Alright, I’ve had a few days to think about the Ilitch interview. Probably the biggest thing that bothers me about the whole thing is how he seems to want to blame others while absolving himself.
I’m a CPA and I do quite a bit of work with start ups. One way to build a business is to buy your way in. This can be the easiest, but it’s also the most expensive. Another way would be to build it from the ground up. Here, it’s usually more of a time issue then it is having access to funds.
And while I know the baseball world doesn’t quite mirror the business world because you’re pretty much consigned to the team’s city, you can liken each of these approaches to particular teams. The Yankees (and now the Mets) would be the free spending businesses while the Twins would be the business that builds from within. In a lot of instances, they’re forced into a method based on their location. Then you have the teams in between that build from within, but when they think they’re close, they pull the trigger to make a deal. That’s what the 1984 Tigers did. They were on the verge of breaking through, and with some timely moves (Darrell Evans, Willie Hernandez) they bridged the gap between a team with the potential to a World Series Champion.
One of the Tigers problems the last few is they don’t appear to have a plan. One year we’re seeing what we have (which was a disaster in 2003) and the next we’re signing whoever will play for us (2004 and 2005). So while we’ve increased our payroll, the results have neglible. And in the process, we worked from a farm club that looked like it had a ton of potential, but never quite panned out.
Part of the problem is, we’ve never had a guy at the top who’s done a good job. Probably since Bill Lajoie. So we’ve had guys like Randy Smith who have set the team back on it’s face. But it also looks like Ilitch is willing to stick his nose into things to move things along (Juan Gonzalez trade and the Magglio Ordonez signing). For Dave Dombrowski, the verdict is still out there because we have to let his tenur run it’s course.
So for Mike Ilitch to get up there and say something about needing the team to show him something before he’ll spend, he also needs to hold himself accountable. He hired Randy Smith just like the Fords hired Matt Millen. He also hired Dave Dombroswki. So it seems like way too convenient of an excuse to just say that the GM hasn’t shown him anything when he was the one who hired him in the first place. And the fact that some of the worst teams in the history of the major leagues have taken the field in Detroit under his ownership has just as much to say about him then anything.
We then get back to the current Hot Stove excuse, and that’s the fact that players don’t want to come here. What’s interesting is, you never hear about an NBA player not wanting to come to Detroit and the reason is, they’re winners. If you show that you have a committment to winning, which at times the Tigers haven’t (i.e. the payroll freeze when Comerica Park opened, 2003), then things will take care of themselves.
And there is some optimism the last couple of years. While the results haven’t been good, we have made competitive attempts at bringing in some quality free agents. And it also looks like the Tigers are shoring up their scouting department. These are all good things, and the Tigers are fielding pretty much an equivalent team from last year, in which many people, including myself, expected them to finish with more then 80 wins.
Ilitch, and the people that he hires, have the responsiblity to keep it moving forward. No more excuses, because like you said, it’s been thirteen years.