THE HEART OF THE FAN

By:  Kurt Snyder

You have read the title and I know what you’re thinking. Another Snyder tug-at-the-heart-strings to distract us from the rebuild.

Well, you’re partly right. We spent most of the off-season sounding the alarms about a rebuild that should have started at the top. And because it did not, it’s extremely hard to focus on anything else.

As fans, so far we have been robbed of the ability to sit back and watch the progression of a proper rebuild; one handled correctly and strategically planned. I believe we are a sensible and logical group of fans, and throughout our discussions, there hasn’t been much debate about how things are going.

This rebuild will be longer than it should be because at some point, even this team of Tiger ownership and top management will discover that we don’t have the right people in charge. Plan B will then be run out in front of us. And I don’t even want to discuss where our heads will be when that happens.

There will be one big ‘I told you so’ spilled all over the place.

The rebuild is already driving me mad. It already had its own built-in challenges with salaries crippling the ability to move players and improve the talent in the organization.

So it’s time to simplify and narrow our scope. And the way to do that is to shift our concentration to what is happening on the field. I don’t know about you but I  need a break from what’s going on in the front office. I need a break from wondering about the passion and the urgency of our ownership.

It’s the game that we love. And at the very least, we still have that.


For now, I am turning my attention to players. I’ve already targeted 2 players I will root for during the spring. One of which I believe deserves a break, because it seems he has had his fair share of bad luck. It’s Daniel Norris.

No one else on the roster can say they have endured even close to the kind of health issues that Norris has endured. What gets forgotten is his battle with cancer a few years ago; a battle that he won. But since, he has endured countless injuries responsible for turning what was a once promising future when he arrived here from Toronto, to a questionable one.

From there I move to the bullpen, to focus on someone I feel is ready to take a huge step. He arrived in exchange for a pretty popular player who didn’t spend much time here, but while he was here, made a difference. After the 2016 season, Cameron Maybin was traded to the Angels for Victor Alcantara, a relative unknown.

And you know what happens when a favorite is traded for someone you haven’t heard of previously. People freak out and start criticizing the decision without thoroughly understanding who and what we received in return.

In return, the Tigers received Alcantara, a talented pitcher for our bullpen. A hard thrower with wicked breaking stuff. Victor is electric and a tremendous find. He is one guy no one is talking about, and that alone should motivate him.


So there you go! Wasn’t that a much healthier analysis? A more productive focus? Let’s get back to smelling the grass, knocking the dirt out of our cleats and playing a little pepper.

For us, it’s always been about the game. Watching players play is at the heart of the fan. Let the experts take care of everything else.

You know, the experts who have yet to arrive in Detroit to rebuild our baseball team.


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DH OR NOT, FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE

By:  Kurt Snyder

If you have scanned the web  and have seen it littered with all the talk about the “universal DH,” well, maybe you have heard enough.

But I have a question? Can you endure just one more article? Don’t you want to hear from Totally Tigers?

To me, you haven’t heard enough about the designated hitter until you’ve heard it here.   This is about you folks, the fans.

There are reasons we are talking about making the designated hitter “universal.” In 1973, the DH made its debut in the American League. The AL approved it but the NL did not.  Two leagues. Two separate sets of rules.

How did the fans take it?  Oh well, they are all over the map.  The fans who have the DH. The fans who don’t. The fans who want it “universal” and the fans who don’t.  The fans who want one way universal and fans who want the other.  And of course, the fans who just want peace (will explain later).

It’s why this is such a combustible topic within our sport. Every fan wants their own piece of the pie.  We have had 2 different games for so long that it would be tough to explain to a new fan what the DH is and why it only exists on one side of the ledger.

The game was hurting for offense back then; the DH was proposed and the National League didn’t buy in.  And since then, the two leagues have done their own thing.


Which version of the game is better?

Well, why do we have to have that discussion? It’s been good for bar stool conversations over the years, and God knows I have  had a few of them.

I don’t remember much baseball prior to, say 1972. I remember sitting in the backseat of the car in the parking lot of my old grade school, listening to the radio after the Tigers lost the final game of the ’72 playoffs versus the Oakland A’s.

Before that I don’t remember that much.  The designated hitter is really all I know.  However, I do respect ‘the other side of the game.’  The ‘baseball’ side.

That’s what it was, really and is, really. It is the game.  The NL plays the game the way it was meant to be played. Nine positions. Nine hitters. Pure and simple. Baseball.

One set of fans if they had their way, would spread it across the board.

In their minds, the Commissioner ought to be considering making baseball ‘universal.’ In their eyes, the designated hitter can take a hike and pitchers should hit again, across the board. Bring the game back, they would say. Universally.

Well, how about the fans confused by it all?

Fans of the American League where their team resides.  They want the DH. They like the DH.  It was brought in for a reason. The game needed a booster shot and the DH was proposed to give the game a shot.

This group of fans wants the NL to come to the party, because the AL gives up everything when the postseason rolls around. In the playoffs, suddenly the league wants baseball again, but they want the DH too. It’s where confusion reigns.

The National League fan loves baseball …without the DH.

They will fight long and hard just like the AL fan did 46 years ago. They just want to keep their game and spread the good news.

There are also the fans who just want peace. 

These are the fans who just want 1 game. They want baseball to have order.  Do they want the DH?  Do they want the game the way it is played in the NL?  Or do they prefer the American League way of life?  They have answers but they are tired of expressing them.

Do something, they say. Anything, just make it all the same!


Come on people!  We need to get together! 

I love this game and all of its wrinkles. But it has to evolve in order to grow.

The game of baseball, the one played in the NL, has roots and those roots run deep.  Every fan who walks through those turnstiles has a voice and a desire to see the game from their eyes. They have a passion for a game they recognize as baseball.

But it’s going to change, again and again.  For better or for worse.


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MIGGY MUST BE DANGEROUS AGAIN

By:  Kurt Snyder

Who would have thought that Miguel Cabrera would have to prove himself? After all these years. At this point in his career. After everything he has done in a Tiger uniform.

Last year, the Tigers endured their first full season of the rebuild. Avoiding 100 losses was their only accomplishment.  It was everything we thought it would be.

But despite the ugliness, Tiger fans still searched for anywhere they could hang their hat.  And the answer for many was Miguel Cabrera.

At least they had Miggy.  Until he tore his bicep swinging the bat.

Another season. Another Cabrera injury. It has become almost predictable. Seemingly every year, Cabrera arrives at spring training looking in the shape of his life, coming off an injury, only to suffer another one during the season.

But 2018 was different. Never had Cabrera suffered an injury so severe that it ended his season long before the All-Star Break.

Certainly, there is never a good time for Miggy to get hurt, but during a time that offered so little to look forward to, at least you could look forward to his next at-bat. But there would be no next at bat. Unfortunately, we all got another taste of life without him.

I guess you could say there’s always next year, because in the blink of an eye, another season is approaching and Cabrera will get thrust back into the spotlight. And as he looks around, the team will kind of look like a bunch of rubble after a big fire.

More than ever, Miggy has a job to do.

This could be the biggest challenge of his career. With all of his distractions outside the white lines dominating the news while he was hurt and then bleeding into the off-season, it’s time for him to do something not many feel he can handle.

Miggy has to lead.

He must. There is no one else.

Nick Castellanos is in the lame duck year of his Tiger career. He knows he will be traded. He just doesn’t know when. He was beginning to take on a much-needed leadership role but we can’t ask him to continue, given his future with the club.

It’s got to be Miggy.

So many of his teammates will look to him for guidance. He has been here the longest, has experienced so much and still stands as one of the game’s greats with a space reserved for him in Cooperstown.

Ron Gardenhire, who only got a small taste of having Miggy in his lineup every day, surely will look to Cabrera to lead. He has so much to offer, given his talents and his success.

It’s where all the focus should be. We are all very familiar with his weaknesses but they all need to be put away, and his strengths need to take center stage.

So that’s the speech. That’s the fluff. It’s what we all want.  But what will we get? What do we really expect?

Well, don’t expect Miggy to gather the team and give speeches or walk through the dugout clapping and encouraging his teammates. That has never been him and it shouldn’t be expected now.

When I say that his strengths need to take center stage, leading by example may be all we get out of him.  And if that sounds negative, it wasn’t my intent. Because Miggy’s example speaks volumes.

The man knows how to hit. He is a surgeon with runners in scoring position. He is a master at hitting the ball the other way, an art many can’t master. He hits for power to all fields and he knows how to work a count.   He’s a competitor who deserves respect.

This is how he can lead. He is surrounded by the young and impressionable. And if they want to know how to hit, frankly, they are going learn a whole lot more from Miggy than they ever will from their hitting coach. That’s just a fact.

Miggy has already said this: “I want to be dangerous.” And I love that. Because when he is dangerous, this town can’t get enough of him. And neither can his teammates.

When he is at the plate and is dangerous, everyone takes note. No one is leaving the room. No one is leaving their seat to get a hot dog. None of his teammates are on the bench. They are all hanging over the dugout railing, waiting to see what he will do next.

Who is fooling who? We know what to expect from Miggy. Leadership skills? From our vantage point, does he have many?

He celebrates with his teammates. He jokes with his teammates. But he doesn’t always know their names. So we can’t sit here and ask for things that Miggy has never given us before.  He can only be what he is. He can only strive once again for what he was.

He was dangerous.

And if he can be that again, many will learn, just by watching.


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20 JANUARY THOUGHTS

By:  Kurt Snyder

As fast as January came, it went away just as fast as you could say, ‘I’m frozen and I can’t feel my fingers!’

I said it in January and it certainly bears repeating; this has all the makings of a very difficult year going forward – seemingly more difficult than the last. And these next few years will test the patience and loyalty of all of us. What has not changed is our drive to follow all of it.

All thoughts while contemplating thoughts from the first month of 2019 are captured here. Holdovers are topics we need to continue to follow and ponder and are necessary in the compilation of 20 more monthly thoughts.

Let’s begin.


1. Welcome to year 2 of The Cold Stove League, where teams have spent almost the entire off-season trying to restart the pilot light. I don’t know about you but I have pretty much lost all my enthusiasm over who will sign Harper and Machado. The saga has turned from intriguing to boring, where I no longer care about where they end up, only when it’s over.

2. Miguel Cabrera’s paternity case was settled in January. Now maybe he can focus more on baseball instead of all the distractions around him. Miggy is the only Tiger who has the ability to put fans in the seats all by himself.

3. With the reporting of pitchers and catchers to spring training camp being the next big milestone heading into the new season, 2 players immediately come to mind. Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris. Fulmer will need to prove that he is healthy and capable being the ace of the staff again. Daniel Norris will need to prove that he is healthy and capable of maturing mentally. He has had plenty of injuries but none worse than what bothers him between the ears. (Holdover from January – Michael and Daniel are one of 3 pitchers, including Jordan Zimmermann, who will garner the most attention).

4. I did not attend TigerFest this season. It’s the first time I thought about going but then thought better of it. I weighed the positives and negatives and the result was a shutout. How about you, readers? Did you go? And why or why not?

5. Do you feel robbed of the positives associated with a typical rebuild? Do you feel a decade-long drought coming for the Tigers given their lack of qualified people to lead it? Why us? How fun must it have been in Chicago when the Cubs organization got tired of losing and focused on building a winner? It was a calculated and structured rebuild which started at the top. The best of the best were brought in to lead and it was pretty to watch. Not here. No such luck.

6. A comment hit home the other day. It was regarding JaCoby Jones and his battle to improve at the plate. The message? Where can he go for help? Lloyd McClendon has kept his job despite developing no one in his position. He is just Jim Leyland away from being canned, which means he’s not going anywhere. We ask the best from our hitters but we won’t hire the best to help them.

7. How mad must Nick Castellanos have been when Al Avila decided to tell the world that there just isn’t any interest in him? Nothing is going on. Do you think Al sits back and realizes how much damage he does to his negotiating power when he speaks?

8. My take on Matt Shepherd? He did an admirable job under one of the more difficult set of circumstances after Mario and Rod were let go. Meanwhile, he had all these other fingers in the broadcasting pie, from Eastern Michigan football to University of Michigan basketball among others. I will be intrigued to see how he improves when he doesn’t have so much on his plate. Given that, we should grow to like him if you don’t like him already.

9. The Tigers (and FSD) apparently received over 100 applicants for the 2 vacant broadcast positions. I would love to see that list. As for Holly and I, we didn’t apply but we did get a call. As soon as we told them we were a good team but have never met, they hung up. Weird. (Holdover for January, just because I think it’s so darn funny! Kurt high fives self…)

10. Last season, Eric Hosmer signed a free agent contract with the San Diego Padres. This year, the Padres are making a run at Bryce Harper. However, Harper will more than likely choose someone else. The difference? Hosmer has his ring. His reward? Playing in San Diego. Ian Kinsler won his ring last year with the Red Sox. This season, he signs with San Diego.

11. The 2018 season may be over, but I still never got used to those new hats. God help the Olde English D! (Holdover from December. Why? Those caps are history! See, sometimes teams do hear the fans!)

12. Speaking of the Olde English D, it was an obvious marketing ploy last season to change the caps, so fans would head out to get the absolute latest attire. I would love to know how many people actually bought those hats. I would say very few, thus the change back to something more tolerable.

13. The e-tickets for home games are completely tailored to the younger fan. And for the older fan who has stuck with the team through thick and thin? The message is to suck it up. This means my ticket collection has definitely taken a hit. But I do understand that things like this must evolve. It’s the future.

14. The Tigers are so due when it comes to a position player emerging as a star out of the minor leagues. Daz Cameron appears to have the best shot at being that player. And it’s where the Tigers need one; in that outfield, with speed, defense and athleticism. And he can hit. Hopefully he has enough talent to make it happen at the next level. And soon. (Holdover – he is the most intriguing talent and one of the most important to the future. Yeah, this still stays for January.)

15. Nick Castellanos, like last season, had a tremendous September, coming up just shy of hitting .300 for the season. He is now a rising star at the plate who should garner more trade talk than ever this off-season. Should we trade him? Well, we should listen, but according to Al, there is nothing to listen to. (Holding this over until Bryce Harper signs, that’s when Castellanos will get more interest and the market will be set.)

16. Given the Tigers poor performance at the plate last season, do you think Ron Gardenhire was allowed to approach the subject of his hitting coach? He couldn’t hire his own and now he can’t get rid of the guy he was given. How much does Al Avila say, ‘you have to ask Jim.’ (Holdover from December and never more relevant of a topic than now.)

17. In year’s past, I made it a point to defend Jim Leyland whenever anyone would take shots at him. Hey, Jim: I can’t defend you anymore, you have taken the franchise hostage.  You have put the brakes on progress and I am mad as hell!

18. Speaking of Leyland, it becomes a little embarrassing when you consider all the coaches and players in place who have ties to Jim. Gardenhire / McClendon / Mercer and maybe, just maybe Al Avila, who was around during Leyland’s days managing in Florida. I know there’s more, but it makes my stomach turn to continue. (Dave Clark? – excuse me for a minute while I …)

19. With all this underlying dysfunction, we will be challenged to stay positive. So hopefully you will understand that we are not in the business of blowing sunshine up your ‘you know what.’ Occasionally, we will clear the air, because sometimes you just have to laugh. I tried it with Saturday’s ‘D’ survey, but I couldn’t get anyone to crack a smile.  Tough crowd!

20. With December and January in the books, we move closer to a season that is going to be tough to take. Somehow, someway, I have to find a way to ignore the boys making the decisions, and focus more on the players who have a chance to be good. No easy task. (Holdover because this should be the mantra for the season and beyond.  In the end, we are all in this ship together because we love the game.)


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A WALKING INTANGIBLE

By:  Kurt Snyder

It seems to be the week for hiring assistants to the GM in baseball.

The Oakland A’s hired Sandy Alderman as a senior advisor to GM Billy Beane, while Washington brought in Jack McKeon as a senior advisor for their GM.

The Tigers, as you know by now, hired Kirk Gibson as a Special Assistant to the GM, joining former Tiger greats Al Kaline, Willie Horton and Alan Trammell along with former manager Jim Leyland.

The reviews have been mixed. But I’m certain this a positive move for Al Avila and the organization. The move brings an element of intangibles to the team of special assistants.  After all, Gibby’s playing career was all about intangibles.

That’s Gibby’s biggest strength. It was his strength as a player. Certainly was his strength as a bench coach under Alan Trammell and also during his managerial years in Arizona.

So what are the intangibles he brings? Well, even though Parkinson’s has robbed him of a lot of his emotion, he will always have that fire in his belly. It’s something that can never be taken from him.

Gibson played with an edge. A high level of ferocity and nastiness. He took that mind-set to the plate, to the base paths and even to the outfield where he struggled the most.

Unfortunately, Gibby had a hard time turning it off after games. He would hold onto that chip on his shoulder when he was confronted by fans; even kids who just wanted an autograph were ignored or turned away.

But that was Gibson as player. Some didn’t like him because of it. Some did. I happened to love the intensity and was able to overlook some of the other stuff.

All he really needed was maturity. To grow up, get married, have a family of his own, and teach his kids the better path to follow. Something he will now be able to convey to some of the younger players in the organization.

And that has to be what the Tigers considered when adding him to their staff. That is part of it any way. He has a message to send. A story to tell.  He has battled his whole life. Never giving in to anything.

And now, with his playing days and his managerial days over, he’s fighting the biggest battle of his life.

Gibby can and will bring all of it to this new challenge with the Tigers. It is a bit of a strange combination, having him continue as a broadcaster while being involved in all personnel meetings with the club. Some would argue it is a conflict of interest, but I don’t foresee a situation where it will be a problem.

Chances are that Gibson wanted to do both. Only time will tell if he’s able to going forward.  But don’t make a mistake.  Don’t bet against him.  And don’t discount what he brings to the franchise. He is a good old-fashioned spitfire with lots of experience and exciting battles won.

His days of turning away kids are over. He will now give them everything they want and more.

Gibby’s a walking intangible and above all, a winner.


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HONESTLY? AL SCARES ME

By:  Kurt Snyder

Well, another TigerFest is behind us. The winter caravan, which culminates at Comerica Park, is when everyone comes out of hibernation for a sound byte festival.

Good news, everyone! Everything is great! If you were concerned about Michael Fulmer, don’t worry about it! He’s healthy and ready to go.

If you were wondering if Jordan Zimmermann will ever be injury-free, you’re not going to believe it! He is healthy and ready to go.

And Miggy? The best news of all is, he is now healthy and ready to go!

And Al Avila? Well, fans, he can see “the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Somebody pinch me!  Is this a dream?

It is a worthy effort by the Tiger organization to communicate anything that fans can look forward to when the season begins at the end of March.

There is no questioning the passion of fans who head out to Comerica Park on a frigid January Saturday to get a glimpse of Tiger players, take pics, gather autographs and listen to what everyone has to say about the coming season.   And you would like them to leave looking forward to Tiger baseball, if at all possible.

Al Avila is tasked to update fans on the status of the rebuild. And as General Manager of a professional baseball team, we should expect some sort of professional synopsis. But we don’t get that from Avila.

He comes off as someone who hasn’t prepared himself for questions. He comes off as someone who is pulling answers out of his back pocket. (I cleaned that up for you).

Well, I have one question. Why is Al incapable of giving a state of the Tigers report?  Many fans are naïve but many are not. Sometimes all we want is to hear an update from the guy who is supposedly in charge.  Well, maybe we don’t.

When Dave Dombrowski was shown the door and Avila was promoted to the GM job, you get the feeling that Avila wanted to forge his own path. His own way of doing things. His own way of communicating.

As you know, DD had the reputation of being very close to the vest with information. Always very vague. But that works for him and given the kind of deals he was able to pull off,  it was very effective.

You get the sense that Avila, instead of learning from Dave, decided he wasn’t going to be that ‘close to the vest’ kind of communicator. But the more he talks, I am of the mind that he should have learned from his old boss.

What would be best? What can you do to gain approval and confidence from the fan base? Well, what do fans want? They want to know what you’re going to do. They want to know where your emphasis will be when looking to improve the team.

But the honest truth is, and I use that term ‘honest’ very cautiously, is that no one owes us anything when it comes to information about the direction of the ball club.

What do you hate more? Was it Dave Dombrowski standing at the podium and giving you next to nothing to hang your hat on or Al Avila talking more than he should?

Why do we need to know that, when it comes to dealing Nick Castellanos, there is very little interest in him? I am sorry but I don’t see how revealing that helps Avila make the best deal. We. Don’t. Need. To. Know.

I only have 2 words for Mr. Avila when he is being interviewed. Stop talking. He wants to be honest with everyone. I believe his goal is to always be honest. But in his honesty, he comes off as being unpolished, unprepared and unqualified to do the job.

I am sure you have all read or heard Al’s synopsis on when the team will be in a position to begin spending money again. Let me paraphrase it for you.

I don’t know. Maybe.

Al?  This is Kurt.  Help me out.

Please, please, don’t start by saying you don’t know and please, please don’t end with ‘maybe. ‘ It was hard to listen to and even harder to read and understand what the heck he was talking about. No basis for why 2021 or 2022 would be the years that they might be able to spend or why it could be sooner or later, or….my God, make it stop!

We know where we are when it comes to the rebuild. We are paying attention. So, please don’t waste our time giving us an update you haven’t prepared.

And please don’t spend another minute attempting to explain why you are being honest. No, really.  Al actually explained why he was being honest.  I’m not kidding.  Al said, “…because, well, how do you hide this?”

Well, I guess my answer is, ‘do your best.’


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SOMEONE CALL SECURITY!

By:  Kurt Snyder

I have never been to TigerFest.

I have never really considered going. Something about baseball and winter weather never seemed to mix. And frankly, I’m not so sure I would enjoy it that much.

Especially given what this team is up against this year and beyond. Excitement is not a word I would use to describe what I feel as we head into spring training…and beyond.

But it’s a great thing the Tigers do for the fans. From a public relations standpoint, it’s all good fun, it gets people thinking about baseball and it gives fans the opportunity to get up close and personal with the local big leaguers.

Fans get to ask questions, but certainly nothing too difficult for players to answer.

But what if I was asking the questions? What if Holly said “Hey, I’m in DC and our readers need to get a Totally Tigers perspective on TigerFest.” And in typical Holly fashion, she would add, “but don’t get thrown out of there!”

Well, what would get me ejected from TigerFest? Maybe a few questions you wouldn’t dare ask?

Just picture this for a second. There they all sit, in front of you on stage, all on their little stools with their Tiger jerseys on and those dreadful hats with the monstrous D.

See! You’re on edge already. Just the perfect frame of mind for some dicey questions for Tiger players, management and even broadcasters.


Let’s get started…

For Miggy: How many games are you willing to DH this year? (Starting light, don’t want to shell shock the guy right away with an alimony question.)

For Nick Castellanos: Does it frustrate you knowing that regardless of the kind of season you have this year, you will be traded? (He was ready to answer a question about wanting to stay and lead the Tigers.)

For Michael Fulmer: Would you consider yourself injury-prone? (No comment.)

For Matthew Boyd: Knowing what you know about JV, Max and Anibal, aren’t you really pitching for a welcomed opportunity with another team? (Now things are cookin’.)

For Jeimer Candelario: What did you learn with the Cubs that can help you here? (Oh man, really?)

For JaCoby Jones: Does it frustrate you knowing that your speed is only on display in the outfield but not much in the infield? (Red faced, trying not to leap off the stage.)

For Christin Stewart: What have you done in the off-season to make you a better outfielder? (Looked for my glove?)

For Niko Goodrum: Would you rather be a starter at one position or a super utility guy? No, no, no … you have to choose! (Just happy to be here!)

For Kirk Gibson: Is Matt Shepard an upgrade over Mario Impemba, yes or no? (I will miss messing with Mario … it was just too easy!)

For Jack Morris: Is Matt Shepard an upgrade over Mario Impemba, yes or no? (Let’s just say, we had to do better.)

For Ron Gardenhire: If you weren’t buddies with Jim Leyland, do you think you would be managing … at all? (Oh, hell no!)

For Al Avila: What percentage of your decision-making is run through Jim Leyland? And if it’s 100%, why are you here? (What do you think, Jim?)

For Jim Leyland: Why are you at TigerFest? (I’m the manager, don’t you know?)


How many of these questions do you think I would actually get through before I am escorted out of that poor excuse for a ballpark?

Just think of the reaction if I got them all in?

Ready for one more?


For our readers: What questions would you ask? And make ‘em good!


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SPARE NO EXPENSE

By:  Kurt Snyder

Since Totally Tigers is all about questions, how about we start this Tuesday with one.

Do you miss how Mike Ilitch used to run his baseball team? If you are wondering why I’m asking the question, it has to do with this “non-competitive cancer” that Scott Boras says exists in the game today.

With so many teams going through some form of rebuild, someone came to mind. Yes, it was Mike Ilitch. What would he think of all this? Would he approve?  Or would he want out?

As you know, it took a while during his ownership before the Tigers began to be competitive and contenders in their division. But once they began to win, Mr. I had the bug.  Once the winning began, it was all he wanted. Making money was of little interest to him; he spared no expense in his pursuit of a title.

But sadly, more and more teams are realizing that you can make money while losing. And more and more, owners seem to be perfectly fine with it.

What kind of owner would you be? When I envision a typical owner of a sports franchise, I see it as a hobby for them, not a money-making opportunity. And if they do indeed make money on the way to a championship, it’s a win-win.

But what is it now? Fewer owners are like Mike Ilitch.  Fewer are like, say, Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks. These are examples of owners who are about winning first and making money second.

Now that we have gotten a good dose of how Chris Ilitch will be running this franchise, there may be a part of us that misses the old days. They are mixed feelings for sure, because the decisions made under Mike’s watch certainly contributed to where the team is today.

They had to rebuild. But stripping the team down completely is particularly hard for fans of the Tigers, given how many stars the team had accumulated. And to watch them star with other teams now is particularly difficult, knowing that they cultivated all of that talent and production in Detroit.

So, here we sit. Team after team after team is rebuilding, with the Tigers right in the middle of it. It would never sit well with Mike Ilitch and I wonder, if he was still here and still running the Tigers, if this would be happening.

Winning generated the fun for Ilitch. It drove him and it energized him. He had a thirst for winning a championship and it led him to some poor decisions all in the interests of getting that ring.

I have a hard time believing that Mike would have changed how he ran the Tigers. This rebuild would be far different. But on the other hand, would there be similarities? Oh, you better believe it.

That loyalty bug within this organization was cultivated by Mike Ilitch. If he were alive today, the same people that we question, Al Avila and Jim Leyland for starters, would still be in place and making decisions.

Chris Ilitch inherited that same loyalty and it is hurting him big time. Or is it? It is a new ballgame now where losers are winners and winners are losers when it comes to making a profit. So it may be that this rebuild, run by all the wrong people, is going to take longer than if he had hired and fired correctly.

It is so messed up that a long rebuild causing more losing equals more money. I am having a hard time typing it, let alone believing it.

Mike Ilitch would sell the team before he would sign up for a rebuild that would strip his team of all the stars he had brought to the Tigers.  And ironically, that’s really the only thing we ask of his son.


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LIGHTEN UP, THIS WILL BE GOOD

By:  Kurt Snyder

“Matt’s roots here in Michigan had a large influence in our decision. The fact that he not only knows the fan base, but is the fan base, represented a lot of what we were looking for in our future play-by-play man.”

                                                                                                       – FSD General Manager Greg Hammaren


Greg Hammaren got it right.

If there is one thing the Tigers needed to accomplish in their search for a new TV play-by-play broadcaster, familiarity was the key. To think that the transition from a 16-year partnership to a new situation would be seamless is, well, unrealistic. First and foremost, they needed to keep things close to home.

Didn’t you expect the fan base to respond negatively to Matt Shepard and the duo of Kirk Gibson and Jack Morris?  People just don’t respond well to change. But FSD and the Tigers were right in staying local with their decision.

Like Mario Impemba, Matt grew up here, and grew up a fan of the Tigers.  Mario graduated from State while Matt was a Chip (Fire up!). Both realized their dreams when they took on the play-by-play role in a great baseball city.

It is a dream job. And Shepard will prepare himself to be great.

When he took over at the end of last season, Matt did quite well considering everything. He had his thumb in plenty of pies, and added the Tiger gig to his already full plate. Many fans decided to form an immediate and negative opinion on Matt and his performance.

Of course they did.

Don’t give anyone a chance to succeed.

Strike the man down from the get-go.

Sorry, but this is a good hire. I have no question about it. Shep is a talented announcer and given time to prepare, which he had no luxury of having in September, he will grow.

Additionally, it sickens me to hear people constantly ridicule Kirk Gibson. His battle with “Parky” has been admirable. And that should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind as they spend time critiquing him.   Instead, what people concentrate on is Gibby’s monotone voice and how boring he sounds. That is the kind of depth (or lack thereof) we get from the fan base, and it is disappointing to say the least.

Gibson gave us so many memories during his playing days in Detroit. But he also rubbed people the wrong way.  However,  this is a man now battling a disease hell-bent on beating him down. And he doesn’t need senseless and shallow fans insulting his abilities as an announcer; a job that must be incredibly tough to master.

This is where I don’t mind the Tigers’ allegiance and loyalty. I applaud them for sticking with Gibby. It will be his decision how long he wants to continue in the booth.  Keeping him engaged helps him. It strengthens him. And as fans, we should put our selfish needs aside and commend Gibby for how much he is fighting in the face of adversity.

Would you expect anything else from him? I didn’t think so.

If I read any more about how boring the broadcast is going to be with Shepard and Gibby and Morris, well then, fans have completely overvalued the team that held the jobs before them. They were as milquetoast as they come.

And milquetoast is not what you get from Jack Morris. He adds a bit of spice and edge to the broadcast. He is not afraid to be critical and will not fawn over the Tigers; something that Mario and Rod did continually.

I plan to wipe the slate clean and be ready to give this team a fresh start. And when the 2019 season is done, I firmly believe that people will feel differently about the hiring of Shepard and the familiar roles of Gibby and Jack.

Only the closed-minded ones will continue to complain.


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DIFFERENCE MAKERS

By:  Kurt Snyder

The Washington Nationals certainly made an effort.  And they may find that not being able re-sign Bryce Harper might turn their fortunes.

Harper said ‘thanks but no thanks’ to the Nats when he turned down their offer of $300 million over 10 years. I don’t know if you are with me on this but don’t teams get nervous when they offer that kind of money to one player?

How many of these teams find themselves in a bind when what they thought was their missing piece doesn’t make the difference they thought?

And doesn’t it always seem to happen? I don’t know, maybe it’s the failures that get the most attention. All I know is that the Tigers felt they could not win a championship without Miguel Cabrera. They offered him a huge extension so he could eventually lead them to the top.

But now what? Well, we sit here in a rebuild and the huge anchor of a salary belongs to Miggy.

Would we do it all over again? Well, when you think about all the factors, I’m still not sure the answer is no.

When you sign or extend a superstar, yes, you are looking for them to be a huge piece that carries you to a championship. A lot of fans would say, stop right there.

That’s all that matters to them. Help us win it. I don’t care about anything else.

But when a team considers and then pulls the trigger on a player who will make $25-30M annually, there is a whole list of things, boxes to check, that say, yeah, this is worth it.


These are the factors (and feel free to add to them):

-Attendance

-Merchandise

-Brand

-Face of the franchise

-Entertainment

-Winning

-Championships


Mike Ilitch got another big taste of what stars can do for his franchise when he traded for Miguel Cabrera. Dombrowski obliged him by handing over a hand full of top prospects for Cabrera and it has been great for the Tigers.

But it’s the way the Tigers built the team around Cabrera that has led us to this day. The signing of more stars. The departure of the farm system in trades for high-priced stars. It’s how the Tigers built the team.

Piece by piece, they dismantled what they had because they ran out of money and ran out of prospects. And who remains? The man whom we couldn’t win without, so it seemed.

But let me tell you something. We need to check ourselves. It’s really easy to sit here today as a fan and say, ‘why did they re-sign him?’ Well, come on already!

This is Miggy. The future Hall of Famer. One of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time. One of the greatest Tiger hitters ever. It is easy to say, but not easy to do.

He was everything to the Tigers. He checked the boxes on all the factors listed but one. He impacted all of them. And he was brought back to help finish the job and check the last box.

The Nationals, who have been following the Tiger formula, have built a team capable of winning division championships but not much else. And they are starting to bleed. And yet, they still offered their star, the fan favorite, their face of the franchise, $300M.

It doesn’t appear that Harper will come back go back to the Nats and they may find out it was a blessing that he didn’t. He has yet to be the difference on that team. He has not brought them a championship. But he has been exciting.

He has checked all the boxes but one. That elusive championship.

So, answer me this. Isn’t it much easier to be rationale when you are talking about someone else’s star and suggesting that they would be better without him? You can take out all of the emotion and take a good hard look at Bryce Harper and his impact on the Nationals. Bottom line:  He hasn’t made the difference when it comes to winning.

The St. Louis Cardinals were another team who had that big decision to make with Albert Pujols. It was time to re-sign him to a big contract. Surely they would. He was the face. A future Hall of Famer. The fan favorite. Heck, he even checked that elusive championship box with the Cards. (Sorry to bring that up).

But they made that tough decision. They considered how crippling it could be to bring him back. And they let him walk.  An extremely tough call, but the right call. Maybe it was because they won that title. It’s much easier to let the guy go who indeed made the difference and finished the job.

Bryce Harper hasn’t. And sadly, neither has Miggy.


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