It’s time for the Detroit Tigers to make some changes
The 2022 season seemingly held promise for the Detroit Tigers. Unfortunately the failures, follies, and disappointments have started to stack up far beyond the pile of successes. Chris Ilitch’s team is now an organization wandering about semi-aimlessly in a fog. A really thick and soupy fog.
Living with No Consequences ends
In the early years of a rebuilding process lots of things are overlooked. It’s basically “The Land of No Consequences”. Losses and even small embarrassments are expected.
However at some point a team’s journey of rebuilding crosses an unseen borderline. Expectations for a club brings them into “The Land of No Forgiveness” and it can be a harsh place to exist.
The Detroit Tigers showed some degree of promise in ‘21. After a woeful 9-24 start to the season, A.J. Hinch was able to rally his club to play an enjoyable brand of baseball throughout the summer months. A 77-win campaign raised hopes after the desolate times from ‘17 through ‘20..
The rising win total, Hinch’s presence, a young core in the rotation, two premium hitting prospects on the way and the decision to spend on some free agents had the expectation level fairly high heading into ‘22. There is no question they were crossing that border into The Land of No Forgiveness. Expectations can get heavy.
Circling the drain
Things could scarcely have gone worse this season and the fog doesn’t appear ready to lift soon. The question is now…”Will heads roll?”
First and foremost injuries have riddled the club’s pitching staff and lineup.
Top prospect Riley Greene fouled a ball off his foot late in Spring Training and missed two months. Victor Reyes has missed time with quad injuries. Jeimer Candelario hasn’t hit much when healthy around his IL stint. Major trade target Austin Meadows has been ill for much of the season, provided no power when in the lineup, and now stunningly has two bad Achilles heals. (Two?!)
On the pitching side, Casey Mize has been lost to Tommy John Surgery. Matt Manning’s arm woes have kept him out for weeks on end. Eduardo Rodriguez was a prime free agent acquisition. He started slowly, hurt his oblique to miss time and now is on the restricted list for personal issues. Tyler Alexander, Michael Pineda and Andrew Chafin have all missed time among others. It’s been a mess. Pitching coach Chris Fetter and a very productive bullpen kept things afloat but not enough to overcome the team’s meager offense.
If it hasn’t been injury it’s been underperformance throughout the lineup. The Detroit Tigers have the worst offense in baseball. Robbie Grossman has followed up his career season in ‘21 with a hapless first three months in ‘22. Akil Baddoo went from Rule 5 beacon of hope to a guy struggling in Triple-A. Spencer Torkelson has spent his rookie campaign looking like a struggling rookie.
Up the middle for the Tigers, Jonathan Schoop is playing excellent defense but has been a ceiling fan at the plate for most of the year. Javy Baez spent the early months of the season hitting well below the Mendoza Line before only recently showing signs of life. The rotating crew of centerfielders has provided little at the plate, however Greene is looking to rectify this and the early returns are good. Catchers Tucker Barnhart and Eric Haase have been primarily non-factors offensively.
What are the consequences?
You all know what’s happened. All these events have conspired to put another bad product on the field. But they’ve moved beyond these struggles having no consequences. There must be some accountability now. Two years ago, these events could have been waved off. No longer.
General Manager Al Avila started to get some heat from the national press last week and that only adds to the long-growing dissatisfaction among Tigers fans and local writers. This has to be a concern for Ilitch. It’s one thing for Twitter yahoos and local media to have some concerns. It’s a lot more embarrassing for Ilitch if a national baseball media elite like Ken Rosenthal parachutes in and delivers the organization a wallop upside the head. Rosenthal reported that rivals don’t feel Avila is very creative to get the job done.
It starts at the top. Ilitch can’t fire himself. Is there finally a seat beneath Avila which feels hot?
In this space a few weeks it was stated that Avila’s time to turn this around was down to days. Not weeks or months. There is no reason to have him in charge of another draft or trade deadline. It appears, despite no real turnaround, Avila will at least have the titular responsibility throughout this season. It’s only left for us to speculate if he’s actually still calling the shots or have responsibilities shifted internally.
Ilitch has to see the big picture. Things have stalled. The lack of minor league depth and modest player development is still an issue. Moves at the big league level have mostly flat-lined. It’s not even all Avila’s fault in every instance.
Injuries, off-field issues, strange underperformance, and illness are all hard to predict. Eventually though the leadership must accept all the craziness as their own making. A price gets paid.
Avila is the common denominator in all these seasons of rebuilding. In the Land of No Forgiveness, someone gets cast loose eventually and it’s got to be crystal clear to Ilitch now. New front office leadership is necessary.
No Leadership. No Identity.
Detroit needs a new head physician to grab the paddles and yell “CLEAR” and be the leader in the operating room. It’s possible Detroit has enough talent to avoid another complete tear down if a new voice is in charge. It’s now nearly impossible to envision Al Avila hoisting a trophy in Detroit.
The Detroit Tigers dropped a close game in San Francisco on Tuesday night. It illustrated once again the woeful offense they’ve assembled for the 2022 season as they scraped and clawed for three runs. The exact same 3.00 runs this woe begotten offense averages per game.
Can you put a positive on this Tigers organization? What are they known for to hang their hat on? It’s a team devoid of scary power bats and lacking in intimidating starting pitchers. It’s a team with no identity. Lost in a fog.
What will Chris Ilitch put up with?