Rebuilding the Detroit Tigers

Written by :
Published on : July 7, 2017

 

 

It’s no secret that the 2017 Detroit Tigers are pretty awful. As they sit right now, they are 38-46 and have shown nothing that says they have a chance to contend for the AL Central title or an AL wild card spot. The team’s performance this season, and recent seasons for that matter, has left fans in the Motor City frustrated and ready for a change. But just how much can this team change? And is it even possible to blow it up completely and start a full scale rebuild?

 

The first, and most important, thing the team can do is part ways with manager, Brad Ausmus. He inherited a title contender in 2014, and since being swept out of the ALDS in that season, his team’s performance has steadily declined. While he can’t be totally blamed for the team’s roster and much of the blame lies with the players themselves, this team has not grown under his watch and his all star type players haven’t been able to reach their full potential. For that, he should be given his walking papers and certainly will unless the team wants a fan revolt on their hands.

 

 

On the other hand, team president, Al Avila’s job should be safe for at least one more season. With the recent death of longtime owner, Mike Ilitch, it’s hard to believe the team will want to cause anymore of a stir in the organization. With Avila probably safe, you have to wonder what players, if any, the team will be able to trade away for assets in this coming team rebuild.

 

Miguel Cabrera isn’t going anywhere. His contract is insane (he will make at least $30 million annually through 2023) and he’s an icon in Detroit. It would be nice to be able to send him on his way in search for another ring and get something in return for the future hall of fame slugger, but it’s not happening. Being saddled with that contract for years to come hurts but it can’t hurt fan, or organizational, morale to have (arguably) the best player in the team’s history retire wearing the old english D. It’s a nightmare of a contract but there was no other option for the team at the time and that’s just the way it goes.

 

Justin Verlander is almost as iconic as Miguel Cabrera, and for good reason, but the team must ship him off if it can. The trade might not even be possible because of the amount of money that Verlander ($28 million a year through 2019) is owed over the coming seasons. It’s another case of a franchise icon getting paid what they have rightly earned but hamstringing the team with an enormous contract in the end. At 34-years-old he isn’t having the greatest season, but he is coming off of a Cy Young caliber season in 2016, so a contender with money to spend might be willing to risk it. If that happens, the Tigers would be crazy not to pull the trigger and shed that enormous salary.

 

Most likely is a scenario in which Verlander and Cabrera stay in Detroit for years to come. That JD Martinez as arguably the most likely player in the league to be traded to a new team, and he will fetch a nice return for the team. The Tigers have no indication that they wish to re-sign him and add to their already bloated payroll, and his bat would immediately help any team that he went to. So he’s gone.

 

 JD won’t be a Tiger for long.

 

Other trade-able pieces include Jose Iglesias, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, Nick Castellanos, Alex Avila and Anibal Sanchez (that’s right, Anibal Sanchez). Upton’s contract probably makes a trade unlikely, but everyone else should draw some amount of interest. The team has Dixon Machado as the shortstop of the future so Iglesias should be gone too, and Alex Avila has been playing great since the team brought him back so he could see himself traded away by his own father. How much the team can get in return for any of these players remains to be seen, but you can’t imagine getting any team’s top few prospects for anyone on this roster.

 

With it being unlikely that the Tigers are going to get any world beaters in a trade, it looks like they’ll have to do this thing the old fashioned way and start drafting and developing players in the system. In recent year’s, they have traded away all of their top prospects for big names in the interest of winning now and getting that elusive World Series title. But that never happened and now the team is getting old and is considerably overpaid.

 

It’s going to be a rough few years but it’s time to stop putting it off and get serious about changing this team in a fundamental way. Al Avila has made it clear that the days of spending huge money are over. Even though they will have to simply ride some of these bad contracts out, they can and must trim their salary and build from within. There are some good young pieces on the roster in guys like Michael Fulmer. If the team is smart with their money, with a little luck they could be a contender in a few more seasons. A new era of Detroit Tigers baseball is imminent but it could be a painful journey to get there.

 

 


The Detroit Tigers could be headed to old, (un)familiar territory

Written by :
Published on : November 11, 2016

 

 

2003 was a long time ago. George W. Bush was in his first term as President. Facebook wasn’t even a thing yet. The iPhone hadn’t even been thought of. And the Detroit Tigers were awful. Among the most awful baseball teams in the modern history of the game to be more specific. Their 119 losses in that year was 1 loss short of the 1962 Mets record for losses in a season. When the Tigers won that last game to avoid tying that record you would have thought that they had won a World Series. Players and fans rejoiced that they weren’t the worst. But they were damn close.

 

Three years after that historically disastrous season, the Detroit Tigers had won the American League Pennant, after making the playoffs as the Wild Card team, and went on the the World Series. It was an amazingly quick turnaround that marked the beginning of a new golden era in Detroit baseball. The organization led by Dave Dombrowski, for most of the period since 2003, would go on to appear in another World Series in 2012, and win the AL Central four times.

 

 

Under Dombrowski (now with with Boston Red Sox) and long-time manager Jim Leyland (retired), the Tigers and the city of Detroit enjoyed a decade of relatively good, competitive baseball. They got to see triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera destroy the baseball and Cy Young contenders such as Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and David Price destroy opposing batters. Acquiring and retaining such marquee talent isn’t easy though, and because of it the organization consistently found itself with one of the larger payrolls in the MLB, and a depleted farm system. And that leaves the Detroit Tigers and their fans here, on the edge of some potentially dark days.

 

Shortly after the end of the 2016 MLB season, Tigers president, Al Avila, made it clear that the team would be retaining manager Brad Ausmus and cutting payroll in a big way. Neither of these things should sound like good news to Tigers’ fans. Brad Ausmus hasn’t necessarily been terrible as the manager in Detroit but he has failed to win a playoff game despite having a considerable amount of talent on the roster. The team isn’t doomed with him at the helm, but he probably isn’t the person to take them to the next level either. More of the same.

 

What should really make fans shudder, is that this team seems determined to slash payroll. The most likely victims of the cost cutting mandate in the front office will be Justin Verlander, JD Martinez and Miguel Cabrera. Years of squeezing their farm system to acquire big name players and breaking the bank to keep those players left the Tigers with a payroll of $199 million last season. That was behind only the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox. All teams that made the playoffs. When you don’t make the playoffs two years running and you are spending that kind of money, it’s easy to see why ownership would want to re-examine their methods. That could mean saying goodbye to the players who have defined baseball in Detroit for years.

 

 

The team says they are listening to offers for any and all players. If that’s really the case then there’s a good chance that Verlander is leaving soon. He is 34 and coming off of his best season since 2012. His value is high and he could net a good return in an offseason with a poor market for starting pitching. Trading him will help the team shed $28 million in salary this coming year. With a big enough return, I’m sure the fan reaction to the trade could be mostly positive. I’m not sure the same goes for a trade involving Miggy. His contract runs through 2023 and he is owed no less than $28 million in any of those coming seasons. For an aging slugger, that’s a lot for a potential trade partner to deal with. The team would probably be lucky to unload him at this point, but he is such a fan favorite that I don’t know that they could get enough in return to fill the void left in the hearts of fans.

 

Will the fans really be able to withstand a prolonged playoff drought plus watching their favorite players leave town? That could be hard to stomach in Detroit and could leave Comerica Park looking a lot more empty than it has been for a long time. It’s hard to be too optimistic about the Detroit Tigers in the near future. Rebuilding is never an easy thing. Fans who have joined the team in only the recent good years, might have to suffer through a bit of losing. Something that isn’t the norm. For those that have been in with the team for decades, we might be returning to the dark ages of the 90’s. Nobody wants that but sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better.

 

 


It’s time for Ausmus and Caldwell to go

Written by :
Published on : October 3, 2016

 

Last week, I reported that the city of Detroit was suffering from A Case of the Mondays after both the Tigers and the Lions lost their games. It was more of the same today. Both teams disappointed big time and it has me thinking, now more than ever, that it’s time for Ausmus and Caldwell to be shown the door as head coaches of their teams.

 

The Lions lost in a pathetic display of professional football against the Chicago Bears. The loss brings them to 1-3 and the team is on the verge of a complete implosion. In what is becoming an all too familiar early season trend with these Detroit Lions. Chicago was widely considered one of the worst teams in the league. They had 10,000 players on IR and were missing their starting quarterback. Detroit should have come out and gotten right against this team and started to build the foundation of a a potential playoff run. Instead, they fell flat on their faces. Jim Caldwell once again failed to have his team prepared and it was obvious.

 

The Tigers played the Atlanta Braves, with a chance to stay in contention for a spot in the AL Wild Card. Justin Verlander looked a bit off to start, allowing a run in the first before settling down and blanking the Braves for the rest of his six innings. The team went on to lose the game 1-0. As usual, the Tigers bats went to sleep when they were needed most. Despite having a future hall of fame slugger in Miguel Cabrera and a stable of other capable offensive weapons, the team couldn’t muster a single run. It is now the third 1-0 loss this season when Verlander is on the mound. Now the season is over and Brad Ausmus has failed to get his team to the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

 

 

We expect this from the Lions. This team has been breaking hearts in Motown for decades now and fans have seen the team be horrible more often than not. With injuries to the best defensive players and a head coach in Jim Caldwell who can’t get his team ready to compete on Sundays, they were treated to a listless effort.

 

Jim Caldwell was already on the hot seat this year. After making the playoffs in 2014, his first season in Detroit, the team started off the 2015 campaign in pathetic fashion before firing the offensive coordinator and getting it together enough to manage a 7-9 finish. This season saw a changing of the guard in the front office, as the Ford family brought in new general manager Bob Quinn from the New England Patriots organization. Quinn decided to retain Caldwell and give him one more shot to show what he is made of and bring Detroit a contender. Well, he sure showed us what he’s got and the returns are not good. That’s why he should get fired immediately and the team should start preparing to find someone who can maximize the talent on the team.

 

 

Same goes for Brad Ausmus. Say what you will about Jim Leyland as a professional baseball manager, but he brought the Detroit Tigers out of the dark ages and turned them into perennial contender. When he retired, Brad Ausmus inherited a team that had won the AL Central three years running and had appeared in two World Series in the past decade. His inaugural campaign with the team saw the team win its 4th consecutive AL Central title, only to get swept by the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS. In 2015, the team finished last in the division with a 74-87 record. With yesterday’s loss, the team will miss the playoffs again. With the type of talent on this roster there’s no reason for that.

 

Ausmus and Caldwell have both had three years (more or less) to make a winner. Brad Ausmus came in as a manager with no experience. He was a calculated risk taken by the front office that hurt a team with aging stars whose windows are rapidly closing. Jim Caldwell came in with a solid resume, having taken the Colts to the Super Bowl as their head coach and won another as the offensive coordinator of the Ravens. Their were red flags with him as well, but the team needed someone who could counter the undisciplined culture of the team under former head coach, Jim Schwartz.

 

Neither of the two coaches has worked out. It’s time for the Tigers and Lions to move on from their current head coaches and start looking to the future. If you need to ask why, just watch the games from yesterday. The fans deserve better than what Ausmus and Caldwell have brought to Detroit over the last two seasons. There are teams out there that do a lot more with a lot less. That’s what good managers can bring and it’s time both these teams went out and found a couple of those.

 

 


A Case of the Mondays: Detroit Edition

Written by :
Published on : September 26, 2016

 

 

This Monday is a tough one for Detroit sports fans to swallow. The Motor City collectively limps into the week after one of the tougher Sundays in recent memory. Both the Tigers and Lions had big games, and both teams failed to come ready-to-play, leaving fans (or at least this one) wondering why they put themselves through this pain. The Tigers, in the middle of a race for the second wild card spot, played the Royals at home. The Lions, trying to rebound from a painful loss in a game that they should have won against the Titans last week, traveled to Lambeau Field to play the Packers.

 

Both team started off slow and were punched in the mouth by the opposition. Both teams got it together eventually and made a game of it, but lost in the end. It was too little, too late.

 

 The Royals celebrate the Tigers demise.

 

Neither the Lions nor Tigers deserved to win yesterday, yet they had the chance to steal the game away. That should be encouraging, but that doesn’t mean that fans should overlook the fact that these teams are flawed, and aren’t getting a lot of help from the guys that are running the show. That’s right, both of these professional sports teams located in Detroit have coaches or managers that just aren’t very good.

 

It’s already pretty well documented how I feel about Detroit Tigers’ manager, Brad Ausmus. He just hasn’t been all that good during his time with the Tigers. He inherited a team that was in the middle of years-long domination of the AL Central and has had a hand in the teams underperformance ever since. The team started this season with an awful 15-21 record, but somehow managed to hang around long enough to be competing for the second wild card spot. With yesterday’s loss, the team now sits 1.5 games back of the Baltimore Orioles for that last playoff spot. Ausmus deserves some credit for helping the team stick around this long, but also deserves the blame for not getting the most out of a roster with some serious talent.

 

 “Promise me you’ll write after they can my ass.

 

Same goes for Lions’ coach, Jim Caldwell. In his first year with the Lions, he took them to the playoffs with a 11-5 regular season record. After a brutal playoff loss at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, he followed 2014 up with a 7-9 record in 2015. In this, his third year with the team, he is off to 1-2 start following a game that the team pissed away against Tennessee and the debacle in Green Bay yesterday. He has shown a lack of ability to get his teams motivated and the blame for the sloppy play and penalties almost certainly lies with him. If it’s not the head coach’s job to make sure his team is properly prepared then whose job is it?

 

No one really expected this Lions team to go win in Green Bay, but the fact is the Packers aren’t that good. If the Lions had come ready-to-play and didn’t have to dig themselves out of a 31-3 hole, maybe they could have done it. If the 34-27 final score is any indication of what this team is capable of, then maybe they will be alright. But not if their coach doesn’t get them to come out and play for all 4 quarters.

 

 The Packers came out strong and hung on for the win.

 

No one really expected this Tigers team to make the playoffs. When you start the season like that and then go on to have a 2-13 record against the division leading rival, Cleveland Indians, playoffs seem like a pipe dream. But the Tigers are still in the hunt. Sadly, with only 7 games to play they start a 4-game home series against the Indians today, likely spelling an end to those wild card hopes.

 

Mondays can be rough, especially with Sundays like yesterday. The Tigers season might be wrapping up in similar fashion to how it started, with a whimper. The Lions season is just starting off and has already given fans plenty of reasons to drink. Both teams have coaches that could very well be gone next year. And most fans probably wouldn’t be mad. This Case of the Mondays goes to you Detroit. Hopefully this week will be better than the last.

 

 


The Detroit Tigers did the right thing at the trade deadline

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Published on : August 2, 2016

 

 

This was definitely a different kind of trade deadline for the Detroit Tigers and their of fans. The organization has been a big player at the deadline in recent years, often coming away with top-notch talent. Aside from last year, when the Tigers traded away David Price and Yoenis Cespedes for a stable of young arms, that talent was always brought to town with the idea that it would help the Tigers win right away. In 2014, it was David Price who was brought in to solidify the rotation for a playoff run. In 2013, the team got their shortstop of the future and human highlight reel in the field, Jose Iglesias. In other years past it was Doug Fister or Max Scherzer. No one can ever accuse former Tigers GM, Dave Dombrowski of being complacent or cautious at the trade deadline, but there’s a new sheriff in town.

 

 Avila, with his former boss and Tigers’ GM, Dave Dombrowski, and for manager, Jim Leyland.

 

First year GM, Al Avila, worked under Dave Dombrowski for years and he learned a lot from the opportunity to work with such a successful baseball architect. But he also realizes that years of wheeling and dealing at the deadline has left the organization and its farm system bereft of young talent. The Tigers have sent away talented prospects in droves over the last decade or so, and because of that, they didn’t have a single top-100 prospect in their system this season. Their top three youngsters are Michael Fulmer, Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd. All three of them have played in the majors this year, and have been impressive enough to warrant keeping them out of any potential deals with other teams.

 

Michael Fulmer has been the brightest spot on the Tigers roster all season long. He is currently rocking a 9-2 record with a 2.50 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, and is a legit candidate for AL Rookie of the Year. As one of those young arms that was brought to town at the deadline last year, Al Avila realizes that Fulmer and guys like him are the future of the team. And it’s for that reason that the Detroit Tigers made the correct move by standing idle at the trade deadline. There were plenty of discussions with other teams, but the team is determined to build a winner from within and you can’t do that by trading away your most talented young pitchers. They probably could have gotten a king’s ransom for Fulmer but they weren’t willing to part with someone who has been so impressive in their rookie season.

 

 Michael Fulmer: The Future.

 

The decision to stand pat is probably the best thing that could happen to this team right now. Coming on the heels of two straight series sweeps against the Red Sox and Astros, many people thought that the Tigers would be buyers at the trade deadline and try to add another starter to the rotation. I’m glad that cooler heads prevailed because even though Fulmer was deemed untouchable by management, trading away Norris, Boyd or both, would have put the future of the team and the farm system in jeopardy all the same.

 

The team is finally clicking this season and because of that they have probably saved Brad Ausmus’ job. I don’t really like the idea of having to deal with Ausmus for another year, but as a true fan I can’t help but hope for my boys to win as much as possible. They are sitting four games behind the Indians in the division and one and a half games out of the second wild card spot. That’s a whole lot better than I thought they would be is you had asked me about them in early June. It seems like they have finally figured it out. The bats are alive and the arms are throwing some fire. With everything clicking, why risk breaking up the chemistry by trading away important pieces to try something new.

 

Better to wait until the offseason to further improve the roster and ride it out with these guys. The farm system and the organization as a whole will be better for it in the end. Al Avila seems to know that and it’s because of that fact that I believe that while it may have been a quiet trade deadline for the Detroit Tigers, it was also a successful one.

 

 


How long will the Tigers keep Brad Ausmus around?

Written by :
Published on : May 15, 2016

 

 

The Detroit Tigers are off to an underwhelming 2016 Major League Baseball season. They started off the year in respectable fashion by winning 7 of their first 10 games but have more recently lost 11 of their last 12. When they aren’t busy getting beaten in a good old fashioned blow out, they are finding new and exciting ways to lose close games. Fans are beginning to get discouraged and if something doesn’t change soon, the team and its ownership are going to be dealing with a ton of empty seats in Comerica Park.

 

Patience is running thin in the Motor City, so what are the team’s options?

 

Sadly, at this point there aren’t many options that will do any good. After the work done this offseason, the team is more or less set with this roster. They added Justin Upton to the lineup, only to see him look like lost at the plate for most of this season. They’ve left a ton of men on base, including 12 in a 7-5 loss at the Orioles where the team squandered one of the few decent starts by Mike Pelfrey. Victor Martinez, Nick Castellanos, and others are hitting the ball but when the bullpen gives up big leads what does it matter? And when they finally get two high quality starts out of Justin Verlander, what do they do? They don’t hit the ball for shit.

 

 What defeat looks like.

 

There are problems all over this team and that begs the question, how long will the team stick with manager Brad Ausmus?

 

If I had to guess I would say that Ausmus doesn’t make it to June. He might not even make it to next week. Don’t get me wrong, that isn’t going to help this team turn it around this season but you can’t fire your players. In my opinion he should have been fired after his first season, and at this point it’s the only thing that ownership can do to signify to the fans that they are just as upset as us. And hopefully that can keep a few people in the seats for the rest of the season.

 

Brad Ausmus has never been a particularly bad manager, but then again he’s never been a particularly good one either. He’s had his share of blunders in the dugout, but there’s a chance maybe, in the distant future, he could return as a manager to another team and be successful. But not here. Not in Detroit.

 

 Interim manager, is that you?

 

Whatever has happened to the psyche of the Detroit Tigers is now firmly resting on the shoulders of Brad Ausmus. Giving him the boot and installing someone else for the rest of what is now looking more and more like a lost season is probably the only option left.

 

Maybe they can install player-favorite, Omar Vizquel as interim manager and salvage something resembling a .500 season from this horrible 15-21 start, while seeing if they can trade away some of their more over-priced and valuable assets. You know, some of those guys with whom the blame really lies. That’s right, those players who got their manager axed. At least potentially… and hopefully. Seriously, just get rid of him already.

 

 


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