Scan the news. Go ahead do it. Maybe you already have.
Maybe you, too, have been in search of an opinion or some sort of encouraging word that professes that the 2019 season will be different from the last.
But even the most enthusiastic of fans have a hard time believing that it will. They are waiting.
They are waiting for that return of the days when the signings begin. Waiting for the big blockbuster trade. The kind they have grown accustomed to over the last decade of Tiger baseball.
It’s hard to wrap your heads around it, isn’t it? That Tiger baseball has come to this. That a complete rebuild would be the only course of action.
The Ilitch family has taken the Tiger fan base on a whirlwind tour of emotions. There have been long stretches during the longest rollercoaster ride even ridden.
Upon the purchase of the Tigers in the early 90’s, Mike Ilitch did little with the team; they languished at the bottom of the league for over a decade, with fans wondering where all of this was headed.
Questions about the priority of the Tigers during a time when the Red Wings were doing so well, dominated most of our opinions.
But when you fast forward from then to now, the dynamic of the ownership of this team has taken a dramatic turn. And we have to decide if the shift we are experiencing is acceptable.
The Mike Ilitch ownership was driven by the love of competition, it just took a while to gain success. And until we sit in that driver’s seat, it’s difficult to understand why it would take someone so long to realize that a jumpstart of sorts would be required.
Why did it take so long for Mr. I to bring in someone to run his team who had proven success with another franchise? Why did he wait? Well, we learned quite a bit about Mike over the years.
He was extremely loyal and quite patient. And what we might have experienced during the first 12 years or so of his ownership was an owner searching for a map.
It was his dream to own the Tigers. He played in the minor leagues with them. Hockey had dominated everything, but baseball had a special place in his heart. Purchasing the Tigers was a dream come true.
But taking them to another title almost a decade after the last one became a difficult task. A hurdle never eclipsed.
Dave Dombrowski did come along and stabilize the ship, but only after the bank vault opened. Throwing money at the franchise became the new norm. And it worked. It was risky but it worked.
So we thought.
The ship was cruising along at breakneck speed, taking all of us along for the grand tour on the way to the pinnacle of baseball.
So we thought.
Little did we know that the ship had a slow leak that would eventually put a drag on the system until the boat could no longer stay afloat. Though money was spent on the pretty parts, down below in the minor leagues, less and less was provided. More and more was taken away.
For 14 seasons, Mike Ilitch rode the wave with Dave Dombrowski. An incredible stretch of loyalty and patience. And when Dave finally said the ship was in trouble, the loyalty ended. The patience? Done. Gone.
We all know this story, but it is still so important to remember how we got to where we are today. Mr. I started anew, promoting Al Avila, still giving him the freedom to continue to spend money on a ship that was still leaking – more and more all the time.
That was the Mike Ilitch ownership. A long stretch of failure, followed by a long stretch of success, only to fall short of the ultimate goal and head back down again. So when we have been so close, experiencing teams with players who have been among the best in the game, it is difficult to have to head down this path.
The Ilitch loyalty brought us here. It offered us fun and heartbreak. But now that it is back to the drawing board, unnecessary loyalty needed to be scrubbed and examined.
When done right, the progressive steps of a rebuild can be rewarding; the development of the stars of tomorrow and hopefully, a championship.
But, what we have gleaned from the actions of Chris Ilitch is a perception that he doesn’t have the same drive as his father. He doesn’t have the same passion to win. That is the perception. The zest for that same competitive spirit is not yet evident.
But one thing remains the same. The loyalty.
Keeping Al Avila as his first order of business was blatant and unnecessary loyalty.
We don’t have any idea how long Chris will wait. We don’t have any idea what his motives are for this franchise. We only know that this is still an Ilitch-owned baseball team. One still yearning for that elusive championship; that taste of success realized so many times on the hockey side of the ledger.
And we will yearn, too. We will wait for some sort of realization that loyalty really isn’t the best of things. Impatience with loyalty must force its way to the top.
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