Ever since I took over this Detroit Tigers fan blog over a year ago, I have tried to write about baseball as logically as possible.
Currently, the fans have grown weary of the Tigers’ horrendous start. The “Fire Avila” chants have begun on social media, and the current acquisition of half of a casino by the Ilitch family recently has made Tigers fans even more furious.
Has the lack of spending by the Tigers made me angry? Yes, of course. Al Avila could have gotten better value with the money he has spent since becoming the general manager. Other teams have spent wiser and have seen returns on their investment.
In Chris McCosky’s article yesterday in the Detroit News, ($) one of the items he wrote was the following:
"“But waging a Fire Avila campaign? Pointless. It just makes no logical or practical sense to beat the drum for something that’s not going to happen. As if Ilitch is going to wake up on the third day of the second month of the season and eradicate the front office of his baseball team, scrap a plan that he’s endorsed since the day they traded Verlander, and start over.”"
He’s right in the sense Chris Ilitch is not going to blow up the entire front office in one day. But it is logical to beat the drum. Why? Look at what happened when radio personality Sean Baligian was at 1130 the Fan and started an idea for fans marching with signs to “Fire Millen” back in 2005.
Sean read the room that Lions fans were sick and tired of the losing, but it wasn’t until 2008 when ownership finally pulled the trigger. But let’s look back at Detroit Tigers history for a moment and realize the fundamental issue that is hardly discussed.
This problem goes back a bit in Detroit Tigers history
These issues about the team spending go back to the Jim Campbell days, but under Campbell the landscape was different. According to his SABR bio, Campbell operated the team like this:
"“John Fetzer set down three basic principles to guide the team’s operations: Stay competitive; build from within; and don’t lose money in the process. “"
Since Campbell and his right-hand man Bill Lajoie left the Tigers organization in the early ’90s, Detroit has time and again failed to develop talent from within. With the arrival of David Dombrowski, his method to build the team was to develop enough talent to entice a team to trade and then get better value on the return. He used prospects like currency.
In 2003 the Tigers were the worst team in the American League, and three years he got the Tigers to the World Series. Did it help that Mike Ilitch allowed him to spend money? Absolutely. But don’t worry, I am not going to use the “well, Dombrowski left the Tigers with no talent in the farm system excuse” for Al Avila.
Chris McCosky said the rebuild began in 2017. Ok, so with that year being said, let’s take a look at a fellow team in the division who made a General Manager change around the same time Al Avila was hired, which was in 2016.
- 2017-2018: The first year under Thad Levine, after a last-place finish, the Twins finished 85-77 and reached the wild card game. In 2018 they regressed a bit and went 78-84. Off-seasons signings included Fernando Rodney, Logan Morrison, Lance Lynn, Jonathan Schoop, and CJ Cron.
- 2019: 1st place in the AL Central (101-61) with new manager Rocco Baldelli. Off-season signings included Tyler Clippard, Sergio Romo, Homer Bailey, Rich Hill, Michael Pineda, Alex Avila, and Caleb Theibar (former Tigers farmhand)
What about salaries and what the Twins were working with compared to the Tigers?
Let’s take a look at Minnesota’s total payroll.
Payroll 2017 ranks: 22nd at $108 million. (Tigers at number four with $199 million)
Payroll 2018 ranks: 18th at $131 million. (Tigers at 19th with $129 million)
Payroll 2019 ranks: 18th at $101 million (Tigers at 20th with $97 million)
Payroll 2020 ranks: 20th at $39 million (Tigers at 22th with $36 million)
Randy Dobnak, who was sent down after struggling to start the season, was a find in the USPBL, and they also found Matt Wisler on waivers. And look at what Thad Levine was able to pull off in trading for pitching in guys like Jake Odorizzi and Kenta Maeda.
He has completely overhauled the approach the Twins take to scouting, drafting, and developing players since taking over in the fall of 2016. He and the President of Baseball Operations, Derek Falvey, have worked very well together.
As McCosky said himself, him writing his article is not going to change much. But please, spare us the excuses. And fans DMing him their frustrations and saying he’s the team PR piece isn’t going to change anything.
Yes, this team was supposed to struggle, but this much? The starting pitching has been solid enough to keep the Tigers in games, but the offense is the worst in baseball.
I think Tigers fans would like to see some progress, and I believe that is more than fair to ask. This season feels more like another step back than the step forward the team should be making. Yes, I know, it is May 4. The kids are coming from Toledo and Erie soon. I get it. I know what to expect. And hopefully, something comes of it.
I just hate being told how angry I should be.