By:  Holly Horning

Let’s continue the multi-part analysis about why the Tigers were unable to achieve their ultimate goal for over a decade. There are lots of moving parts, with some of them having greater impact than others.

If you didn’t read the intro and the first 3 installments of this series, catch them here:

Today, we’re going to cover 2 of the biggest factors. Let’s file them under “A” for…..


It’s interesting that despite different owners over the decades, the trend of the Tigers being among the very last to adopt the most important trends has remained a constant. The second-to-last team to integrate a full 11 years after the first. The last team to start using computers. Among the very last to include analytics and a correlating software program. Also near the bottom of MLB in developing a manual on the standard of play.

And the pattern of behavior carries out into the field as well. The continued failure to see the rise in importance of the bullpen for over a decade. The dependence upon using starting pitchers as long as possible and into the dreaded third go-around into the batting lineup when stats show this is where teams can lose games. Ignoring the importance of the defensive game and how it saves games. The list goes on.

This has been a team that historically is always the last to change. They are a reluctantly reactive team, rather than a proactive one. And teams that are slow to change are often those actually afraid of it. But is the failure to heed the lessons of adapt-or-die the result of the same established group in charge, the lack of knowledge, resources and even leadership? Or it is the result of all of them?

And now this failure to address the future has left the team significantly behind as they attempt to rebuild. How long will it take them to catch up? How long of a rebuild will this actually be?


Before we can even discuss this aspect that is now a major contributor to the sport, we need to understand what analytics is – and what it isn’t.

It’s not just number-crunching. It is not a system that ignores the expert eye or the human element. It is not a computer named Hal that takes over from an organization or a manager. It is also not a system that reduces the manager to sitting in a dugout tapping at his keyboard instead of looking at the field.

Analytics is an extremely thorough collection of data from a variety of mediums – scouts, coaches, historical data, trends, numbers, video and an assorted collection of stats that are correlated to performance. All of this is run through supercomputers and then shared among the Front Office so they can discover which potential players will fit their needs the best. It is shared among the manager and his coaches so they can determine lineups and in-game strategies. And it is shared with the players who use it to enhance their performance and help them develop a strategy about how to pitch to a batter or where to stand in the field.

And any member of that organization can request the analytics department to run a program that is specific to what they want to learn, correct or enhance. Which brings us to…..

Justin Verlander.

We all know Justin has had the tools but didn’t have the success with the Tigers that correctly reflected his effort or potential. Now with the Astros – a team that has the best analytics in MLB – he is 8-0 with a miniscule ERA. Coincidence? Think he simply went to a team that gave him run support? Of course not.

Reporters are now doing stories on JV’s move to Houston. Interviews with him describe a system where he felt like a “kid in a candy store” when presented with what the analytics department could do for him. Their reports helped him add another highly-effective pitch to his arsenal – all in less than 2 weeks. They had a super high-speed camera that showed him every frame of his pitching form and that is where he saw how his grip could be improved to turn his forgotten slider into a highly nasty one. He spends days preparing for each start with all sorts of info he custom-orders from the analytics department.

And within these stories are quotes from an “anonymous” former Tigers pitching coach who said they were forbidden to use analytics in their work. A long-term manager who refused to use the tool or even look at any info given to him. And a former GM who didn’t believe in it. Let me now also refer you back to the ANCIENT category above.

This is what analytics can do for you if you have it. It is also a cautionary tale about how your current talent is not fully utilized or effective when you can’t offer them what other teams are giving theirs. And a warning about how seriously compromised your team becomes when they don’t have the tools everyone else does.

On Sunday, we’ll continue the analysis as we talk strategies, money and the intangibles.

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Now the real fun begins!

If you were looking for Kurt’s and Holly’s dueling blogs today, we’ve got a surprise for you…

Now that the off-season is here, Totally Tigers is just getting ramped up. This is the season of intrigue and even more in-depth discussion. Hopefully, lots will be happening with the team over the next 4 months, and we plan on covering it all. So stay tuned and visit us every day because there will always be a new blog to read and discuss.

But we have something more. We want our readers to weigh in and help craft our vision for the off-season. We want your ideas! Today, we ask that you leave comments about what you want to see. Ideas re topics, new formats, new ways of interacting. Tell it all to us and don’t be shy. We can honestly say that we have the best and most thoughtful readers on any Tigers’ blog. We know you won’t disappoint us.

We’ll publish your comments so everyone can get inspired. Come up with your own – or add onto someone else’s. We’ll even break the rules and allow you to post more than once! (You can always suggest topics and ideas throughout the year via the comment box.)

And to get you excited about the upcoming months, we’ll have a mystery guest writer who is an expert on the Tigers sit down with us for a little Q&A.

So grab your keyboards and let’s get crackin’!

Totally Tigers reminds readers to follow the rules found above the Comment box as well as those listed under the Rules tab. Comments not meeting these requirements cannot be published.  


By:  Holly Horning

No doubt about it, last Thursday’s epic marathon bench-clearer will be remembered by everyone who saw it. We’ll even be telling our grandkids about this “brawlgame.” And it may just go down in history as the biggest hellacious baseball battle ever.

Personally, I lost track of how many fights broke out. How many times the dugouts emptied. How many pig piles of players were formed. And how many players got hit. I only remember how many got ejected and the list of names resembled a lineup card.

It’s taken me a few days to sort out this mess and try to make sense of it. As they say, “It’s complicated.”

But the skirmish on the field was about more than a player – or 2…… or 3……..or 4 or…. – getting hit. It may have also been about the Tigers’ frustration over having MLB’s worst August record of 5-16. Or maybe the simmering frustration over 4 years of futility. Or maybe the realization that the baseball bubble has officially burst for the Tigers and that dark days are ahead. Or all of the above.

Lots of layers to digest. And lots of players to address. And thus, I feel this blog needs to be a therapy session for all of us. So here are all of my observations and perspectives on the game. Some smack-on combined with a heapin’ helpin’ of irony and humor to help ease the pain. Let’s dig in…..

1. Fans got to see three sports on Thursday. They came to see a baseball game that broke out into a hockey match and segued into a heavyweight fight.

2. Fans got to see a free fight instead of paying for the Mayweather–McGregor fight. Gary Sanchez threw more punches than either of Vegas’ headliners.

3. After the fight, the Tigers’ Marketing Department quickly huddled to discuss future strategies. They were overheard describing the day’s game as “genius.”

4. Too bad that it takes a massive brawl to see some passion exhibited by Tigers’ players.

5. In the olden days, teams were reluctant to fight the Tigers because of the threat of Willie Horton. Too bad Bruce Rondon was back in Toledo.

6. Speaking of Rondon, he is wondering why he’s the one who got singled out about this double-standard of fighting.

7. Tigers’ broadcasters may want to rethink their promos for future games. Especially when they say “This weekend, the Tigers will battle the White Sox.” Let’s also re-think “The Tigers will take on Chicago.”

8. Announcers may also want to define the term “slugging” whenever they use it going forward.

9. I’ve never seen Brad Ausmus so mad in his 4 years with Detroit. He didn’t spit once for an entire 5 minutes during one of the on-field fights.

10. Who says Nick Castellanos doesn’t move his feet quickly? He was the first one to vault over the dugout railing when the first fight broke out.

11. Where was Justin Upton in any of the melees? Oh, that’s right, protecting his future paycheck.

12. The game was truly remarkable in that Gene Lamont was actually seen getting up from his seat, standing and walking. He even left the dugout once.

13. Maybe someone needs to really tick off Iggy every day to get him to field and hit the way he did in Thursday’s game. He’s never been more fired up.

14. There is the “game within a game” analysis. The Tigers have introduced the “fight within the fight” with their dugout dustup between VMart, Castellanos and JV.

15. Contrary to what some have written, JV did not extend his middle finger to VMart. He’s got Kate to do that.

16. VMart should really be fearing Kate Upton. She posts really mean tweets that tend to freely use the “f-bomb”.

17. Miggy may have thrown the first punch but he wasn’t the one who started it. Romine grabbing him in 2 different situations and then throwing down his mask was the challenge to fight.

18. As we’ve often seen this year, Miggy had a hard time connecting. This time with his fists to a face.

19. Dellin Betances didn’t intentionally bean James McCann? Riiight……

20. Even Brad didn’t think Betances’ beaning of McCann was intentional. Yet another example of exemplary leadership and astute analysis on display.

21. No fine or suspension for Betances? This is what happens when you have a former Yankee in charge of punishing current Yankees.

22. The dirtiest player in all the battles, Gary Sanchez, got only a 4-game suspension. What a wonderful message to send to kids, MLB.

23. Want to bet that Gary Sanchez will do this again? So much for offering teachable moments to the young guys in MLB.

24. Who didn’t see the unfair and unbalanced suspensions coming? A NYer based in NY ruling in favor of his NY team taking into consideration the hell storm Yankee suspensions would have caused among the media, fans and loss of tv revenue for MLB.

25. Another wonderful MLB life lesson for parents to try to explain to their kids. ‘Fess up and tell the truth and you will be punished like Alex Wilson. Lie like a rug despite the obvious evidence and you will get off scot-free.

26. MLB has set so many wonderful examples and teaching moments with their decisions for families to emulate. If MLB was actually a parent, Social Services would have visited by now.

27. Analysts blamed Brad for not controlling his players during the numerous brawls. Just another example of Brad not managing well. Tell us something new.

28. Andrew Romine was heard on the phone saying to his parents “But Mom…….. Austin started it!”

29. Do you wonder how long it took the umpires to hit the bar after the game? Or how many drinks each of them had?

30. The Tigers have redefined the role of spoilers and taken it to a new level. Upcoming opponents are quaking in their cleats.

31. And we think NYers are dirty and combative. Detroit has put the world on notice that MidWesterners can hold their own!

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  By:  Holly Horning

Let’s go way back in time – 5 short years, actually – to 2012 when a messy divorce and resulting chaos and debt necessitated that the Los Angeles Dodgers be sold to a group of investors.

After 2 years in which they finished 1st in their division but failed to advance to the World Series, the new owners brought in a President, Andrew Friedman and started replacing management.  First, their GM, Ned Colletti and a year after that, their manager, Don Mattingly.  The owners weren’t happy that having one of the highest payrolls in MLB did not bring the expected results.

In addition to Friedman, the catalyst for their amazing performance since then rests with their GM, Farhan Zaidi – an unlikely candidate because he did not come from baseball.  What he did have was a Bachelor of Science degree from MIT and and PhD in behavioral economics.  And his entry into baseball was fueled by reading Moneyball.

Zaidi is known as being highly creative and an innovator.  His strength is stats and he was the first to coordinate analytics with scouting.  Along with Friedman, the two also completely changed the corporate culture of the Dodgers.

They tore down the walls between the Front Office, field staff and the players – regularly meeting with them, sharing extensive data and charts and bouncing ideas off each other.  The players say that the info they are given – as well as the info they request – is off the map and helps them perform to their maximum abilities.

They also went outside the organization and hired a variety of executives from at least 6 different organizations.  Friedman and Zaidi are credited with understanding that the right kind of Front Office talent was just as important as the talent in the dugout.  They also understood that team chemistry was another priority and the focus on it was instrumental in changing the corporate culture in both the employees on and off the field.

Kenley Jansen said it best. “When I first got here, there were a lot of islands in the clubhouse. A lot of islands. A lot of egos. A lot of me-type personalities.  We had the best talent in the league, but it never clicked. We couldn’t go any farther.

“There are no egos. Everyone understands that we need everyone to win. And no one takes anything for granted.

“Finally, we are a real team.’’

And while they established analytic programs and team chemistry, the Dynamic Duo also tackled the issues created by a top-heavy roster.  They increased the depth and flexibility of talent while also cutting payroll from $300 million to this year’s $242 mill.

Zaidi was the mastermind behind changing the policy of having rigid roles for relievers and a static batting order.  He and his manager, Dave Roberts, coordinated on having a daily assessment of where they were that determined what would be done for games rather than having a set-in-stone lineup card.

And like Theo Epstein, they challenged the players to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

They are the architects of a team that could have the best record in 105 years, even with top players like Clayton Kershaw on the DL.

This is a team that, like the Tigers, hasn’t won a World Series in decades.  Just 4 years shorter than the Tigers.  And the Dodgers, with their amazing record, have whittled their payroll down so the difference between the two teams sits just slightly south of $42 million.

There is an eerie parallel between the old Dodgers and the Tigers of the past decade.

There is also a striking similarity of the differences talent like Theo Epstein, Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi can make with a team.

Their focus on corporate culture, team chemistry, analytics and creativity will be the blueprint for all teams going forward.  And the Tigers have to change their 40+year old pattern of being the last to adopt new ways, new thinking and technology.

The question to ask is whether those at the top recognize the importance of what these trailblazers have done and whether they will admit that this organization is severely lacking in all of these areas.

We’ll find out in just a few short months.






By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Today, we revisit a topic that was very popular in the past. And it continues to be an interesting scenario to consider.

As is the norm, Kurt and Holly have not shared their responses to the following topic; the best way for our readers to get the biggest bang for their buck. So here we go.

The S.S. Ilitch is taking on water and going down. Unfortunately, there is only 1 lifeboat on board that seats 5. Out of the passengers – owner, GM, manager, coaches and the 25-man roster, which 5 should be saved so they see 2018 with the Tigers – and why?


Every good team is built well up the middle. A strong catcher, second and short combination as well as a centerfielder possessing all the tools both offensively and defensively; they are all components that will find their way onto the lifeboat.

Unfortunately, the Tigers don’t have all those components to build a strong up-the-middle core; but they are close. And speaking of up-the-middle, pitching will always be a huge attribute. So if we have any to build on, they find their way onto the boat. After that, this cannot be a boat full of Tigers without the Big Fella.

1. Miggy – Although Cabrera is having one of the most difficult seasons of his career, I am confident 2018 will be different for him. All indications point to the need to begin a lesser role defensively and also I would expect some change in management, beginning with Brad Ausmus; a move I believe Miggy will welcome.

2. McCann – You may be shocked by this, but I still see James McCann as the catcher of the future for the Tigers. Many have thought the Tigers could afford to unload James, but he is the one with all the potential; strong arm, athletic behind the plate and a leader, which we can’t take lightly.

3. Kinsler – Ian, even as he heads into his mid 30’s, represents a whole bunch of leadership swagger. He more than anyone else is the guts and the glue for the Tigers; he’s not only on the boat, he’s helping guys onboard.

4. Iggy – You cannot underestimate the value of a rock solid, defensive wizard at the shortstop position. Jose Iglesias is a gold-glover in waiting and deserves to anchor the Tiger infield for years to come.

5. Fulmer – I don’t know if there is much to say here. Of course he’s on the boat.


Before you can select the “final five”, you gotta pick your goal for the future. And for me, it’s pretty clear about the direction this team has been taking over the past couple of years so it’s time to rip that band-aid off in one single pull and go for an up-front rebuild before it gets really, really ugly.

For the most part, I am going younger, leaner, less expensive and possessing more tools – with a couple of exceptions. Players who were crucial to have, like closers, won’t be as important going forward short-term, which is why you won’t find them on my life boat. But I’m also putting a focus on athletes with energy, attitude and attention. Oh, and ones who are hungry. All aboard……

1. Michael Fulmer – No explanation necessary.

2. Mikie Mahtook – He’s reverting to the promise seen in 2015 and already meeting or eclipsing those stats with more than 2 more months to go. Minimum salary, only 27 years old, better range, better defense and faster.

3. Ian Kinsler – The guy never gives up, has a tremendous work ethic, top defensive skills and is the glue and leader that holds this team together. He’ll be needed to mentor the young and all these factors easily outweigh his age and contract.

4. Matt Boyd – He’s had amazing growth this year both with his mental game and pitch development and he’s someone who could easily be part of that 1-2 punch with Fulmer. Don’t mistake his unevenness this year for lack of talent because it’s really a typical path for a starting pitcher who just turned 26 in spring training and has been in the majors for less than 2 years.

5. Miggy – I don’t buy the excuse that his alarming total lack of emotion and focus is solely based upon injury or Venezuela – both issues that have plagued him for the past 2-3 years without impacting his performance to this degree. Don’t be surprised if changes made within the Front Office, managerial/coaching levels and medical/training/conditioning show a resurgence of one of baseball’s best hitters.


By:  Holly Horning

Hi, my name is Holly and I’m a screecher. Chances are that you’re one, too. Wear this label with pride because it indicates that you prefer to take what you see and analyze it before making your own independent decision – instead of accepting the constant spoon-feeding of sunshine and lollipops by the local Detroit media. Let’s throw in unicorns, too – they’re very trendy these days.

So from where did this moniker come? From the very media (and other figures who lurk in the shadows) who read and monitor the social media threads attached to each article.

Within the past two weeks, each coordinated to appear after a Tigers’ win, a flurry of articles – reading like PR releases – appeared in quick succession. Four in 2 days between 2 newspapers. And now during the All-Star break, and after a win, another 3.

Did these newspapers just happen to hit upon the same idea at the same time? Did multiple reporters just happen to select the same themes on the same days? The same tone, the same message, the same disparaging comments?

Coincidence? You know the answer to that one.

But these articles go one step further by insulting the fans and readers who dare break rank and say that the emperor has no clothes. Or at least believe that he’s only wearing boxer briefs.

Here’s just a brief sampling of the phrases used to describe the fans who are not 100% on board with the direction of this team just from 2 days last week:

– “the masses with fire and pitchforks”

– “shrieking”

– “howling”

– “shouting”

– “hysteria”

– “swathed in abject negativity”

– “(they) continue to wallow in the wake of the losing streak”

– “no matter how dug in some of the fan base”

– “to appease a screaming portion of the fan base”

– “a multitude of screechers insist”

Yet, in these very same articles, here are the adjectives they use to describe Al Avila and Brad Ausmus:

– “confident”

– “positive”

– “calming”

– “in charge”

– “honest”

– “sensational” (my personal fave)

– “outstanding”

But they and their partners are just not going through the comment threads looking for topics to attack. They’re going through other media, too. Like blogs. Like Totally Tigers. One who has an uncanny pattern of directly addressing my social media comments and blog content within 24 hours in his own column. Another journalist who has blatantly swiped Kurt’s 20 (monthly) Thoughts and turned it into his 10 (monthly) Thoughts, even incorporating the same format, tone and writing style.

Ah, but before I digress…..

The ones who wrote these articles are rude, snide and condescending. And this is what blows my mind. What organizations out there allow their employees to insult their readers, their customers? Many of them who pay for this service? Many of whom they depend upon for their “clicks” that help generate income? In an industry that is bleeding readership and revenue?

If you’re from the Detroit area, or only read the local papers, you may have gotten used to this kind of treatment. Maybe even think it is normal. But I’m here to tell you it’s not.

I have lived on the East Coast for many years – first in Boston and for decades now, Washington, DC. And the journalists here behave very differently. No one within the Boston Red Sox or Washington Nationals organizations is safe from criticism. There are no sacred cows. Not a one.

Reporters call out anyone who is deserving. They ask thoughtful questions. And they treat their readers with respect while understanding that the fan base is very knowledgeable overall.

And they come across as professional and caring about the sport they cover. I personally know one of the lead journalists for the Nats who has described his profession’s need to be honest with the fans about what they see and to always report with integrity.

These are the same people who have called out the owner of the team, the Nats’ GM and the manager when warranted. Even Bryce Harper on occasion. Can you imagine the Detroit scribes criticizing the Tigers’ Teflon Trio? Or even Bryce’s equivalent – Miggy? Yeah, riiiiight…..

When Bryce Harper was caught half-heartedly jogging to first base, he was roundly criticized in the press. (Btw, he didn’t do that again.) Matt Williams, the rookie manager hired at the same time as Ausmus, came under regular scrutiny about his weaknesses and inability to successfully lead the team. GM Mike Rizzo’s moves and non-moves were analyzed for both the good and the bad.  The media even ventured to speculate that if he didn’t meet certain goals, he would be gone at the end of the year.

The point is that the Washington readers, for the most part, are more likely to believe what they read. More likely to trust the opinions shared with them. More likely to see why the team is performing well – or not so well. There is very little difference between what the reporters see and the majority of the fan base.

And the ability of the media here to objectively highlight the successes and failures is one of the reasons why this team made sweeping changes back in the fall of 2015. A team that appeared to be the East Coast equivalent of the Tigers with an elderly owner, skyrocketing payroll, the regular presence of Scott Boras, a modus operandi of collecting free agents, a rookie manager with no experience, a bad bullpen and a team plagued by poorly-conditioned and often-injured players.

Simply put, the media can be a crucial element in inspiring a sports team to change. Conversely, white-washing reality only serves to perpetuate poor performance.

Consider what might have been over the past 10 years if some feet had been held to the fire – instead of being put on a pedestal.


Happy Fourth, everyone! On this holiday weekend, enjoy a blog published last week.

And as we work towards the July trade deadline, consider how these scenarios may change if and when the Tigers start trading players. Is it an opportunity for the team to use these losses as an excuse for them to maintain the status quo?

Totally Tigers

By:  Holly Horning

If you’ve been reading and commenting in the social media threads about the Tigers, you’ve noticed that the drumbeat for a managerial change has only gotten louder. Fans demanding immediate change.

And you can’t blame them.

But are Chris Ilitch and Al Avila dragging their heels over this now that things have come to a rather serious head?

Not necessarily.

And that’s because in order to eliminate a problem, you’ve got to have a solution in place first and ready for implementation.

In my last blog, I outlined the biggest reason why Ausmus needs to be replaced. The number of players coming out publicly to diss his methods. The fact that it now appears visible to all that Brad has lost the clubhouse and maybe the biggest reason why the team is so listless, disinterested and not playing the way they should be.

And the fact that…

View original post 752 more words


By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

After 72 games (32-40), the Tigers are plummeting and fast, sitting in last place when this post went to press, which in a morbid sort of way, will make the next month pretty darn interesting.

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.



There is a reason why Tigers fans are often apoplectic over a number of Brad Ausmus’ in-game moves. A study was published that ranked all of MLB’s current managers based upon their strategic and tactical acumen. No one should be surprised to learn that Ausmus ranks #29 out of 30.


I’m now at a loss for words (and that is hard, folks!) after Brad used KRod twice within this past week in high-leverage situations and eventual losses – and I have to think he made these moves for reasons other than the actual game. Was it: To send a message to Al Avila? To hasten KRod’s departure from the team? To put KRod in his place? Or did he see the writing on the wall about his future with the team and decided he wanted out by inducing his own firing? (It appears he got at least one of his wishes Friday night.)


More than one analyst is asking how the Tigers failed to keep Cameron Maybin while also getting fleeced in the process of trading him. Maybin is leading the AL in steals, scored 46 runs for the Angels (tops on the team), hitting .277 and has an OPS of .829. Mike Scioscia has maximized Maybin’s talents and the entire team credits him as the firestarter – which couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.



Now that the Tigers have dismissed KRod from Detroit, it adds another layer of mistrust in the ability of Al Avila to make smart deals for the ballclub. Why the Tigers didn’t think they could get a better deal involving KRod prior to the season instead of Maybin, I just don’t know. Instead, Rodriguez stuck around long enough for the Tigers to get absolutely nothing, while Cam continues to thrive with the Angels.


Every year it seems, the demise of the Tigers always includes the word “underperforming.” Why is that exactly? Why do they underperform? Whose responsibility is it to get the most out of their talent?


Almost as quickly as KRod complained about his ‘mop-up’ role in the pen, Brad gave him a bigger role in the now overused term ‘high-leverage’ situations. You make the choice. Was Brad catering to one of his stars to shut them up or was he giving Rodriguez enough rope to predictably hang himself?


By:  Holly Horning

Last week, I wrote a series of blogs that connected the actions the Tigers might take given the evidence that supports the team being readied for a sale. If you didn’t read them, well then, my feelings are hurt. But here’s your chance to redeem yourself by either checking them out – or sending me an apology gift of shoes from Neiman’s.

In summary, teams are usually unlikely to rock the boat before changing ownership. They are loath to make changes that could potentially destabilize the team and to give contracts that extend beyond the current season. It creates problems and additional costs for potential owners as the current owners seek to “stage” the team for sale.

However, I listed one condition in which the team would make changes, specifically managerial changes. And we’ve reached that point after this weekend. Let’s explore the more visible examples….

It started with:

– Players blatantly running through Dave Clark’s signs and Clark throwing those runners under the bus publicly.

– An increased lack of emotion with few players smiling or showing much emotion at all, especially Miggy. A walk-off Grand Slam by Upton was met with tepid response by all and only a half-hearted celebration by a small number of players at home plate.

It escalated to:

– Ausmus subtly blaming Al Avila for the lack of quality arms in the bullpen.

– A planned public dinner between Ausmus and Avila that resulted in the infamous “kiss of death” statement of support and non-stop media tour in support of Brad.

– KRod going to the media to blame both Ausmus and Dubee for his plight.

It came to a head with:

– Miggy’s visible disapproval of Ausmus’ pick-off strategy with his pointing to the dugout and call of “Let’s go” during a nationally-televised game. Add Brad’s statement afterwards: “ Quite frankly, I don’t care about it (Miggy’s reaction).”

The cracks are becoming more visible and more frequent. But the biggest concern is that Tigers have always been a team that has kept their disagreements from being aired to the public. They have always been a team of discretion and appropriate behavior. And for the first time in many years, we are seeing things that the paying public is not supposed to view.

And this is the stuff that ends up getting the manager canned. Ausmus has officially lost control of the clubhouse.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written about how eerily similar the Tigers are to the Washington Nationals. Two teams who went the manager-without-experience route. And the Nats showed Matt Williams the door in 2015 for the same reasons. He lost the respect of his players and they showed him up publicly.

In Ausmus’ case, he has made the franchise face of the Tigers not just angry, but now feeling regularly exasperated by the managerial moves. And in today’s game, it is no longer about supporting the manager. It is about making your star players, who are still owed over $184 million, happy. Because if they aren’t, their production will suffer and their discontent will spread throughout the clubhouse. Not a good return on your investment if you are the owner.

And consider that given the size of that contract, Miggy’s age and his public confession of his various injuries, he’s not leaving Detroit. Someone else will. The guy making approximately $1 mill this year.

And it’s not hard to imagine that the players are also calling the shots. Maybe they always have been. Maybe Brad’s long-term strategy was to guide by friendship and not anger players. Maybe he saw what happened to Matt Williams. This may explain why VMart remained in the clean-up spot, JV has been allowed to stay in games, Upton played through a serious slump for 3 months and visibly-injured players refused to go on the DL.

It may also support the universally unhappy and unemotional faces of the majority of the team. It is no longer about the occasional games of seeing disinterested players. On most nights, the team looks like they have checked out. They certainly look like they no longer care.

And this could also be a reason why production is down in almost every single player. Except for Alex Avila. (Draw your own conclusions about this one.) When you are no longer a cohesive clubhouse, you simply don’t care anymore.

And in some cases, not trying your hardest gets you the desired results a little sooner.

If we are lucky, this will become a question of “when”, not “if.” A road trip out West is not the time to make changes, but an off-day (June 26th) just might be.

The only question left to answer is who will take Brad’s place. Whether the Tigers are pleading with Jim Leyland to man the helm for 3 more months. Or whether they will roll the dice with McClendon or Vizquel.

The only thing we can expect is that any new manager will be an interim one. And for good reason.


By:  Holly Horning

Will he or won’t he? Will he stay or will he go? Will they stay put or will they sell?

To whom am I referring? Actually, all of these questions could be applied to Chris, Al, Brad and the entire roster. And it’s all because things are starting to get complicated with this team. Some of it their own doing, some of it not.

The calls for the heads of our GM and manager are getting louder. Fans have become disappointed and gotten tired of waiting. And if you read the social media threads, more and more are indicating that they will go on an extended vay-cay if changes aren’t made, especially when it comes to the longevity of a certain GM and manager.

But will keeping Avila and Ausmus send a message that the Ilitch family is happy with their performances? Maybe not.

Because the decision to keep them may be based entirely on something else. And it involves the potential sale of the team.

You won’t read about it in the local papers but the financial ones are providing evidence that ownership is exploring options. And during one of the recent telecasts, the broadcasters showed footage of Steve Greenberg visiting his father’s statue at Comerica. What they didn’t mention, and what they may not know, is that Greenberg was in Detroit for board meetings.

Steve is a dealmaker, specializing in the buying and selling of sports teams. And he’s been a long-term advisor to the Ilitch family.

Let’s save the discussion about the rationale for selling the team for another day. What’s important here is to understand that decisions about all Tigers personnel will be based, in part, upon the possibility of a sale.

If the team goes on the market, don’t expect to hear about it. Or see it advertised on Craigslist. And it definitely won’t happen during the baseball season. That’s the quickest way to destabilize an organization and send fans fleeing towards the exits.

In all likelihood, Ilitch Holdings is going to wait until the sale of the Marlins is finalized so they can use that information to bolster their asking price.

But if the team is going to be sold, Chris Ilitch has to enhance its perceived value. Homes that are being prepped for sale use stagers and selling a baseball team is no different. Things need to be put in order so that the team is framed correctly in order to attract the highest bidder.

Obviously, part of that revolves around paring down payroll. But also, having minimal contract commitments. Any new owner doesn’t want to be tied down with people they didn’t hire. And they certainly don’t want to have to pay out on existing contracts when they decide to bring in their own replacements.

Which is why a potential sale will partially impact whether Brad stays or goes. Whether his contract expires or is extended for another year. Whether anything longer than a single year will also tell us about Chris’ intention towards keeping the team.

As for Al Avila, his contract runs through 2020. Not known is whether there is a clause that addresses contractual obligation in case of a sale.

Will there be any management departures before the end of the 2017 season? Highly improbable. Firings tend to destabilize an organization on a short-term basis and if the Tigers are indeed going into sell mode, it may impact their asking price. Timing is everything.

On Sunday, join us for It’s Complicated, Part 2. when we delve further into the issues surrounding the future of the manager and why the timing of a potential sell-off is more important than we may think.