TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Real quick – here’s a question. Have you thought about other teams to follow? Now don’t take this the wrong way. We know how this season will test your loyalty, and we are not suggesting you go out and look for another product.

But, we do have a question for Kurt and Holly that people really want answered! (You know the drill, they didn’t share).


If you could only be a fan for 1 other team, and not the Tigers, which would it be? Why?


KURT

Over a 5-year span beginning in 2010, every other year belonged to the Giants, as they racked up 3 titles. What a way to keep your fan base happy, huh?

And while other teams wrestled with each other for the big money stars, the Giants always seemed to stay away. And when it was time to pay the big money to fan favorite, Pablo Sandoval, the Giants passed and waited for a better day.

I remember writing a blog on this site describing how winning every other season kept the pressure and the fan base at bay. They weren’t pressured to make high risk moves, and stayed in the mix with solid and mostly under the radar signings and trades.

Franchises strive for sustainability and consistency. And they strive for a group of players who will work hard, be strong fundamentally and play the game the right way. And even though the Giants had to fight through a ton of injuries through those 5 years, they persevered and I have become a fan as a result.

It’s not until now that they are trading for some higher dollar stars as they look to recover from a 98-loss season, which for any franchise means you need to look in the mirror, (oh, and a visit to their stadium is on my bucket list).


HOLLY

For me, there is so much more about a team to follow than merely the players. I would want to choose a team that makes regular good decisions about their year and future, a team that practices good corporate decisions, a team that is demonstrably proud of its organization and a team that others would envy.

So, while I admire how the Yankees run their organization and push for yearly contention, I dislike them with every fiber of my being – they are the Yankees, after all.

Ironically, I would choose the St. Louis Cardinals who have been the Tigers’  most frequent opponents in 3 World Series. A consistently-run organization with a superior corporate culture and way of doing business that allows fans to expect a certain level of high performance almost every year.

A team that made the initially tough decision to allow Albert Pujols to leave but now have proven to fans that their decision was the right one to make before his age, injuries and salary would make it tough for the team to overcome. A team that was among the first to implement a systematic standard of play, the very first to create a mentorship program between veterans and rookies and a team where everyone understood and bought into the program that you showed up every day for practice even if you were the star of the team.

But the Cardinals were also the first to offer educational and training programs for their players over the winter like finance, Pilates and nutrition that required mandatory participation. They see the big picture and understand that there are many factors beyond the actual physical talent that create a winning culture.

It’s no coincidence that they’ve only had 2 losing seasons in over the past 20 years.


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NOTABLE NEWS

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Hot Stove? Really? Wow, have things changed with our game or what?

But that doesn’t mean the week was totally devoid of news and topics for conversation. So, what news stood out this week?

Holly and Kurt are more than happy to share.


HOLLY

One of history’s slowest Hot Stove seasons was initially thought to be the result of waiting on 1-2 major signings. But now that they’ve been completed, there are still over 230 free agents waiting to find new homes. Studies are pointing to the rise and use of analytics in Front Offices as the major determining factor about the true worth of a player which now puts the emphasis on numbers and not on the past more traditional emotional factors.

This also means that sports agents are losing power and persuasion with GMs. Look no further than Scott Boras’ representation of JD Martinez and the asking price of $210 million, which has now dropped to $180 mill. Due to JD’s horrible defensive metrics, his role on a team is primarily seen as a DH and the only offer he has received (and rejected) is $140 million from his former boss, Dave Dombrowski.


KURT

This week, one topic of conversation was the overall decline in production of today’s DH in baseball – the need for larger bullpens and smaller benches have left teams with DH-only players “in big trouble,” per MLB analyst Peter Gammons.

Obviously, you know your team in Detroit is on that list. The Tiger have one more year of pain as they continue their attempt to catch up to changing trends in the game. The role of the DH has, more and more, become one of them.

To me, the strategy for 2018 must contain a plan to begin to “phase out” the full-time DH role with the Tigers. An offense-only player like VMart still takes up a roster spot, but that shouldn’t restrict or delay your plan of adjusting for the future, where Miggy DH’s more than he plays defense. The difference though will be a big one; he WILL be able to contribute in the field when needed.


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TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Who has been the most vocal member of the Tigers this off-season? Well, it hasn’t been a player. Al Avila continues to do all the talking. And it’s not helping.

So, since Al has been making all the Tiger news, it makes sense to make him the topic for this second Tuesday of 2018. Here is a question that Kurt and Holly have chosen to address regarding our General Manager.


Much criticism has been leveled at Al Avila for how he has performed as GM over the past 2.5 years. Does he have strengths? And if so, what are they?


KURT

As unhappy as I have been with how Avila has performed as the Tigers GM, I would never go as far as to say that Al has no strengths. His experience alone has served the Tigers well, but that experience has served the team well as a scout, but not as a GM.

Avila has the ability to identify good talent. But when it comes to cutting deals for talent without settling, his methods are weak and teams appear to own him in negotiations. It’s why he has failed as GM to this point.

Avila’s Cuban heritage in combination with his ability to unearth talent served him well as a scout for both the Marlins and the Tigers. He brought a resume that included a stint as director of Latin American operations while with the Florida Marlins and then later was named Director of Scouting.

During a time when so much talent has been found in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, Avila found Miguel Cabrera. That means quite a bit in Detroit, given the deal that ultimately brought Miggy here from Florida.

But that is where it ends for Avila, as there are no signs, to this point, that his strengths are being properly utilized as a GM; he is a top major league scout and nothing more.


HOLLY

Everyone, within their profession, has strengths and weaknesses – and it is ultimately up to the company to ensure that all employees have been placed into positions that primarily utilize their best skills.

The Tigers still embrace the old Front Office system (surprise! surprise!) of making the GM responsible for all facets of player procurement and development while over half of MLB teams now divide those responsibilities among 2-3 individuals who each have their own specialties.

Even Dave Dombrowski wasn’t capable of successfully overseeing all Front Office aspects when he was Detroit’s GM so it’s unfair to absolve Dave but criticize Al Avila.

When I was in Lakeland for Spring Training, I sat near Al and watched him as much as I did the game. He is undoubtedly beloved within the organization as he was constantly being greeted by familiar faces and by those who were seasonal employees. He was approachable and warm, knowing everyone’s name – wonderful characteristics to have but they can get in the way when you really need to be less warm and fuzzy (I refer you to Leo Durocher’s infamous comment).

Avila’s claim to fame was his groundbreaking scouting program in South America where he discovered a trove of talent, including a 16-year-old Miguel Cabrera and convinced his Marlins GM, Dave Dombrowski, to sign him. There have been others who have been rescued from oblivion like JD Martinez.

And when owners now require you to find bargains among the well-scouted cast-offs, Al is one of the best at finding those diamonds in the rough, like Mikie Mahtook, which is a tough and thankless job. Scouting is definitely his forte and the Tigers should allow him to do more of that and a lot less of the trading part of the job.


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NOTABLE NEWS

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Well, the Winter Meetings came and went quite quickly, didn’t they? There were a couple big splashes and a few little ones. And now we wait.  We wait on the Tigers.

And what’s happening in Tiger Land? Well, more of the same. Just more signs that the ship is not in good hands.

So, what news stood out this week? Holly and Kurt are more than happy to share.


HOLLY

National reporters revealed this week that the Tigers recently attempted to extend the contract of Nick Castellanos before he became a free agent. Good news: it reassures the fan base that the team isn’t in the process of being stripped bare like the Miami Marlins. Bad news: the media inferred that the two sides were very far apart and that there will be no additional attempts to negotiate.

Castellanos has 2 more years before he becomes a free agent which means that the Tigers will now be forced to trade him – and before the end of the 2018 season when he then becomes a rental and loses value. Right now, he appears to be the best choice to bat fourth after Miggy and with no heir apparent yet in sight. What will the offense look like if there is no one capable of protecting Miggy at the plate – assuming Miggy will have a better year?


KURT

This week’s blatant admission from Al Avila that the team will be trading Jose Iglesias at some point this season made me recall a depiction of Avila that I did for a relative on Christmas Eve demonstrating (with plenty of exaggeration, of course) how a typical trade negotiation might go.

Al is in a card game and has all the cards, but doesn’t understand his advantage. The cards contain information – the player he wants to trade and when he wants to trade him. He hands them over. At that point the opponent tells HIM what they would give the Tigers, knowing Al is anxious to make the deal. Without counter-offering, he ultimately settles because the opponent is going to pull the offer if he doesn’t accept; Al Avila, very passive in his negotiation, accepts, as if he has no choice and no more time.


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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 It’s hard to believe that another year of Totally Tigers is in the books.  Our New Year message is not unlike previous years.  We truly are thankful for the readership we have developed and we are appreciative of those who have made us a part of their everyday routines.

We will be here as long as you want us to be!  We will continue to strive for different ways to capture your attention, ask more questions and hopefully help you realize angles to stories you hadn’t considered.

This has been a project that has been molded from an idea into an absolute joy, where we join with our readers to produce a site that inspires thinking and long-term discussion.

As topsy-turvy as the Tiger road has been, we love following every minute. We have the bug. And it’s quite evident that our readers do as well.

Thanks for hanging with us. It’s still our goal to turn this into something big. But readership is the only way to get there. So we thank you for bringing us this far – and ask you to continue to spread the word.

We could not have come this far without you. Have a great New Year, everyone!

Holly & Kurt

TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

It’s another Tuesday, so readers get to hear from both of our writers, but with an added twist. Today, we change it up a bit.

Kurt and Holly will answer 1 Question and it’s all about favorites. These are a few (10 actually) of their favorite things… (OK, you can stop singing now).

As is the norm, Kurt and Holly have not shared … oh, forget that! Of course, they shared! It’s the holiday season! So, enjoy their 10 answers to this question, and then ponder your own.


For each of the following:


Who or what are your favorites?


1. CURRENT PLAYER

KURT – Miguel Cabrera                                                                        

HOLLY – Michael Fulmer


2. ALL-TIME PLAYER 

KURT – Kirk Gibson

HOLLY – Al Kaline


3. HISTORIC PLAYER

KURT – Al Kaline

HOLLY – Hank Greenberg


4. BASEBALL MOVIE

KURT – Field of Dreams

HOLLY – Field of Dreams


5. TIGER MOMENT

KURT – 1984 – Kirk Gibson’s second home run of Game 5 to clinch the World Series Championship. I have never seen, felt or heard anything so electric; Gibby rounding the bases and raising those fists in the air in triumph as he rumbled to the dugout. Yes, I was there!

HOLLY – 1987 – Frank Tanana pitches a shutout against the Blue Jays on the last day of the season to win the AL East Title. Will never forget the way Sparky greeted Tanana after the win.


 6. MANAGER (in our lifetime or earlier)

KURT – Sparky Anderson

HOLLY – Sparky Anderson


 7. BOOK

KURT – I Told You I Wasn’t Perfect – by Denny McLain

HOLLY – Together We Were Eleven Foot Nine: The 20 Year Friendship of Hall of Fame Pitcher Jim Palmer and Orioles Manager Earl Weaver – by Jim Palmer


 8. ERA

KURT – 1980’s

HOLLY – 1934-1940


9. TRADE OR MOVE

KURT – Replacing Les Moss with Sparky Anderson during the 1979 season

HOLLY – 2007 trade in which the Tigers sent 6 players to the Marlins in exchange for Miguel Cabrera (and Willis)


10. SECOND-FAVORITE TEAM 

KURT – New York Yankees

HOLLY – Chicago Cubs

NOTABLE NEWS

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

The departure of Ian Kinsler dominated the news for Tiger fans over the last couple days at the Winter Meetings. But what captured the attention of our writers? Does their attention revolve around this story or are there others?

Let’s see what Holly and Kurt have on their minds this week. Their responses are not shared in advance and it’s only for the readers’ benefit. So, what stood out this week?


HOLLY

Once again we’ve heard the explanation of “had no leverage” to explain the disappointing exchange for Ian Kinsler. Granted Ian had a no-trade clause, but when you broadcast the necessity of needing to trade someone sooner rather than later, the other teams hear your desperation and will take advantage of you.

But this latest move, combined with the trades of JV, JD, Maybin, Upton, Avila and Wilson, is a troubling pattern and demonstrates concern over Al Avila’s inability to negotiate favorable trades. He explained away these trades as a result of a “weak market.”

Not scoring any kind of solid return is what got Avila voted in 2 polls as the #29th and #30th ranked GM in baseball last week. The real question to ask is whether this is simply an issue of being unqualified, filling the need of being an owner’s compliant “yes” man or being ordered to prioritize dumping salaries over finding the best trades.


KURT

If the Tigers really want to impact their roster, they need to take their biggest tradeable asset and see what teams are willing to offer. Was Michael Fulmer worth more, say, at the All-Star break last season, than now when an injury clouds his value? Absolutely! It is the one thing that will make teams pause and potentially offer less than if we were talking about a young, high-end pitcher with no injury history.

But I don’t think the Tigers can afford to take a wait and see approach until the trade deadline – Michael Fulmer could bring major talent and yes, may bring more at the end of July if he remains healthy and resumes the success he was having early last season.

But that’s an ‘if’ they cannot risk validating. They can still get plenty now and they need to go out and get it.


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TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Given that the Winter Meetings can take so many turns, and that there are so many topics that can be discussed, our writers have decided to free-wheel it today.

So, what do they have on their minds other than the obvious (HOF)?

As is the norm, Holly and Kurt have not shared a thing. It’s the best way for our readers to get the best bang for their buck. So here we go.


HOLLY

This is going to be a week where wonder, reality and rebuild are going to create a rollercoaster of actions and emotions so I can’t possibly select just one or two topics upon which to focus.

So, I am going to borrow my buddy Kurt’s 20 Thoughts format because it works so well. (And unlike a certain reporter for a Detroit newspaper, I am giving Kurt full credit for inventing this.)

1. I am absolutely thrilled – yet still retain a dash of resentment towards the writers – over the election of Alan Trammell and Jack Morris. I still can’t understand the huge rift in thought between those who played the game and believed the two should have been inducted years ago and those who didn’t and waited all these years to acknowledge their accomplishments.

2. Omitting Lou Whitaker from the ballot may have been due to the committee’s realization that having 3 Tigers on a ballot of 10 may have caused some unwanted negative media and fan blowback. The committee may have simply selected the 2 with the best chance of being elected.

3. In a lot of ways, Tram and Morris are complete opposites of each other. Could some of the explanation for the delay in voting them in be because Tram was too nice, quiet and humble and Morris because he was outspoken and mean to the media?

4. Their election into the Hall of Fame is such a blessing, especially now and at this event. I think the rest of the meetings are going to be very sobering and sad for Tiger fans.

5. As of 11AM on Monday, Jack Morris said that the Twins, Jays and Indians teams all reached out to him personally with congratulations. Other than Trammell, the Tigers organization had yet to contact him beyond the official released statement. And fans wonder why they don’t support their former players or retire numbers. Smh, smh, smh…

6. Out of the original 16 MLB teams, the Tigers rank dead last in retiring players’ numbers. There are 3 Tigers who were elected to the Hall of Fame wearing the Olde English D who still don’t have that honor – Mickey Cochrane, George Kell and Heinie Manush.  Cochrane and Manush both wore “3” but it is only getting retired now with the election of Trammell.  In all, the Tigers have only retired a total of 5 players’ numbers.

7. The Tigers are at the maximum 40-man roster with the Rule 5 Draft happening on Thursday. Expect Ian Kinsler to be dealt before then especially given reports that they have intensified their efforts at trading him.

8. The AL East teams, especially the Red Sox, are the biggest losers after the Stanton trade so expect Trader Dave to pull off at least 1 significant trade or signing this week. Is there any doubt that Dombrowski is going to make a concerted effort to sign his former player, JD Martinez, to fill the hole created by David Ortiz?

9. It was reported that Jim Leyland has been one busy man as a member of the Tigers’ War Room and running non-stop to meetings with other teams. Make no mistake, he still wields a significant amount of power and decision-making within the organization and the Tigers continue to welcome and encourage his input – symptomatic of their refusal to acknowledge or change an outdated and ineffective corporate culture and vision.

10. Baseball analysts have compiled their annual list of GM rankings based upon the season’s moves, trades and decisions with Al Avila ranking #29 out of #30. It’s a good thing I have the Hall of Fame election results to fall back on as we await the actions that will dictate the direction the Tigers’ Fearless Leader takes this team going forward.


KURT

Wow, what a crazy few days it has been!

The Angels broke out of the gates with the historic signing of Shohei Ohtani, with every intention of using his talents on the mound and at the plate.

But in typical Yankee-style, the spotlight left Anaheim quickly and went straight to New York as incredibly, Giancarlo Stanton joined forces with the Yanks. His addition now sets up another edition of Murderer’s Row in The Bronx. The AL East is officially on notice, if they weren’t there already after the Yanks came within 1 victory of the World Series in 2017.

Speaking of the AL East, the Red Sox rarely sit idle after the Yankees do something big. The Yanks are breaking out the guns again, so don’t expect Boston to bring knives to a gunfight. Expect the Sox, especially with Dombrowski in charge, to push hard for another big bat, one Dave knows very well: Mr. J.D. Martinez.

Now that sounds a little closer to home, doesn’t it? Let’s head over to Detroit. But before we get to the biggest news of the off-season for the Tigers, let’s hit on where Al Avila and his team will first focus their energy.

It’s almost a certainty that Ian Kinsler will be dealt before the Winter Meetings are over. I believe I am going to get my wish. The Tigers will look to replace Kinsler versus letting the talents of Jose Iglesias head out the door. Expect the Tigers’ newly-crowned Rookie-of-the-Year, Dixon Machado to take the reins at second base next to Iggy.

As much as we would miss Kinsler and everything he has done for the Tigers since the brilliant trade that sent Prince Fielder to Texas, isn’t it fitting that Ian would leave Detroit right on the heels of the announcement of Alan Trammell heading to the Hall of Fame? Kinsler would leave behind #3, never to be worn again by another Tiger.

Now that was a round-about way to head to the announcement Sunday night: Trammell and Morris are headed to the Hall! I guess we will take what we can get until the next handpicked committee comes to their senses on Lou Whitaker.

Certainly, another lesson has been learned here; the heck with the writers! Let players vote in players – let Hall of Famers vote in Hall of Famers.


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NOTABLE NEWS

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Two storylines in baseball have dominated the news over the past week. It’s hard to get past the ongoing sagas of Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani. But what has capture the attention of our writers? Do their interests revolve around these stories or are there others?

Let’s see what Holly and Kurt have on their minds this week. Saturday topics are not shared and it’s only for the readers’ benefit. So, what stood out this week?


HOLLY

No one from the Detroit media asked Al Avila why he was looking for two, not just one, starting pitcher given that the Tigers just added Mike Fiers to a rotation of Fulmer, Zimmermann, Norris and Boyd that technically should have completed the starting rotation.

But given that Avila has recently confirmed that no Tigers – including Fulmer, Kinsler, Iglesias, Castellanos and McCann – are immune from being traded, could Fulmer, Norris or Boyd leave the team in exchange for the right prospects? That’s one reason to help explain why our GM is looking to add a spare to the heir on the mound.

It also begs us to question what may ultimately be the real goal of the Tigers. Is this a regular or accelerated rebuild? Is this a team looking to cut as much payroll as possible – potentially by pairing Jordan Zimmermann and his contract with Michael Fulmer? Or is this a team getting prepped for sale by drastically cutting payroll, balancing the books and loading the farm system so the team looks young, inexpensive and promising to potential buyers?


KURT

What correlation did you immediately draw when you heard that Shohei Ohtani had chosen to sign with the Angels?

Well, for me, the connection here was obvious – Brad Ausmus. Even though he just recently accepted a position with the Angels as a Special Assistant to the General Manager, he was still closely exposed to one of the most historic signings in the game; an international talent projected to be a star both on the mound and at the plate.

I can’t help but think that Brad, as this season unfolds, will subconsciously put himself in the manager’s chair, observing and considering how he would use Ohtani, if he were leading the team. It will be a unique strategic opportunity for any skipper, and certainly something to keep a close eye on for someone like Brad looking to manage again someday.

On the other hand, he may have enjoyed being front and center watching all of this go down and it may further interest him in the player procurement part of the game.


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TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

So many pieces of the Tiger puzzle have left town, but even after all the trades, there are still high-profile performers residing in Detroit. Big time, highly-paid, performers. And 3 of them struggled mightily with health issues in 2017. Having them return to form in 2018 would make a rebuilding season not quite as painful.

So, since it’s Tuesday, our writers have a question to answer.

As is the norm, 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.


Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Jordan Zimmermann… Which one will have the toughest road to recovery?


KURT

If you can think of someone who had more things to deal with both personally and professionally, all within the span of one year, than Miguel Cabrera, well, that would be quite a story to tell.

One thing Miggy has proven over the years is that he is no angel. He has put together a fair list of personal transgressions, to go along with a long list of injuries.

Can you imagine how difficult it must be just to focus on baseball and performing at a high level?  Can you imagine how difficult it must be when your head is filled with distractions? Throw in a bunch of injuries and the results speak for themselves.

So, this season, Miggy has a lot to prove to the fans and the media who no longer feel he can achieve the high levels of performance we became used to seeing in previous years with the Tigers. But he needs only to look at Justin Verlander to energize him, who must have felt the city giving up on him and used it as motivation to work hard and raise himself back to the levels we were accustomed to seeing; levels we thought were only distant memories.

Miggy, a future Hall of Famer, is that caliber of player. A man with his talents can return to a high level of performance.

In the case of VMart, we don’t know how much control he will have over his condition. Can he put together another full season without any setbacks? Will the procedure he went through solve everything for him? There are a lot of unknowns. So, he is real close to the top of the list when it comes to questioning a return to form, but not quite at the top.

Jordan Zimmermann has an injury just waiting to flare up. And I believe it is bothering him more than the Tigers are reporting. This is turning out to be one of the worst free agent signings the team has ever made. He appears to have been damaged goods when the Tigers signed him; with a condition that didn’t show up in a physical. An injury that requires regular injections to relieve pain and discomfort is not a recipe for success. This could finish him as a pitcher.


HOLLY

There are some who guess that VMart won’t return to the team in 2018 based upon his heart condition and problematic presence in the clubhouse last year. But the Tigers are unlikely to allow $18 million to simply walk away – that is, $18 uninsurable million.

Besides, VMart is still a fan favorite and that means more this year than it ever did for trying to fill the seats this coming year.

Ironically, not being yet cleared by doctors to resume baseball activities may just be a blessing for VMart who notoriously always destroyed some part of his body before spring training began.

And it’s a sure bet that one big reason Ron Gardenhire was hired was to control some of these personalities, like VMart. Maybe he will appeal to this proud man to refocus on what’s important – having one last glorious year at the plate.

Miggy, on the other hand, is working out like a demon with a new trainer who (surprise! surprise!) doesn’t work for the Tigers. An athletic specialist who counts many top athletes among his clients – including LeBron James and Jose Iglesias. Miggy’s social media feeds have taken on a completely different tone this off-season and show him having dropped a significant amount of weight complete with almost completely shaved head. He’s taking this very seriously because that typical smile of his is nowhere to be seen.

He’s my best bet to come back near the top of his game.  That is, if he can keep his personal life from blowing up and distracting him.

Jordan Zimmerman is the one who worries me greatly. An injury that started in his groin and gradually worked its way up to his neck over the past 1.5 years. A medical staff who couldn’t diagnose, then kept changing their stories that finally resulted in Zimmermann himself seeking medical advice from his previous doctors in DC.

But it’s the reports from 2013 that should keep the Tigers’ Front Office from sleeping at night. Reports they should have known about. Reports that mentioned the neck problems he started to have 5 years ago. Waking up many mornings with a stiff neck and missing some starts. Yet, he was still signed by Al Avila and lasted less than half a year. Forgive me if I don’t believe the crack medical staff can solve this almost 6-year-old mystery.