July 20, 2015

Duct Tape and WD–40

When You Absolutely, Positively Have to Fix ANYTHING

When I was a kid, I thought my Dad could fix anything with duct tape (duck tape) and WD–40. I knew that he also needed  a hammer, air compressor, Stanley knife, and a Stanley tape measure (which he always had). But, regardless, grey tape and WD–40 could fix anything. At least that's how he fixed things in my eye when I was a kid.

I've learned so much in the past few years about building, fixing, creating … And as I've been getting our garage organized, I made a discovery.

 

I'm not saying that I think I can fix anything, I'm saying I paid close attention to ensuring that I have a great deal of tape and WD–40 around "just in case." 





July 19, 2015

The PRICE is RIGHT

The PRICE is RIGHT 

David Price has been everything he was advertised to be (and more) in 2015, likely his only (maybe) full season as a starter for the Detroit Tigers. The price to get him was expensive. The Tigers jettisoned Drew Smyly and prospect Willy Adames in the deal which involved both the Mariners and Rays.

Price has performed extremely well for the Tigers. It is unlikely that he will stay with the Tigers after this season, though, as he is a free agent and he will be commanding some serious cash. He will eclipse the contract former Tigers Max Scherzer commanded last off season from the Washington Nationals, something to the tune of seven years and $210 million. Price will get more — he's better with a longer upside.

His former manager in Tampa now manages the Chicago Cubs. He played well and was extremely comfortable with Joe Maddon. The Northsiders paid the big bucks for Jon Lester last off season and you can bet they're ready to back the Brinks truck up to Price's house to get him onboard. You have to wonder if the Cubbies would like to add the stud pitcher this year.

Everyone says that Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski won't sell. This team is average at best — as shown by their 45–45 record. The season is a little more than half over and in half the team's games, the Detroiters have scored two or fewer runs. Amazingly, when shut out last night by the Orioles, it was only the third time this season the Tigers hadn't scored a run. If you're a Tigers analyst like my friends and I, you're torn whether to buy, sell, or stand.



Iglesias was a mid–season trade that has worked. Kinsler, acquired prior to the 2014 season, was great in '14 and subpar in '15. Rondon, annointed the closer of the future, has struggled and is probably Toledo–bound. This carnation of the Tigers is not much more than average. 

If the Tigers can get a good package for Price, this might be the time to trade him if the organization is convinced he won't return when he's a free agent. With about 20 teams (including the Motown club) still contending for a playoff spot, the buyers might be willing to overpay because the number of parts available by trade may be limited. 

I believe that the Tigers do have a chance to re–sign potential free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes simply because the Tigers have one other Cuban All–Star and a Latin American–heavy clubhouse. Cespedes has been considered a tough teammate and bad for the clubhouse in the past, but the word is that he fits well in Detroit's clubhouse. Don't expect the Tigers to shop him at this point, as it's likely he will return. 

The 2015 Tigers will give way to the 2016 Tigers soon — and it could be a vastly changed roster. 

July 17, 2015

Managers and Impact

The Manager

In 2008, the Milwaukee Brewers suddenly fired their manager with 12 games left in the season on September 15. The thought was at the time that the manager wasn't going to take the team far in the post season, and he had "lost" the team. Ned Yost had many times looked like he was overmatched as the manager. And just like that, he was gone.

After a year or so off, he was named the manager of the Kansas City Royals. I wondered about it because of how he had faded and suddenly was out back in Milwaukee. I was one of the observers who thought the Royals might have made a mistake.

Last year, the Royals rocked and rolled in the second half, made the wild card, and ended up in the World Series. They have continued to play well this season. Moreover, Yost continues to manage in a unique manner and make interesting decisions. But he led his team to the World Series. And they're in first place, running away with things this year.

When you look at the history of managers for many teams, you have to roll your eyes. Baseball has really changed in the last 20 years (in many ways) but one way is the management structure and who gets selected as managers. If you get bored, look at the history of the managers in Seattle or Kansas City or even the Cubs.

I think the manager has a solid impact on the outcomes of games. I'd be curious what the role of the manager is in the modern game of baseball. I have my opinion but maybe I'm wrong. I've been incredibly hard on Brad Ausmus but when you look at the big picture, we have to acknowledge that the Tigers were without Justin Verlander for three months, basically without Victor Martinez for much of the first half, now they're without Miguel Cabrera for a long period of time. The other thing is that the bullpen has continued to suffer, despite the great efforts of the GM to right that ship. As hard as I've been on Ausmus, he could change a lot of opinions if the Tigers come out of the gates like gang-busters in the second half and sweep this seven–game home stand.




July 14, 2015

The Future of Baseball in the Motor City

What Happens When Dave Dombrowski Gives Himself the Escape Card and is Able (to get out of jail free) 

What if they changed direction? What if the Tigers decided that the current way didn't work so we have to adjust and take a new route. Not necessarily rebuilding but changing the direction on the fly?

Dave Dombrowski is an effective — if not incredible — general manager for a baseball team. He puts together a good scouting team, drafts prospects, and finds ways to turn those prospects into tradable components to acquire Major League talent. That has always been the Dombrowski way (any Expos fans out there can feel free to correct me if I'm wrong here). It's possible that Dombrowski is in the final year of his contract and it's likely that he is going to leave the Tigers. It's rumored that he may be a prime candidate for the Blue Jays or Angels; I wonder if he would be a good fit for the Phillies. That's not my point.


Dave Dombrowski, general manager of the Tigers. 

I read today that Assistant General Manager Al Avila may have the inside track for the GM position should Dombrowski decide not to return. I'm not sold on this at this point. I wonder if the Tigers might go the route of finding someone who can lead the team in two areas I believe they lack: 1) someone who truly leads the development of baseball players who end up playing for the Tigers and 2) someone who is adept with analytics. I'm not sure who might be a good candidate, but a new direction may better prepare the team to compete. The top–heavy, sign all the stars route has proven good but not great. And we all know that the Tigers want to be a great, not good, team. Remember, the enemy of great is good.


Assistant General Manager Al Avila could be a candidate to run the organization. 

The Tigers could look to both the Cardinals and Astros as teams who have developed Major League ready players and allowed them to flouish; they could also look to the Cubs and Rays as teams who use advanced metrics effectively. Now, I don't want the Tigers to become the shiftiest team in baseball by any means, but I think it's time for the team to embrace the information and use it more. I'm a baseball traditionalist but I think this is the natural progression of the great game. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how this plays out during the next several weeks.

Maybe Dombrowski will make a couple of great trades, improve the team, they roll off 20 wins in 30 games, and suddenly knock the Royals out of their thrown, make the playoffs, and suddenly come alive in October and everyone will forget all of these discussions of whether he would return in 2016. But, maybe not.


Will the GM and his assistant walk away together this fall? 

July 13, 2015

The End of an Era

When an era ends …

We all remember when it started. The day Jim Leyland arrived in the fall of 2005, we sensed that a sense of urgency was finally in place for the Tigers. Leyland changed the atmosphere quickly in the Spring of 2006. Certainly, the young talent helped the cause but the Tigers were back. During the last nine seasons, the Detroit Tigers have experienced an unprecedented number of trips to the postseason. This is exciting on one point, but it's also a byproduct of a game that allows many more teams into the playoffs. But, regardless, it's been a fun era.


The Tigers do have the best hitter in baseball. 

The 2006 season was incredible and began our run of contending year in and year out. The following season was a disappointment, but not nearly as bad as the 2008 team that just stunk it up. You all remember how 2009 ended with a game 163 loss to the Minnesota Twins. The following season wasn't too great as the 2010 Tigers limped. But 2011 through 2014 were incredible: four straight Central Division Championships and a trip to the World Series in 2012. It was an incredible run — and the 2013 Tigers might have been the most talented team that season but melted down against the Red Sox in the ALCS (see Veras, Benoit, Hunter, Fielder, et al).

I remember when we all said we wouldn't become like Braves fans who never attended the first round playoff series. Many fans stayed loyal through the great, unprecedented run but there were seats available at the Division Series last fall. Tigers fans are passionate and want to see the Tigers in the World Series and a ticker-tape parade down Woodward Avenue. Sadly, the era might be coming to a close. The current talented Tigers team is struggling mightily and looking like a sub-.500 team as the second half dawns.

It's been an incredible nine–year run. The Tigers have done well. Really well. Dave Dombrowski has built a solid team, but has always seemed to struggle to build a good bullpen and bench. This 2015 squad certainly reeks of that. Dombrowski has tried to sign many relievers over the years — it's not his fault that some have been complete, utter failures. I have to believe that Dombrowski will leave the team and the replacement GM (maybe Al Avilia, but maybe not — could be a complete house cleaning) will probably hire a new staff to run the show.

If it's over, it's been a lot of fun. It's better to be a fan when people compliment the Old English D rather than laugh at you (see 2003).

July 12, 2015

A Great Dinner and Visit

A Haircut & Dinner Visit

The other night we drove to Mt. Pleasant for two reasons.

One, I needed to get a haircut and I've gone to the same barber there since 1993. Off and on I have gone to other barbers, but always seem to return to MP. Woody's is a top notch barber shop.

So I got my hair cut and then Lori and I had dinner with our daughter Courtney.



We went to Olive Garden. We had an excellent experience. The server took great care of us. She made sure our food was on time and that our drinks stayed full. She even gave us each an extra mint at the end of dinner. Olive Garden has been hit or miss over the years and the stores have some weird policies, like how the assistant manager or whoever it is walks around talking into a microphone about where everyone is at their meal. That is annoying. But the Italian food and atmosphere is decent. Even though no one really goes to Italy for training.


Overall it was a fun trip down for the afternoon.

July 11, 2015

Bless You Boys (This Is Not the Year)

Bless You Boys



The Spirit of Detroit's Tiger jersey has been sent away for cleaning and will be unavailable in the fall of 2015. 

Miguel Cabrera.

David Price.

Jose Iglesias.

J.D. Martinez.

Even Yoenis Cespedes.

This team has four, possibly five All Stars. And the team's record hovers around .500.

You can blame two people for the strife: Dave Dombrowski who built the team and Brad Ausmus who manages the team. You possibly can blame the GM for the whole thing since he is the one who hired the manager.


Papa Grande saved 49 straight games. None were easy. 

Doug Fister.

Rick Porcello.

Max Scherzer.

Even Drew Smyly.

Sixty percent of the former starting rotation jettisoned or allowed to leave as a free agent.

The Fister trade made no sense when it happened — and even though he is struggling in 2015 — and makes no sense today. Fister is a quality starter who was jettisoned in a bizarre trade which we assumed was made to free up money to be able to keep Scherzer. Scherzer bolted "for a chance to win." At the time I wondered what he meant by "chance to win" but maybe he knew more about the status of the 2015 Tigers than us laymen.

The Tigers might have done okay with the Smyly trade because we acquired Price (who we probably have to jettison now) but we gave up some potential prospects. Further, the Joakim Soria trade was similar — acquiring an aging reliever for prospects. Now, maybe they can do the same thing: trade away an aging reliever for prospects. Probably not after last night's debacle, though. Probably not.


Bring Mr. Leyland back to the organization was a great move by Dombrowski. 

At this point, it appears the Tigers won the Alex Wilson and Cespedes for Porcello trade. The Red Sox even signed Porcello to an ill–advised four–year contract extension. The Sox may be willing to trade away Porcello at this point but they'd have to pay some of his contract.

Dave Dombrowski has done an admirable job running the organization. He brought the team out of many seasons from Hell to many seasons of glory; however, his legacy will be the failure to put together a bullpen. The Tigers last "good" bullpen was the 2006 squad that featured Jaime Walker, Joel Zumaya, and Fernando Rodney setting the table for the original scary closer, The Rollercoaster, Todd Jones. Each carnation of the bullpen since then has basically failed.

Dombrowski hit a home run by bringing in Jim Leyland to — sorry, friends — "make talent a team." Leyland performed admirably. With several opportunities to hire his replacement, the Tigers' brass went with the wild card, Brad Ausmus. Ausmus had never managed or coached; he worked for the Padres in the front office. Two seasons in a row the team has looked prepared for the season and came out of the gates rolling: aggressive, organized, tight, loose. They looked ready to kick some butt. And then they faded.

As 2015 set in, I expected either a great season or a terrible season. This average season has been a disappointment. After the 11–2 start excited everyone, the aggressiveness disappeared. I don't know who would be a good replacement for Ausumus, maybe Dusty Baker for the remainder of the season. Maybe Leyland. I think if they replace Ausmus, it has to be with someone with a track record. This veteran team needs a veteran manager to lead it.

I also think that if Dombrowski were going to be returning next season, he would have signed an extension. It wouldn't surprise me if (as Jon Morosi speculates) Dombrowski ended up with the Los Angeles Angels or Toronto Blue Jays. I don't see him going to the Phillies (too much to do there) but moving on to one of these teams on the cusp may make sense. Does that mean Al Avila takes over in Detroit or does he move on, as well? It's hard to say what Mr. Illitch might decide to do. He really wants a World Series with the Tigers.


When the winning returned, making the playoffs was a new experience for all of us. Contending is not enough to many fans as the team continues to fall just short of a World Series title.  


But now that Mike Babcock left for Toronto star players will again sign with the Detroit Red Wings, so maybe Mr. I will focus more on hockey and consider the Tigers experiment a failure. The team has been so close … Anyhow, last night's bullpen meltdown put a stake in the season that was the Tigers. I don't even want them to make the playoffs because with this bullpen, they would be unsuccessful. Anyhow, this team with four All Stars in underachieving.