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Mike Ilitch and the Blame Game

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.

Illitch most certainly should shoulder the blame. Last season the signing of Maggs really left me with the uneasy feeling that we were moving away from Dombrowksi calling the shots to Illitch interfering and making personel decisions regardless of input from his GM and President.

This is when stuff starts to get ugly. I think as long as Mr. I keeps his paws off the team, the organization will grow and improve.

I trust Dumbrowski to make the right move. However, I don’t think that Mike Illitch trusts him enough.

Posted by joey on December 16th, 2005 at 2:37 pm

Sometime during the hotstove last year, an article at the Hardball Times looked at the Diamondbacks and the logic their spending spree. They were supposed to be cutting cost but… The answer was simple if you look at what happened in 2003 with the Tigers. If Arizona dumped ALL their salary and went with All young players, they lose. If they lose, people stay home and watch TV. And even with a small payroll, the team loses money.
Granted the team hasn’t won, but a 70-92 team IS better than 50-112 (despite what the collumnists in the Detroit papers think), so the signings (even Ordonez) have kept fan interest in the team while the farm system rebuilds. Shortly, most of the big money contracts that everyone complains about will be over and one can hope that the core built up (Ganderson, Logan, Inge, Infante, Bonderman, Moroth, Robertson) will be truly ready and the kids coming up will finish the puzzle.

Posted by Mike on December 17th, 2005 at 7:53 pm


I get the same impression. I’m not going to read too much into this interview though. Illitch seems to say one thing one day and something completely different a few months later.

Posted by Lee Panas on December 18th, 2005 at 9:58 pm

One other thought occurred to me that had to do with Ilitch’s AP interview: Let’s not forget that the man is north of 70 years old, and used to shag BP balls for Hank Greenberg. If I merely wake up in the morning when I am his age, I will consider it a successful day, much less having cogent thoughts regarding the Tigers (though I plan to keep having those, one never knows what the ravages of age will bring upon me).

Posted by jeff k on December 19th, 2005 at 9:37 am

Brian, you really thought the Tigers would win 80 games last year? On what grounds? It’s difficult to take TigerBlog’s evaluations of trades and signings seriously when there is so much wishcasting going on. It delegitimizes the whole operation, and it gives the site a “fanboy” feel”. I can get that anywhere! I complain about it because you guys seem very smart-I just wonder happens in your mind, emotionally or whatever, to arrive at the expectation of 80 wins for a team like the Tigers last year (and, for that matter, this year). Do you expect them to win 80 games in 2006? If so, why?

Posted by Dan on December 19th, 2005 at 6:20 pm

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