DAD ALL ABOUT FAMILIES BOTH HOME AND AWAY

By:  Kurt Snyder

Sunday was my 5th Father’s Day without my Dad. He died just shy of his 91st birthday. If you are blessed to be able to be healthy enough to celebrate birthdays in your 90’s, these are victories. And as sons, we are surely lucky to have had our Dad part of our lives for so long.

So in honor of my dad on Father’s Day, it made sense to repost a popular story from the Ralph Snyder Archives.   It will be a familiar story to  you; an appropriate one I will continue to share when Father’s Day rolls around.


My dad died on April 6th, 2013, three days before my mom’s birthday. We proclaimed at his funeral back then that it all made perfect sense. Throughout all of those 62 years together, he had never missed her birthday and he wasn’t about to start.

He was just always about being with her and loved it when we were all together. He was happiest when he had his family gathered around him.

And Father’s Day reminds me of how much he honored family and baseball at the same time. Even at the ballpark.

When he managed Tiger Stadium, he was a great ambassador for the game, because he respected it so much. And during games, he was all business. There was much to be concerned with, but above all, the game was center stage and the field was sacred ground. Anything or anyone that dishonored the game or disrupted it, would be dealt with immediately. And we found ourselves covering our eyes sometimes when Dad took action.

Opening Day back in the 70’s and 80’s always seemed to mean at least one fan would run on the field during the game, someone with a full dose of liquid courage; some with clothes, some without, halting play until the fool could be corralled and removed so the game could resume.

If those people knew what they had waiting for them after being taken away, maybe they would have stayed in their seats. It was made crystal clear afterward that running onto the field was a no-no. Let’s just say that the red carpet wasn’t rolled out for these folks after they reached the police room.

But what made all of us cringe was when Dad would have fans removed who found themselves on the field after trying to reach for a foul ball rolling along the wall. It didn’t matter who they were. On most occasions it was the guy trying desperately and unsuccessfully to not spill his beer while reaching for a ball at the same time, ultimately finding himself in a puddle of suds on the field. That guy would undoubtedly earn his escort out of the park.

But what would you think about a man who could throw a dad or his son out of the game because they slipped over the wall, onto the field, trying to reach a prized baseball? It could have been a young family of 4 attending a ballgame for the very first time, it didn’t matter, so it seemed.

The crowd would be furious, booing loudly and understandably so, when a dad and his son or daughter, with puzzled looks on their faces, would be escorted by security from their seats. What kind of cold-hearted soul runs this place anyhow?

But we knew our father. Dad loved family and he loved baseball. So you might ask yourself, “What’s really going on here?”

Dad was sending a message. To him it was quite simple. You bought a ticket to sit in a seat and enjoy a baseball game and the field was for the players, not the fans. And before every game, it was announced that anyone interfering with a ball in play was subject to dismissal; anyone entering the field of play was subject to dismissal. Anyone. There were no qualifiers. The message was clear, stay off the field. And what would send a better message than watching a young family escorted from their seats?

But do you really think my dad would disappoint a kid? Do you really think he would ruin a family outing to his ballpark because they wanted a baseball so badly?

When a family would be removed, suddenly Dad was gone and headed to his office. You see, security knew who to throw out and who to take to Dad’s office. Families visited Dad. The guy spilling beer all over the place found himself walking to his car.

Dad would invite fathers and mothers with their kids to his office. He sat them down, learned a little about them, asked the kid(s) who their favorite player was and explained to them why it was so important to never go on the field. He then gave them new seats somewhere else in the park, and often better seats than they had purchased. But no one ever knew. No one else needed to know. Message sent.

There were people he wanted in those seats. And he wanted to spread the gospel about the great game of baseball. He wanted the game to be respected by everyone. And families were the target audience. He wanted them there most. And he wanted them back. Kids grew up playing baseball; and going to a Tiger game especially to a baseball treasure like Tiger Stadium was a dream come true for a lot of them.

So, the ones that had the “pleasure” of being brought to Dad’s office during the game more than likely went on to tell the story about the great guy who ran Tiger Stadium and what he did for them.

These are the kinds of things that happen during a baseball game, things you never knew were going on. And if you did know, it wasn’t always what it seemed. In every walk of life, my dad, Ralph Snyder, was all about family and baseball. What a great man. What a great father. Happy Fathers Day, Big Guy!

 

IT’S COMPLICATED (Part 2)

By:  Holly Horning

On Wednesday, we started to address the issues surrounding potential upcoming changes in Tigers management. In Part 1, the focus was on the possible off-season sale of the team as a major determining factor. Catch it here at:

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/its-complicated-part-1/


But there are other variables which will influence whether changes are made. And when.

Ausmus is the most likely first person to exit given that ownership almost always supports the GM over the manager. But most General Managers are loathe to fire their field manager because it then exposes them to termination once the manager leaves. Let’s face it – the manager receives the lion’s share of the blame, whether deserved or not, and serves as employment protection for their boss.

As mentioned in the earlier blog https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/06/10/cue-the-orchestra/ , the All-Star break will be the first test of Brad’s continued tenure. It is the time when most managers with expiring contracts are extended. Failure to emerge from this event without one will make a statement. But in this particular case, we can’t assume that Brad will be gone at the end of the year – or sooner.

Especially if the team is still realistically in the running for any kind of title, even if it’s just within their division. And conceivably, Chris Ilitch and Al Avila may want to see what the final record may be.

But even if the team stumbles badly in the second half, there are reasons where it makes sense to keep Ausmus. The most obvious one would involve his replacement. Who would take over? Who is available? And would any new manager take the position knowing that the team may be positioning itself for a sale?

The logical choice to take the helm would be Lloyd McClendon who obviously returned to the team because they offered him the best chance to return to the majors as a manager. However, Lloyd hasn’t exactly set the world on fire as the hitting coach and a promotion would not sit well with many, including the fans.

The most likely reason to bring in a new manager before the season ends is if dissension within the player ranks becomes a factor. Brad has taken great pains to not ruffle the feathers of the roster – a lesson learned from Matt Williams’ experience with the Nats. However, KRod’s angry statements and questioning Brad’s and Dubee’s actions this past week is surprising and highly unusual for an organization that prides itself on keeping its dirty laundry from being aired.

But most organizations consider how their bottom line would be impacted before making any changes. And the Tigers, given their massive payroll, depend heavily upon attendance. Removing a manager before the season ends sends a message to the fans. And it’s not a very good one.

It tells them that things are not working. It can burst their bubble about the team’s hopes for the rest of the season. And unless the manager is extremely unpopular, it will lower attendance.

And it will also impact the guys in the dugout. Management changes, more often than not, tend to destabilize a team and pummel morale. Brad is known to be liked by the players and his departure would, at the very least, make players question where this organization is headed.

If the team is truly going to be put up for sale, those involved in the preparation may just believe that allowing the year to play out with everyone intact is the best way to go. It avoids the potential problems of destabilization, gives the turnstiles the best chance of continuing to spin and offers a nice, clean, natural break. Afterall, no one likes to deal with messy situations.

And a potential sale, or a change in direction, offers an opportunity to make changes with the least amount of disruption and the maximum potential of a smooth transition.

QUESTION, COMMENTS, KUDOS & CONCERNS

By: Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

After 66 games (32-34), there are plenty of storylines playing out as we head into the heat of summer.

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.


HOLLY

QUESTION

Is it really the fault of the starting rotation that they are near the bottom of the AL in almost every major statistical category? They dropped Pelfrey and Sanchez, added Norris and now have a healthier Zimmermann which technically should make starting pitching better this year. Maybe, just maybe, the Tigers should be taking a longer look at the impact of the pitching coaches instead, especially given the comments by a number of pitchers who have successfully sought help elsewhere.

COMMENT

The Tigers had not one, but 2 chances to hire former Red Sox bench coach and current D’backs manager, Torey Lovullo as their manager. A man who has received rave reviews for a number of years now, a former Tiger and a guy who idolized Sparky Anderson and tries to implement the lessons he learned from his former manager. What does this say about the Tigers’ ability to judge talent and the preference to embrace mediocrity rather than have the courage to make the needed changes?

CONCERN

This week’s incident where KRod publicly threw his manager and pitching coach under the bus is about way more than a closer who has lost his stuff and has a hard time coming to grips with it. There has been a gradual increase in visible dissention amongst the players which is highly unusual for an organization that has historically kept its dirty laundry from being aired. This hints at some deeper issues within and will only grow if Ausmus remains a lame duck manager beyond the All-Star break.


KURT

CONCERN

Are we really doing this again? Miggy has declared he will continue to play through injuries to his back, groin, oblique and hip. I guess we can quit wondering what’s wrong with him, because the answer is just about everything; and the Tigers, well, will just continue to throw him out there because that’s what HE wants.

COMMENT

I wonder if KRod understands his mop-up roll now (as he calls it). After he finished another screw job for JV Thursday night, the crowd booed lustily. No one has any patience for someone who complains about how they are being treated and then answers the question themselves by stinking up the joint in the attempt to protect a lead; it’s safe to say KRod can be quiet now.

QUESTION

Justin Verlander’s fluid delivery has been described as one reason why he continues to be able to pitch effectively well into his 30’s. Will we ever be able to say that about Michael Fulmer’s ? His delivery is far from fluid and he strikes me as a pitcher we should be concerned about going forward – each time he throws he appears to put a tremendous strain on his arm, to the point where I wonder how long his career will actually be.

OPEN MIKE!

microphoneIt’s time again to head into the weekend hearing from our readers.   You have the rest of the week to hear from Kurt and Holly, today is the day to let them know what you’re thinking on a selected topic.

Friday is the one day of the week where we open up the comment parameters for you, so you can get those juices flowing.

Comments on THIS DAY ONLY can be expanded to a maximum of 8 sentences.

We can’t wait to get your thoughts on the following topic.


Are there Tigers mentioned as potential trade pieces at the deadline who you feel are important to keep?  If so, who and why?


 

A WING AND A PRAYER

By:  Kurt Snyder

Mike Ilitch bought the Tigers in 1992.

It was 2006 before his team played a playoff game.  Thirteen years before the Tigers made any noise.

So what happened during those 13 years? How close were the Tigers to winning? Well, let’s look at some numbers.

The Tigers finished 85-77 in Ilitch’s first full year of ownership in 1993. The team then amassed 12 straight losing seasons. And just so I don’t seem so cruel, I will eliminate the results of years ’94 and ’95, both effected by the MLB Players strike. (But for the record, they were losing seasons as well.)

That leaves us with a nice, 10-year analysis. Over the course of those 10 seasons, the Tigers averaged 65 wins and 97 losses.

You want to talk about lack of interest? Who seriously watched that stretch of baseball? It’s no wonder Detroit became Hockeytown!

Mr. Ilitch bought the Red Wings in 1982. Beginning in 1984 (ironically), the Wings began a run of 30 playoff appearances in 33 years, with 4 of those seasons ending in Stanley Cup championships.

Wikipedia describes the initial stretch of Red Wing ownership like this:


After years of drafting top picks and grooming their young players, and with proper management and leadership, the Red Wings became an elite NHL team.


Unfortunately, there is no comparable Wikipedia description of Ilitch’s first chapter of Tiger ownership. Mainly because they didn’t draft well, didn’t groom many or have anything remotely close to proper management or leadership. So obviously, the word ‘elite’ never broached the conversation.

The stars of the franchise during that stretch consisted of Tony Phillips, Bobby Higginson, Damien Easley, Brad Ausmus, Delmon Young and Carlos Guillen, to name a few.

The managers? Well, the last years of Sparky Anderson, Buddy Bell, Larry Parrish, Phil Garner and Alan Trammell. And let’s not forget the brilliance of General Manager Randy Smith, who helped bring Juan Gonzalez to Detroit to help kick off the Comerica Park era.

So it was for good reason that the Red Wings, not the Tigers, garnered all the attention. While the Wings were making playoff runs and winning Stanley Cups all through 2008, the Tigers were in a baseball slumber from which they would not emerge until 2006.

Ilitch’s focus on the Tigers during the first decade seemed more about facilities than it was about building a team. Planning a move from Tiger Stadium was the first order of business. They built a new ballpark which made its debut in 2000.

But the bad baseball continued for another 4 years after the team moved to Comerica, before Ilitch finally decided to awake from the slumber of his baseball ownership.

Why was the management structure  so inept for such a long time? Why did the semblance of winning baseball take so long? Why did it appear that the baseball team was treated differently than the hockey team?

The last decade, as we are all aware, has been much better. Team management improved with the hiring of Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland, but the expensive route to winning never bagged a championship. And now the franchise appears to be headed in 1 of 2 directions.

It’s a fair bet that the Tigers could be sold before the beginning of the 2018 season. But in the short-term, it’s an even better bet that the desperate search for a championship will sadly end this season and the team will be dismantled.

Either way, big changes await us.

Let’s hope those same favorable phrases used to describe the Wings back when Mike Ilitch began to put his stamp on Detroit, are someday repeated.

Drafting top picks.  Grooming young players.  Proper management and leadership.  Elite.

IT’S COMPLICATED (Part 1)

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.

TOPIC FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Today’s topic is centered on the age-old problem of the Tigers – the dreaded bullpen. How do you explain it? Well, our writers take back Tuesday to answer this one.

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


On Saturday night’s nationally-televised game, the announcers said it “boggles the mind” as to how the Tigers have historically had such bad bullpens for such a long period of time.  How would we explain the rationale for why the Tigers have had one of baseball’s worst bullpens year after year?


KURT

It starts with ownership. It would be easy to pin it all on Dave Dombrowski over all these years.  But it’s been the Ilitch family who have made the bullpen a lesser priority, when in fact it is proven time and again that you can’t win without a good, if not a great, pen.

Pitching and defense will always rule the day. But when you build a pitching staff, the strength must be built equally from the star-studded fireballers to the guys who do the dirty work and finish the job.

Bright and shiny stars always got Mr. Ilitch’s attention first. But relief pitchers hardly ever found his gaze.  The bullpen has been historically pushed to the back burner, when it’s the one element that finishes off victories.

Well, they have finished off victories alright. The pen has routinely turned victory into defeat for much of the last 10 seasons.

Dave Dombrowski has been a master at piecing together a bullpen after all the money has been spent. He was a master at trading away minor leaguers, potential bullpen pieces, for veteran relievers who didn’t always pan out.

The Tigers always need the name.  The veteran with previous success, but on the wrong end of the career.  They never looked to groom talent meant to stay and help form a formidable back-end.

Despite season after season of failed opportunities, the Tigers organization never got the clue, that even a star-studded lineup could not overcome the ineptitude of poorly-built bullpens.

And here we sit in 2017, with a Tiger team alleging they are playing for Mr. I., still sitting at the bottom of the league with the worst bullpen.

It has always come down to priorities. Offense, starting pitching and then scraps for the pen. The Tiger bullpen has been like dogs under the table waiting for food to fall; whatever they ended up with might have been good earlier, but not after it hits the floor.


HOLLY

Let’s file this one under “Money, Mike and Marketing” instead of the “bad luck” some have used to describe the decade-old pattern.  And the majority of the blame should be given to Mike Ilitch and Dave Dombrowski with a small side serving of Al Avila.

First is the understanding that every team in MLB has a marketing department that helps form the team identity and has the power to influence ownership as to which types of players should be signed.  Mr. I always liked his stars and he leaned towards big, powerful hitters and ace starting pitchers.  Let’s face it – flame-throwing starters and HR hitters are way sexier than the guy who comes in to pitch one inning.  And these are the guys who fill the stadium seats – not your 7th inning reliever.

Add to this the Tigers’ long-term reputation as being one of baseball’s most conservative teams.  They have consistently been one of the very last to adopt the new trends in baseball for decades going all the way back to integration.  They never saw the rise of the bullpen since those early playoffs days a decade ago – and still don’t.

It also didn’t help that Dave Dombrowski was (and remains) a staunch non-supporter of analytics.  He didn’t understand the correlation between winning (including stats about increased success against pitchers going into the third time through the batting order) and lockdown bullpens, especially when it came to playoffs.  Dave’s m.o. was almost completely focused on assembling baseball’s top starting rotation for many years and ignoring the relievers.  Maybe he figured that if your starting pitchers were superb, you didn’t need consistent firemen.

He also ignored the increasing trend of teams working the pitch counts of starters in order to reach the relievers who were often easier to hit – and in the case of the Tigers, their Achilles’ Heel.

It also appeared that Dombrowski may have disregarded the stats regarding the older relievers he signed or simply had no idea how to build a bullpen.  How else to explain the closers who were given expensive contracts but clearly had already started on the downside of their careers.

But I’d also add in the sheer amount of payroll that was spent on stars like Miggy, JV, Fielder, Upton, VMart, Price, etc.  After signing these guys, there was little money left to spend and just maybe, the budget for relievers was exhausted by the time the bullpen roster was considered.  Potentially, maybe even Mike Ilitch simply didn’t want to spend the money on guys with little star power.

Let’s hope that Chris Ilitch, with a different and younger set of tools and analytical skills, brings a new mindset – and water cannon – that puts out this dumpster fire once and for all.

 

 

FANS SHOULD NOT BE FOOLED

By:  Kurt Snyder

As we get closer to the line in the sand this season for the Tigers, I am bothered by one thing. Why the smoke screen?

Why does Al Avila have to play games with the minds of Tiger fans? And who is this message and attempt to smooth things over supposed to encourage?

It’s ok, Al. We all watch the games. We understand the issues with your team. And we are not as naïve as you might think.

It used to be that Avila was as transparent as a general manager could be. Almost too honest about his team, their future plans and details about what their needs were and the kind of players they would pursue.

However, transparency has now transitioned into trying to reassure fans that everything is fine. I don’t understand it. It’s not like they have taken the team to the moon and we await details on how things are going every day.

Baseball fans, the real fans, understand what they see. They understand when things take a turn. And no pep talk from team management or feel-good propaganda from the press is going to make a difference.

But I guess I am describing us. Maybe fans like us on this forum are not the target audience. The way the Tigers go about managing their business does not keep me from watching. The way the team carries themselves and performs does not have an impact on the amount of games I attend.

When Theo Epstein first stepped foot into Wrigley to begin the rebuild of a historically-struggling franchise, his message was clear. This is going to take time. This isn’t going to be pretty. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Those were, in essence, the messages.

Avila did come out before the season and say that changes were coming. And we took notice. All of us. Every level of fan spent day after day waiting for the pillars to fall.

But the market he felt was there, wasn’t there at all. There was no interest, at least not yet, in what the Tigers had to offer. And that’s when the message changed. The Tigers were going to go for it one more time, with the team they had.

Well, what kind of pile of manure is that? Going for it in Detroit has always meant moves. Transactions. Free agent signings. Big trades. That has been Tiger baseball. That was ‘going for it.’ Not standing pat when there were changes needed to get better.

The real fan has every right to be insulted when the whole marketing campaign switches to a farewell tour of the band. The message has been nauseating. ‘This is a good team. Brad Ausmus is doing a great job.’ Please spare us. We deserve better.

Please sympathize with the fact that we have had to deal with a franchise that has ignored the importance of fundamentals. Poor defense. Poor baserunning. A consistently poor bullpen. It really goes on and on. It’s been a flawed attempt at building a winner that we have acknowledged and begrudgingly accepted. If nothing else, give us credit for setting aside the constant disappointments.

I had no problem with the ‘Get leaner, get younger’ message described by Avila before the season. Didn’t all the signs point to that anyway? It was a good move by Avila to be clear with the fan base that the franchise had gotten themselves into a pickle. And to contend in the future, some difficult decisions were going to have to be made to build a sustainable, competitive and contending franchise.

But was Avila hauled behind the woodshed after telling the fans future franchise direction?

Was he told to get back out there in front of the microphone and let people know that even with the plan, they still had a chance to win a World Series?

Aren’t we finding out that winning for Mr. I. was just words, with no emotional drive or desire being demonstrated on the field to do exactly that? There is no visible evidence.  So as a fan, if you are out there still supporting that mantra … well, scrap it!

The team appears to be sitting back and waiting for the other shoe to fall while their management tells us how good they are. In response, we should all feel insulted and offended by the games the franchise is playing with us.

Al Avila, Mr. Full Disclosure, has turned to clouding the picture, but in his attempt, all he has done is make it more clear that he is not the guy who will lead us through this transition. He is just a guy the team pushes out in front of us to stroke our emotions.

We deserve better and maybe more than anything, an acknowledgement that we are smarter than they think.

CUE THE ORCHESTRA

By:  Holly Horning

As an image and branding consultant, my job is to uncover, polish and highlight the desirable traits and skills of my clients. My work often finds me working with a related profession – public relations. After decades of working with PR people, I pretty much have their number. I know their methods, strategies, timing, tricks and patterns as they seek the ultimate goal of creating and maintaining good and favorable impressions of their clients among the masses. And no surprise, last week was a very busy one for the Tigers’ PR department.

And I saw it coming.

Let’s set the stage, shall we?


The end of May brought a brutal road trip rife with sloppy play and missed opportunities. Many within the media now unafraid to question the viability of the team and the longevity of their manager.

So on their first day back in Detroit, Al Avila and Brad Ausmus went out to dinner together and “shared a bottle of wine.” Just two buddies bonding over food and having a good time. And a genius move by the PR department to kill the buzz starting to build about Brad’s future.

The info, date, place and time were provided. You were meant to read it and to draw the conclusions laid out for you. And it was all planned.

Afterall, if it was just a regular dinner, you wouldn’t know about it. And the dinner would have been at someone’s home or in a private dining room. But Al and Ausmus were on display just as much as the fresh seafood was at Streetside Seafood.

Less than 24 hour later, Al Avila made himself available to any and all media outlets to sing the praises of Brad and the “good job” he’s done with managing the team. All the local papers. MLB on tv and also mlb.com. Oh, and MLB radio. One very busy man.

A thorough job to reinforce the impression that the Tigers are a stable organization with no forthcoming changes. And still contenders. Textbook image making in order to soothe the masses – but also the players.

And the purpose of this exercise was not just to bury the bad road trip but to help manage what will be building for the rest of this summer. Situations that will increasingly make many nervous and wondering about the Tigers’ path for the rest of 2017 and beyond.

The passing of Mr. I now means the routine and expectations of how the organization will move can no longer be assumed to remain the same. There is a new owner with a significantly different perspective and manner of running a business. Estate taxes, no matter how well planned, will complicate decision-making and the future. And other Ilitch projects are bigger, newer, shinier and more profitable than the Tigers.

Changes are a’coming. We just don’t know what and how soon.

Ironically, the potential organizational changes are not the main reason the buffing of Brad is taking place. Currently, the Tigers are more concerned with maintaining a stable, calm and even-keeled organization. Oh, and yes, the fan base.

You see, the bottom line is that Al Avila can praise anyone to the moon and beyond but the fact is that Ausmus’s contract was not extended after last year. Only his option year was picked up. One.single.year. And Brad has only 3.5 months left on his contract.

In baseball, former and current execs warn about the lame duck manager effect. They caution about allowing a manager to stay beyond the All-Star break without a new contract in hand. History has shown that players tend to start withdrawing from organized team participation when they believe the manager will be leaving. They start to disregard him, play more for themselves and try a little less hard.

And that is something the Tigers are trying to avoid have happen to them. Avila’s mass media message is an attempt to thwart the upcoming dilemma that will probably happen somewhere around July 12th when current managers are generally extended – and Brad may not be.

It is the Tigers’ intent to send a message that it’s business as usual. They want the players to remain as focused as possible on the games and not on the potential organizational changes. They want as many fans for as long as possible to continue to believe that the team has a credible shot at remaining in contender status long into the summer – if not October.

They need to control the emotional and mental levels of those on the field and in the stands. They need the talent to perform (for winning and also for trade value) and for the fannies to continue to fill the seats for as long as possible.

There are new and significant issues the Tigers will be facing towards the end of this year. It’s still unclear whether Ausmus will stay or go as there are strategies that support both sides. And a blog will delve into these in the near future.

But in the meantime, keep in mind that talk is cheap. It’s the actions – or lack thereof – that signal the true intent.

QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, KUDOS & CONCERNS

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

After 60 games (29-31), there are plenty of storylines playing out as we head into the summer months of 2017.

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.


HOLLY

QUESTION

With the rumors that the Tigers are approaching sell mode, is the decision really as simple as the local media paints it? Even if you disregard the questions about how viable the team is and whether they could have any success in the playoffs should they advance, any trade-off, especially before the deadline, would signal to fans that management doesn’t believe the team is a contender. And by killing their hopes, they would also be killing attendance and revenue figures which are crucial towards paying that sky-high payroll.

CONCERN

The failure to bench or even discipline Nick (and I’m stickin’ with that name) Castellanos by Brad Ausmus goes beyond the concern about reckless behavior and the potential injury to Miguel Cabrera. It appears there is no visible system of accountability in place for this team. And given that there have been too many games riddled with sloppy running, defense and pitching, it now appears highly unlikely that players are never called out for this poor level of play by their manager – which will only lead to more games like these.

COMMENT

David Price is sure paying the price in Boston and has expressed his unhappiness with the media and fans while also avoiding questions about his relationship with other teammates. Much of this obviously due to his immense long-term contract, injury and failure to live up to pitching expectations. This must be quite a shock to him after his days in Detroit with some of the best fans and softest media to one in which those who follow baseball pull no punches.


KURT

COMMENT

I watched a demoralized Miguel Cabrera drag himself back to the dugout at Fenway Friday night. After taking a third strike down the middle of the plate, he appeared to be a defeated hitter. It’s a look we haven’t seen from him, and something that was kind of lost in another difficult defeat; one where Miggy struck out 4 times.

COMMENT

After a difficult May and plenty of complaining about the schedule, June has been billed as the month where the Tigers should get on a roll. Why anyone sees any kind of roll coming having watched this team, is beyond me. After winning the first 3 games of the month, they have lost 3 of 4; results that have come with absolutely zero surprise.

CONCERN

Verlander-Sale has been a classic matchup over the years. Today, we will get another opportunity to watch them compete against each other, this time at Sale’s new home in Boston. However my only thought going into the normally competitive duel is whether the Tigers have allowed Verlander to dictate his return following the groin issue in his last start; allowing him to pitch at anything less than 100% with the injury still present would be classic Tigers.