Tigers should be preparing for a Miggy move and grooming Castellanos for first base instead of the outfield. Hey, but since I’m not the boss, expect both to stay where they are heading into the spring.

The other 2 outfield positions appear set barring trades, with Mikie Mahtook holding down left field and Jacoby Jones roaming centerfield.

Heading into the winter meetings, I would think that any of the Tiger starters are available for trade. If the Tigers can convince a potential suitor that Michael Fulmer is good to go, I would not be surprised if a trigger is pulled.

Same deal with the bullpen – who’s on the block? Well just about everyone and I would think that Shane Greene would garner the most attention. Closing experience, even in a small dose is valuable and Greene will attract interest; if not, the Tigers have a solid closer to begin the season, and he may be more valuable at the deadline anyway.

This is the definition of a rebuild, folks – there are no untouchables, it’s just a matter of when the Tigers make players available, this spring or late summer.


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QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, KUDOS & CONCERNS

By: Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Heading into the middle of November, speculation about more roster changes will begin to dominate conversation as the Tigers continue to rebuild. And, of course, there will be plenty yet to talk about heading into the Hall of Fame decision in December. So, we are not short on topics and questions.

Saturday’s segment is a day to touch on as many issues as possible. Let’s see what Holly and Kurt have on their minds this week. They don’t share their Saturday topics and it’s only for the readers’ benefit. So, expect a wide array of thoughts.


CONCERN

The new Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee is rife with procedural miscues and illogical decisions including having members who initially didn’t vote for Lou Whitaker the first time judging him once again. Some reports say the Committee had a problem nominating 3 Tigers for 10 slots despite Sweet Lou having the highest WAR of anyone nominated while a fellow teammate with a history of sexual harassment got the nod. In any event, we’ve also sadly discovered that the Tigers are sticking firmly to their policy of not supporting or recognizing their greatest players in either Comerica or in Cooperstown.

CONCERN

An interview with Jim Leyland opining that the bullpen is overrated is proof that the Tigers need to get everyone on the same page – or get them out. His statement is based upon his refusal to believe in analytics and the substantial statistical evidence that starting pitching loses much of its effectiveness with the third go-round in the order. Al Avila needs to be very concerned with who may be whispering in Gardy’s ear and undermining the desire of the Tigers to catch up to what the rest of MLB teams are doing.

QUESTION

A picture says a thousand words and in this case, it is a group photo of the Tigers who were invited and attended Justin Verlander’s wedding. His long-time catcher, Alex Avila, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton and Jordan Zimmermann traveled to Italy while some long-time teammates weren’t on the guest list. Could this be representative of the reports that the Tigers’ clubhouse had become dysfunctional and filled with different cliques?


COMMENT

After being denied entrance into the Hall of Fame so many times, Alan Trammell had resigned himself to the fact that potentially the only way he would get in would be together with Lou Whitaker given their 19 years playing together. Now, in a strange development, Lou will be left behind, assuming Trammell gets enshrined in December. I would imagine that deep down, this is not the way Alan wanted to go in; without Whitaker.

QUESTION

Is it possible that Alex Avila could come back to the Tigers for a third run with the team? Although he performed reasonably well with the Cubs, and got to experience playoff baseball again, I am sure he still has allegiance to his father. Given how Alex resurrected his career after returning to the Tigers from the White Sox, it would seem he would have more incentive to come back, be a stabilizing presence during the rebuild, and finish his career in Detroit.

COMMENT

Speculation has begun about the level of talent the Tigers will pursue on the free agent front; low-cost options will certainly rule the day. But if I am Al Avila, I begin exploring options for first base. If the Tigers are going to get serious about their future, it must include getting Miguel Cabrera off the field, and there are options out there to consider, depending upon how much they want to spend.


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TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

As has been the norm, the Tigers struggled with some key health problems again last season; including 3 of their most expensive players. Today, our writers will field a question about the importance of getting these guys going again.

Kurt and Holly have not shared their responses to today’s topic. It’s the best way for our readers to get the best bang for their buck. So here is our main question to address.


Which player – Zimmermann, Miggy or VMart – is more important to get back on track for the 2018 season. Why?


KURT

Let’s start with my answer. It’s Jordan Zimmermann. But wait on why for just a moment, while we take a quick look at the others.

VMart, like the others, makes a tremendous amount of money, and is in the last year of his contract with the Tigers. He has health concerns just as the others. From a family, health and well-being perspective, VMart has chosen money over family and a quality life.

He doesn’t need the money, but wants it all the same. In fact, I am a little disgusted that he doesn’t see the risk in front of him and what he stands to lose should he have another attack associated with his heart condition.

It’s important to get him right but it has nothing to do with baseball and everything to do with his life in general.

Miguel Cabrera is the face of the franchise and the motor that keeps this train a runnin’, and when he can’t perform, the train shuts down. But this season, even if he’s healthy, teams won’t have to pitch to him. He won’t have the same protection surrounding him. So regardless of his health, the fate of the Tigers is not going to change that much.

Which leaves us with Jordan Zimmermann, the guy the Tigers need to get well the most. His neck injury is worrisome in that it has been reoccurring, with no real indication of when it will flare up next.

But the Tigers need a comeback season from him. He needs to get well and pitch well all season, if for no other reason but to regain the value he had when he was first acquired; because in his current state he has very little.

If the Tigers can keep him healthy and Jordan can regain his form, it will not only be huge for the starting rotation, he will also become a valuable trade piece at the deadline. A healthy JZ would not only give a team a top end starting pitcher for the stretch run, he would be under contract for years to come; no rental here.

However, if he can’t stay healthy, he becomes wasted space and of no use to anyone in 2018.


HOLLY

Three players with 3 different concerns and 3 different strategies needed to get them back to expected performance levels.

VMart is the easiest to address because he only has 1 year left on his contract and doesn’t play in the field. An argument can be made as it pertains to the need to protect Miggy in the lineup but it’s his negative influence in the clubhouse and the concern over Miggy’s physical health that keeps the former Triple Crown winner stuck at 1B full-time that are even bigger concerns.

Jordan Zimmermann has been unable to shake the injury bug for almost 2 years now. He has 3 years at $74 million left with a substantial salary increase kicking in this coming year. Granted, he is a starting pitcher and the Tigers need them more than ever but the importance of his role has decreased now that the Tigers are in full rebuild mode and expected to lose a whopperful of games. His salary will hamstring the team to some degree; however, it will be minimized by the influx of players making league minimum.

Which leads us to……. Miggy, who is by far the most important player to get back on track. He is a mess both mentally and physically and it won’t help much as he is likely to find himself on a team filled with kids/strangers and devoid of the familiar veterans. His closest friends on the team – Sanchez and Vizquel – are gone and someone is going to have to help him find the joy again.

But that contract is a whopper and makes him absolutely untradeable given the remaining 6-8 years of $184+ million. Did I also mention years of injuries including 2 herniated disks for a guy who will turn 35 this spring? No one will touch this contract unless the Tigers pay the majority of it, which will never happen.

It is hoped that the Tigers will want to be competitive again before Miggy’s contract expires after 2025 which means they need to get him back up to speed so that money doesn’t increasingly strangle the desired player signings.

There also must be some thought about protecting his entrance into the Hall of Fame 5 years after he retires given the dearth of Tigers going to Cooperstown. But Chris Ilitch will also be concerned about resurrecting the remaining face of the franchise. With Justin Verlander gone, Miggy is realistically the only draw left to help fill those seats.

And right now, things aren’t looking good for attendance or Miggy’s reputation. It’s one thing to have bad press when you are a top performer and totally another when you stink at the plate. Miggy gets my vote.


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QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, KUDOS & CONCERNS

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Now that the Astros have taken home the big prize, the completion of the World Series signals the official beginning of the off-season. And things are moving again. The roster changes have begun and more departures have resumed.

Saturday’s segment is a day to touch on as many issues as possible. Let’s see what Holly and Kurt have on their minds this week. They don’t share their Saturday topics and it’s only for the readers’ benefit. So, expect a wide array of thoughts.


HOLLY

COMMENT

While absolutely thrilled that Justin Verlander finally got his World Series championship, it is a bittersweet moment to see him earn it while wearing the “H” instead of the Olde English D. And one can’t help but think how his great talent was partially wasted/mismatched in Detroit because of antiquated decisions and strategies by ownership and the Front Office. It also doesn’t help that those behind-the-scenes, through the media, have been diverting attention away from those thoughts and trying to lay claim to JV’s success with Houston.

QUESTION

How much will a World Series Championship and ring with his new team change JV’s relationship with the Tigers? In addition to bonding with a number of players, Justin and Astros owner, Jim Crane, share an identical love of golf and handicap and his lifelong idol, Nolan Ryan, has already sought him out for conversation and advice. Unlike their poor relationships with former players (Jim Bunning for example), the Tigers need to step up their relationship with JV once he retires unless they are willing to see him align with the Astros instead of Detroit.

CONCERN

So much for Al Avila’s statements about how the Tigers will be going in a new direction and practicing a new vision. Other than the positive hires of Bosio and Vavra, the “new” coaches are Tigers/Twins retreads with 2 new to their positions, 2 returning Leyland/Ausmus coaches and 2 coming off long-term MLB unemployment (2 years, Anderson and 5 years, Liddle). Liddle was also Gardy’s bench coach with the Twins but was demoted to third base coach while there and hasn’t held the bench coach position for 7 years.


KURT

QUESTION

Were you all holding your breath like I was when Gardenhire’s coaching staff selections began? Were you encouraged when Chris Bosio was selected as the pitching coach? After that, the Tigers began justifying why we would hold our breath in the first place; I am pretty disgusted how the Tigers have begun this rebuild in such a suffocating manner, and knowing that another wrong move is just right around the corner.

COMMENT

The only thing that would have been better than seeing JV get his Title would be if he won it himself in Game 6. I wanted that storybook ending, but my happiness for him has done something unexpected to my demeanor. I doubt the Tigers felt that good watching JV move on to another team and win right away – and I find satisfaction in that, along with my pride for JV’s performance for the World Champion Astros.

COMMENT

Tell me if I am making something out of nothing, but I wonder how the city of Houston feels about Verlander blowing off the championship parade through the city. Obviously, his wedding plans didn’t allow him to stay in town that long, but his early departure doesn’t smell right. I would hope that he had no real choice, because I am sure he didn’t want this to look like a ‘hey I got my championship, now I’m out of here, enjoy your parade’ kind of impression.


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TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Now that the hiring of the Tigers’ new manager has sunk in, where do we go from here? Where does Ron Gardenhire go from here? There is much to do.  So, where do we start?

As is the norm, our writers have not shared their responses to today’s topic. It’s the best way for our readers to get the best bang for their buck. So here is our main question to address.


What should Ron Gardenhire’s top priority be for this year as he steps into the Tigers’ managerial job?


KURT

Gardenhire needs to implement a complete turnover in his staff. And it appears he has gotten off to a good start by informing Gene Lamont that he will not return as the bench coach. Hallelujah!

Within all the trends being established around the league, one interesting one stands out as more and more young coaches are getting managerial opportunities. Two bench coaches have been given shots to lead high-profile teams as they continue to contend for World Titles.

I would expect (or hope) that Gardy will bring on board a  younger bench coach from a progressive organization who can grow under Gardy, and strengthen the coaching staff at the same time.

Gardenhire himself, has been exposed to the inner workings of the Arizona Diamondbacks, just another organization doing things the right way. So, his exposure to that environment, even at this point in his career, is a variable that made his candidacy more intriguing.

Establishing respect while stressing fundamentals will be Gardy’s first big challenge. The respect should come easily. He has been around a long time and he appears to have been a very likable manager throughout his tenure in the big leagues.

But fundamentals? The team has been starved for someone with some cache’ to come in, take charge and to instill a focus. The shallow attempts at improving base running by having Kirk Gibson work with the team in spring training had little impact and frankly demonstrated how weak the culture was in regards to fundamentals.

Fundamentals can make the difference between winning and losing. Unfortunately, we have learned all too well that even a team loaded with stars has trouble winning when they routinely run into outs and turn singles into doubles through miscues in the outfield.

So, doesn’t all of this come back to earning respect? Hiring a staff that shares the same ideals but also brings progressive thinking, is an important first step. It’s an important first year. Establishing a strong base to build on is Step 1.


HOLLY

This team has so many important needs going forward and while we may be tempted to say “address the fundamentals” or “play solid baseball”, we really need to be digging even deeper and peeling back the layers all the way to the foundation. Because nothing is going to stick unless the corporate culture – that foundation – is changed.

But you knew I was going to say that, right?

Technically, the tone is set at the top but we have yet to hear one word from Chris Ilitch about the team in over a year. No evidence in the press that he has visited the clubhouse or shared any words of wisdom or direction with the players. We do read that he is quite the opposite of his father and is reserved when it comes to communication.

In other words, don’t expect him to set the organizational standards.

Unfortunately, this is also not a strength of Al Avila which leaves the job to……. Ron Gardenhire.

And that just may be a good thing because Gardy is not afraid to speak his mind. He’s been known to set the standards of his former rosters and call them out when warranted. Add in his reputation as being affable and respected and it’s a hopeful combination.

Ron’s “to do” list is quite long given that we now know the clubhouse disintegrated and became increasingly dysfunctional over the past 4 years, filled with self-centered individuals with little concern about their teammates’ performance, while also lacking leadership and direction.

His first job is going to be teaching them that the letter “I” is not found in the word “team.” And when you work at becoming unified, you sow the seeds for creating expectational structure and leadership. And when you have leaders, you now have people who will make the others accountable.

A cohesive group is much more likely to work towards the same goals. Group goals as opposed to individual ones as we’ve seen in past years.

And for a team expected to continue its turn toward youth and inexperience, this is especially important. The veterans with voices are essentially gone so this expected cast of youth and inexperience will need guidelines to follow and a structure and level of expectations if they are to survive and thrive.

This rebuild needs to go right and the Tigers can’t afford to waste any more talent.


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QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, KUDOS & CONCERNS

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

While the World Series rolls along, teams around Major League Baseball are making changes, all while we wait to see what our team in Detroit will do under the new skipper.

Saturday’s segment is a day to touch on as many issues as possible. Let’s see what Holly and Kurt have on their minds this week. They don’t share their Saturday topics and it’s only for the readers’ benefit. So, expect a wide array of thoughts.


HOLLY

CONCERN

Once again, the Tigers timed their managerial hire poorly and rushed the signing of Ron Gardenhire as they did with Brad Ausmus. Despite knowing that many of the best candidates were currently playing in the World Series and thus unavailable, and that there were viable rumors for weeks that Girardi, Baker and Farrell may not return, they should have waited. Similar to fearing that Ausmus would be scooped up, either the Tigers were once again afraid of someone else grabbing Gardy or Avila had planned on bringing him in all along.

COMMENT

With the multiple stories about Justin Verlander’s tremendous success including a 9-0 record since joining his new team, the Tigers are once again trying to spin the negative perception of their organization and off-set the bargain deal the Astros received. Stories and interviews in which JV heaps praise on the Astros pitching coach and his new team’s resources, especially analytics. Meanwhile, multiple “reports” are appearing in the Detroit papers giving credit to Brad Ausmus for the analytics inspiration and claims that JV’s success is solely due to playing for a stronger team.

KUDOS

Hasn’t this year been an amazing one for the playoff teams, especially the Astros and Dodgers? The skills, the depth, the multiple ways to get it done coupled with the intensity and passion of the players is just such a fun thing to watch. Hopefully, the Tigers are taking copious notes about what it now takes to get it done in October and will significantly update their strategies – and speed – going forward.


KURT

COMMENT

Watching this year’s playoffs has been pure joy. On the other hand, sadly, they have proven how far away the Tigers were from championship level baseball, even before they made all the trades. With talk of more trades to come during the winter, the team looks like they will strip the roster down to the bones, taking our expectations from what had been a high level for so many years to an extremely low one for 2018.

QUESTION

Should we be rooting for JV to get his ring this season? Or should we be throwing him into the big scrap heap of players whom we no longer care about when they leave town? I think it is completely different with Verlander as he has been so mesmerizing to watch over the years; many will still be interested in following and rooting for him even though he no longer wears the home uniform.

COMMENT

The Tigers were so starved for players with energy and enthusiasm over the last couple of years that the addition and then deletion of Cameron Maybin impacted the team dramatically. And now that he is enjoying a playoff run as a Houston Astro, it’s interesting how even though he hasn’t changed, he is simply just another player who cares and enjoys the game. The Houston dugout is loaded with players like Maybin which is something to note as the Tigers rebuild their roster; one guy with fire is not enough, it’s a trait that should be shared by everyone who steps on that field.


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TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

You could ask most baseball fans this year about what has been the highlight of the playoffs heading into the World Series, and the majority would say the brilliance of Justin Verlander. But how should we feel in Detroit? What does his performance in Houston say about the Tigers?

As is the norm, our writers have not shared their responses to today’s topic. It’s the best way for our readers to get the best bang for their buck. So here is our featured question to address.


Justin Verlander has had phenomenal success with the Astros and just named the MVP of the ALCS. What are Kurt and Holly thinking about JV, the Astros and the Tigers?


KURT

It’s been a bittersweet experience for someone like me who proudly declared every game Verlander pitched as JV Day. It was a day to anticipate. It was a day to marvel at the skills of the best pitcher to ever take the mound for the Tigers.

Trading him seemed necessary and inevitable. And what he has done with the Astros has been stunning for most. But how stunning is it for Tiger fans who have watched him grow his entire career into one of the game’s elite pitchers? Knowing the competitor he is and his desire to be “the man” when his team needs him to most, this run he has had with the Astros has only confirmed what we already knew. He craves these moments.

The disappointing part, of course, is that he had to leave to give him his best shot as a pro to win a World Title. He’s never been on a team this strong. But he is also reaping the benefits of a very progressive organization which has fed him with data not available to him as a Tiger. And incredibly, they have made him better by tweaking his breaking ball. Again, instruction he wasn’t getting with the Tigers.

Who thought we could have gotten even more out of JV? Especially now in his mid-30’s? The Tigers served Justin well by giving him the opportunity to win a championship in Houston. But it appears they didn’t give him all the tools he needed to realize his full potential in Detroit. And that is extremely disappointing.

The 2017 post season has been more exciting than the playoffs have been in years. And the dynamic of watching a favorite son make the difference with another team has not been hard to watch. JV has been absolutely electric and as a fan of the Tigers, I could not be more proud of a player, who still, deep down, represents us.


HOLLY

I alternate between feeling joy for Justin and succumbing to emotions of despair and disappointment for Detroit – opposite ends of the spectrum that focus on what is and what could have been.

First of all, I’m thrilled for JV and rooting for him in the World Series. There are no negative feelings whatsoever for his decision to leave the Tigers. I applaud his choice of making a clear decision in his favor that may just help him finally get that ring and more easily facilitate his entry into Cooperstown down the road. Anyone else would have made the same decision.

Yet it still tugs at my heart to see him wear a different uniform, to hear him in interviews that do not mention the Tigers and to read and listen to reports in which he gives the most glowing, enthusiastic reports about his new manager, pitching coach and an amazing analytics department that helped him go undefeated in both the regular and post-season since he was traded.

I also think about what might have been. How he would have looked if given a bullpen, adequate defensive support and guys who could give him some offensive help. I wonder daily about Detroit being unable to provide him quantifiable help about certain pitches and why hitters kept fouling balls off him, driving up his pitch count. All issues that Houston solved for him in less than two weeks.

And I can’t help but think what a waste. A pitcher like this comes along once in a lifetime and his talents were not fully utilized. Including a starting rotation filled with Cy Young Award winners, MVPs and a Triple Crown with exactly 1 World Series game win to show for all of that.

And I can’t help but think how incomplete this organization’s vision was. A belief that talent was the only thing that mattered. That raw talent was the singular answer that could fix everything and compensate for the visible holes.

I can’t help but think what JV’s numbers would have looked like if more money had been spent on the things that put teams over the top instead of solely on the payroll. I can’t help but think that if they were, we’d have at least one flag flying over Comerica by now.

And I can’t help but wonder if JV’s success in Houston will cloud and replace his memories of Detroit, especially if he gets that ring. Memories that may shift his allegiance to a team that employs his baseball idol – and a team that allowed him to realize his ultimate dreams.


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SPECIAL EDITION: THE GARDEN-HIRE

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Newsflash! Ron Gardenhire is the new Tiger manager. And in typical Totally Tigers fashion, our writers have skipped the quick, emotional responses and contemplated the move before sharing their interpretation.

As a result, readers will get plenty of material to absorb and contemplate. Below are 15 thoughts a piece from both Holly and Kurt. And once again, they haven’t shared them until now. You know the Saturday drill. Read and enjoy.


HOLLY

1. I am sitting on the fence about the hiring of Ron Gardenhire. I can see the arguments for hiring him but also the concerns he brings, esp. regarding his questionable stance re analytics.

2. My biggest concern focuses on Al Avila’s statement about how the Tigers were going to work with a fresh vision and different direction. Gardy doesn’t fit those parameters.

3. On the other hand, I welcome a manager who will teach and enforce the fundamentals of the game. This is one of Gardy’s strengths and perfect for a team that will be filled with youth and inexperience.

4. Reports have Al Avila fighting Mr. I’s and Chris’ push to hire Gardy since 2015. Now that he’s here, I wonder how much of the decision came from ownership and not the GM.

5. Personally, I’m not surprised by the hire because the Tigers are not a bold-thinking organization. The Ausmus hire was a reckless, not bold, one and not well-thought out so they returned to the safety of their comfort zone as a result.

6. It was intentional that both of the major newspapers floated articles about why Gardenhire was the right choice two days before he was officially announced. The Tigers were feeding stories to the journalists so they could use social media to gauge the overall reaction and to ensure that enough fans would sign onto the move and not desert Comerica.

7. Despite Avila’s insistence that analytics would play a big role with the Tigers, it potentially takes a back seat to the other significant issues facing the team. Issues that are Gardy’s strengths including development of young athletes, the ability to command respect from the players and to motivate them.

8. Could one of the reasons the Tigers went with a manager who traditionally was anti-analytic (but warming to the idea) be because their Caesar program is still not fully implemented and requires more work in order to be used effectively?

9. I have to wonder how much input Jim Leyland had in the decision to hire one of his closest friends. The choices Gardy makes in his coaching staff will tell us much more about Leyland’s involvement.

10. I will base much more of my opinion on Gardy by the actual people he hires. I will feel much more comfortable if he goes outside the organization and focuses on younger guys who have backgrounds in the latest proven strategies and are effective coaches.

11. The hiring pendulum has swung from crusty old-school manager to the young, inexperienced one and now back to the Leyland model. The Tigers have silently admitted that going recklessly bold by hiring Ausmus did not work, which is why they now insisted on someone who was well-known and with experience.

12. I can see the logic in hiring someone who is focused on developing youth the right ways and grooming them for the future. It will be refreshing to see solid fundamentals coupled with passion and focus on the field.

13. I believe that Gardenhire is a solid choice to take what will become a young roster and teach them to care about playing to a higher level. Ausmus allowed a standard of being comfortable with mediocrity with indifference and uninspired play as the results.

14. Gardenhire is known for getting the best results from small payrolls which begs the question about how much more Chris Ilitch wants to reduce the Tigers’ payroll. Is the goal to cut another significant chunk while trying to squeeze as much performance and thus also attendance as much as possible?

15. Gardenhire may also be the best option for repairing a fractured and dysfunctional clubhouse filled with individuals instead of a team. If he can get VMart and Miggy (especially the latter), back on track and producing, he will be worth his weight in gold.


KURT

1. As I envisioned, the Tigers stayed comfortable in their decision to hire Ron Gardenhire. It’s a total departure from where Al Avila said we would be headed, and it’s absolutely what was expected.

2. Gardenhire killed it in the press conference, saying all the right things. Analytics? He won’t fight it and understands there is more than one way to skin a cat.

3. Why was he a candidate for this job? Well, he’s a big favorite of the Tiger ‘establishment’. The Ilitchs and one Mr. Jim Leyland have wanted him here.

4. An opportunity to step out of the box and get young, fresh and exuberant eyes on the rebuild of this club, fostered from organizations who have completed their championship-ready mold, was ignored, despite what they said was a plan that supports that.

5. Gardenhire represents the old guard at a time when a new beginning was important. He knows baseball, no question, and we will see what he brings having been exposed to the winning culture developing in Arizona.

6. Gardenhire wanted to manage again. He wanted to teach again, and this is more than likely his last job, which will come with little pressure.

7. The Tigers completed their backwards plan. Gardenhire was a better fit for the Tigers when Ausmus was hired, as they chose an unproven candidate for a very important run for a championship.

8. Now was the time to grab someone bred to rebuild, to take what they had learned from a progressive organization and apply it to a team just starting out on that path. Is that Gardenhire or not?

9. Gardenhire has been chosen to take on the role as a stopgap manager. Will he bring new ideas, new concepts, a new approach? Yes, but will they be consistent with what the organizational plan was supposed to be?

10. Al Avila is merely a puppet in this whole rebuild. The Ilitchs and Jim Leyland are holding the strings. The Garden-hire seems like something the Tigers are making good on after not making the move when it was really needed.

11. It was good news to hear the questions about analytics from the media. His answers were good, and he wasn’t close-minded, which was encouraging despite the disappointment of the hire.

12. I believe the team will like Ron Gardenhire. I believe the team will respond to him; they will be a sponge and he will earn their respect. That alone will be a step in the right direction.

13. My hope is to be pleasantly surprised by what is accomplished under Gardenhire’s tutelage. My hope, once again, is to be wrong about what I feel is just another organizational mistake.

14. “Who says we have to lose?” That is the right thing to say, because a young team needs to believe that they can do what absolutely everyone will say they can’t, so I am encouraged by that.

15. Gardenhire only needs one goal. The losing must be productive – and you do that through trust, development and through fostering an environment of creativity and fundamentally strong baseball.


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TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Amidst all the changes with the Tigers, there is one constant. Miguel Cabrera is still a Tiger.  But, after coming off the worst year of his career, news has come out about more issues with Miggy’s personal life. Our writers have agreed to tackle this topic for analysis.

As is the norm, Holly and Kurt have not shared their responses to today’s topic. It’s the best way for our readers to get the best bang for their buck. So here is our question to address.


Are the reports of a paternity suit against Miguel Cabrera newsworthy to his career or should we file this info under “personal life”? Should the Tigers be concerned?

(To facilitate meaningful and user-friendly dialog, we ask that comments be focused on the impact as it pertains to baseball and not on opinions based on either party’s character as it pertains to their private lives.)


HOLLY

I’m sure the midnight oil is burning over at Comerica’s Media/Communications/PR departments as well as those within the legal offices.

Given the extensive evidence, we also know that many within the Tigers’ executive offices, as well as those within the clubhouse, knew about Miggy’s messy personal life – and hoped it wouldn’t see the light of day – or a courtroom.

It is so very upsetting to once again see an unattractive side of Cabrera coming out in public. The 2009-2011 time period of very unacceptable behavior gave us great cause for concern and the past 6 years of calm lulled us into thinking that Miggy had righted his ship and expelled his demons.

But now we know that is not the case and it’s made even worse because, unlike the previous rocky stretch, he has failed to perform on the field. (Insert your own joke here.) And his salary will climb once again in 2018.

Fans were willing to forgive him 6 years ago because he was hitting .344 and had an OPS of 1.033 but 2017 was his worst year ever and many are now understandably thinking that his messy personal life contributed to it. And these same people probably believe that if Miggy had his life in order, his numbers would have been better and he might have helped mitigate the sell-off of some players.

It’s one thing when you are a top performer – it’s another when you aren’t. This time, Cabrera may not be able to dig himself out of another bad PR hole.

His inability to successfully manage his personal life will create significant problems for the Tigers. First, the PR nightmare in which they are undoubtedly fielding thousands of calls and emails from upset fans. The Tigers will be mopping up the mess for much of 2018 and potentially beyond. Like they don’t have enough to do.

And during a time when the Tigers are pushing 2018 ticket sales.

It’s hard enough to sell season packages when you finish in last place and some of the fan-favorite players have been traded. But it’s another when your remaining face of the team has flushed himself down the dumper.

The Tigers now are effectively without a franchise face – the player who drives the turnstiles and marketing sales. Justin Verlander is gone so who are the Tigers going to use in hawking their product? Michael Fulmer who is still young and unproven while also recovering from surgery or Nick Castellanos? This is bad, folks.

I don’t know which is more upsetting – the reality and disappointment in learning that Miggy has not successfully corrected his personal life and allowed it to impact his career once again – or that the Tigers will now be faced with much lower-than-expected attendance figures for 2018. The latter which will also impact the financial decisions pertaining to the rest of their roster.


KURT

Let me tell you something. If your franchise player is coming off the worst year of his career, issues with his personal life are worthy for discussion.

If your franchise player is being compensated with a $30M a year salary, issues with his personal life, unfortunately become our business.

First of all, it’s nearly impossible to keep things personal when you are a high-profile celebrity. Eventually, whatever you are dealing with is going to come out. Eventually, when the public and the media are puzzled over what could be compromising your play other than an injury, you can find out with enough digging; or things simply become part of the public record.

Nothing stays a secret very long. And yes, the Tigers should be concerned. Cabrera hasn’t exactly been living a clean life. The Tigers weathered the storm of his drinking issues years ago and Miggy effectively put it aside and resumed his career with a fury.

Also, people not only speculated but seemed certain that Miggy’s issues at the plate this past season were all tied to his family struggles amidst the political unrest in his homeland of Venezuela. I even wrote a blog on how poorly I felt that I had criticized him at all, given what he was dealing with in his personal life; fearing for the life of his mother.

Of course, the back wasn’t helping him physically, but mentally and emotionally, who are we to question whether the issues in Venezuela were contributing to his poor play?
It’s great that Jose Altuve could have an MVP season despite the problems back home, but people deal with things differently. Some can put things aside and others can’t.

Which is where the concern should lie with the Tigers. Miggy has been so mentally strong his whole career. But maybe there are exceptions and the cracks open for him when he is dealing with personal issues.

Whether it is a drinking incident, family endangerment back home or an unforeseen paternity suit, these are all personal battles. And they are all worthy issues that could be, or are, impacting his ability to focus on his baseball obligations with the Tigers.

No wonder he’s having back issues, with all the baggage he has been carrying around over the last year.


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