By: Holly Horning
As we all know, the Tigers are in a rebuild. But what exactly constitutes a “rebuild”?
Is it simply changing the names on the roster or is it something more?
Does it involve a change in strategy?
Does it involve changing how things are done?
If you’ve read any of the books written by those GMs who came into an organization and successful rebuilt their teams, the answer is “yes.” Most recently, Theo Epstein has emphasized that you need to change the corporate culture first. That you need to get everyone on board – or get them to leave. That changes start at the top and trickle all the way down.
And as we know, he was successful in finally changing the Cubs. But Theo realized that the personnel within the organization was holding them back from becoming a winning culture and he was forced to replace a significant percentage of the Front Office, scouting department and other bits of the Cubs.
He emphasized that when you have a large number of personnel who have been employed by the team for a long time, it is hard to change how things are done, especially when they now skew on the older side. As stats show, as people age, they are less likely to be flexible, less likely to stay current and proactive, less likely to explore new theories and methods and less likely to change their minds. Less likely to change their ways.
Simply look around baseball. It’s happening everywhere. Gone are the days when GMs and managers worked their way up to their positions after years of working in supporting positions. The vast majority of GMs now come from outside of baseball and are as young as their mid-30’s. And more and more managers are coming into the game without having coached or managed.
So what do the Tigers’ personnel look like?
I looked at everyone’s employment history (so you don’t have to) and found a number of patterns. First, that turnover is almost non-existent. The only real changes seen have been in developing and hiring the analytics department and some turnover in scouting. And Ron Gardenhire “inherited” half of his coaching staff.
But all of the most important decision-makers are still there – and have been for quite awhile. They are the nucleus that have stayed together for decades despite the different teams and several GMs.
Think of the Tigers personnel in the form of a family tree. Almost everyone is “related” to everyone else. There are very few people who have come from other teams without a work history that ties back to the Tigers. It is a very insular group which means that how things are seen and analyzed tend to be of the same group-think.
The main branch is related to Dave Dombrowski with a secondary branch associated with Jim Leyland.
Dave’s first real job with power was with Montreal, followed by the Marlins and finally, the Tigers. He brought a number of personnel with him from Montreal to Florida and finally to Detroit. Many of the employees still found in the Tigers’ directory.
Employees who go back decades with Dave. We’re talking all the way back to the 1980’s.
And of course, Jim Leyland managed the Marlins under Dombrowski. But there is also a chunk of personnel that date back to his days with the Pirates.
It all makes for a small, insular group of similarly-minded employees who have known each other for decades. They are comfortable with each other. And most probably, loathe to rock the boat or even want someone new with fresh, advanced ideas about how to rebuild to join their cozy club. Replacing someone within their own family would be unthinkable.
And when Trader Dave left Detroit, he took no Tigers personnel with him. It was reported that Avila’s first job was to lock everyone into contracts so they couldn’t leave for Boston.
I’ve assembled a list of the most important personnel with the dates that first ties them to the organization.
These dates include:
– When they first started working for Dave (Expos, Marlins, Tigers) or Leyland (Pirates, Marlins, Tigers).
– In a few cases, some left the Tigers for a year or two and then returned. Not everyone listed has been continuously employed by Detroit the entire time.
– A number of the most influential employees do not have resumes that are made available to the public. If you don’t see a certain name, that is why.
– In most cases, the doctors do not list the length of time they have been working with the Tigers. It also appears that 2-3 of them are employed under the umbrella of sports medicine company founded by one of them. From the information found, it would appear they were hired as a package deal rather than hired based upon their independent qualifications. They work for the same company as well as the same hospital. Several of them report that they are also the team doctors to the Wings, Lions and Pistons.
Al Avila – 1992
Duane McLean – 2003
David Chadd – 2001
Scott Bream – 1999
Dave Littlefield – 1994
All former Tigers players – Al Kaline, Willie Horton, Alan Trammell, Dick Egan who have been in their positions for decades for different owners and multiple GMs.
Jim Leyland – A special assistant since 2013 but dates all the way back to 1963 with the Tigers.
Mike Russell – 1996
Jay Sartori – 2016
Sam Menzin – 2012
Jim Logue – 2016
Manny Crespo – 1996
Tom Moore – 2006
(Four others who have no findable bios.)
Scott Pleis – 2007
Bruce Tanner – 2007 (but even earlier with Jim Leyland)
Eric Nieto – 2013
Randy Johnson – early 2000’s
Jim Olander – early 2000’s
Jimmy Rough – early 2000’s
Murray Cook – early 2000’s
Don Kelly – 2001 (as scout since 2015)
Joe Ferrone – 2003
Ray Crone – 2015
Jim Elliott – 2017
Kevin Ellis – 2017
Paul Mirocke – 2017
Yadalla Mufdi – 2017
Kevin Rand – 1993
Doug Teter – 1995
Matt Rankin – 1996
Robbie Williams – 2017
Chris Walter – 2005
Yousef Zamat – 2006
Michael Workings – no published date
Stephen Lemos – 2006
Louis Saco – no published date
MANAGER AND COACHES
Ron Gardenhire – 2018
Lloyd McClendon – 1990
Phil Clark – 1992
Rick Anderson – 2018
Ramon Santiago – 2002
Dave Clark – 1992
Steve Liddle – 2018
Jeff Pico – 2018
Joe Vavra – 2018
John Murrian – 2009
What will the off-season bring?
Probably no real changes as it pertains to the personnel behind the scenes. It’s already been announced that every single coach will be returning next year.
No surprise there.
Will we witness more of the same group-think? Will we finally see the Tigers take that leap forward and surprise us with some cutting-edge changes?
Will this be a complete or partial rebuild?
As long as the power structure doesn’t change, can we expect more of the same?