Has Chris Ilitch's run as owner of the Detroit Tigers doomed the franchise?

Since Mike Ilitch's passing in 2017, the Detroit Tigers have been abysmal. Failed trades, terrible free agent signings, and poor development are aplenty.
Detroit Tigers v Los Angeles Angels
Detroit Tigers v Los Angeles Angels / Katelyn Mulcahy/GettyImages

When you think of Detroit, of course, you think of the automotive industry, Eminem, and Motown; but many also think of sports. The Red Wings are one of the most decorated NHL franchises ever. This season, the Lions have taken over the NFL world as the NFL's Cinderella story. The Pistons have one of the more iconic teams in NBA history in The Bad Boys. The Tigers have the 35-5 starting 1984 World Series Championship team. Today, however, the Tigers are a shell of the organization they once were.

Coincidentally, or maybe not so coincidentally, this turn for the worst began to take place in 2017, as soon as Chris Ilitch took over as owner following his father, Mike Ilitch’s passing. Since that season, the Tigers have not reached the .500 mark, and have only won 70 or more games in a season twice.

This past season, the Tigers finished second in the AL Central. I know what you’re thinking, “second place is close to a playoff spot.” In most cases, this is true, and in some cases, second place IS a playoff spot; however, this is no ordinary division. This is undoubtedly the worst division in the entire league, and it isn’t really close.

The Minnesota Twins won the division last year with a record of 87-75. That is good for a .537 winning percentage. Not bad, but out of six division winners, they were the worst with the Houston Astros being the next closest with a .556 winning percentage (90-72). So yes, a second-place finish isn’t as bad as it gets, but in this division, it certainly isn’t as impressive as it sounds. The Tigers would have finished 4th in the AL East, AL West, NL Central, and NL West, and 3rd in the NL East. None of which would make for a very exciting season.

This just goes to show that the Chris Ilitch led Detroit Tigers have shown no signs of improvement, let down fans, and show no signs of changing their ways.

So now, we move to the fan’s perception of this team. You have casual fans seeing a second-place finish and thinking that this team is on the right track. You have desperate fans, longing for the “good ole days” of the early to mid-2010’s, saying “if we can just make it back to the playoffs, I’ll be happy.” You have delusional fans, who say that if you win the division, that’s good enough for them.

Now, I understand not every team can be the Braves or Dodgers and win 110 games a year, but a division winner at 85-87 wins is not someone that is going to be feared in the postseason, when you’re playing the best of the best. You will no longer have the luxury of playing games against the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, and Cleveland Guardians to inflate your record.

The worst part is the team hasn’t done anything exciting since Mike Ilitch’s passing. They have had multiple No. 1 picks who are growing into talented players, but as far as true excitement and instant impact players to build around the youngsters, nothing has happened. Javier Baez was supposed to be exciting and is now viewed as one of the biggest disasters in the league. Eduardo Rodriguez was supposed to be exciting, and he went AWOL for a portion of his already abbreviated stint with the Tigers after opting out this past season. For these reasons, can you blame fans for just wanting SOMETHING, ANYTHING, other than just nothingness.

This brings me to my main point. Detroit now has fans that are becoming complacent enough to accept mediocrity, and judging by the moves that Chris Ilitch and newly appointed president of baseball operations Scott Harris have been making, or perhaps not making, that is just what they want. Once the fans fall for a watered-down version of what was once a powerhouse team, they can spend less, make more, and continue to serve their greasy cardboard pizzas in peace.