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Reining In Ilitch?

OK, so here’s my reaction to the Ilitch AP interview, sprinkled in with some thoughts I was already having about the Tigers’ off-season so far:

You see, I recalled a Jayson Stark article I read earlier in the off-season. Now, why was I thinking about an article that focuses on the Dodgers? Because of the quote of new Dodgers GM Ned Colletti that is highlighted in a separate block:

“If I wanted to fix things and have half a farm system, I could have done that yesterday. But that’s not the plan. The plan is to be better and still hold the course, to develop and win at the same time. That’s probably the hardest thing to do in baseball – develop and win at the same time. But that’s what we’re trying to do.”

It occurred to me that among the positives of the twin signings of nearly elderly free agent pitchers Todd Jones and Kenny Rogers was that we didn’t have to give up any draft picks as compensation for either of them. In the case of Rogers, the Rangers were contractually obligated to not offer him arbitration, and one wonders if Dombrowski still has enough contacts in the Marlins organization to at least have a hunch that they would decline to offer arbitration to Jones, thus eliminating the concern of losing draft picks (word around baseball is that the Marlins declined to offer Jones arbitration because they don’t feel they will be able to afford to pay for more high draft picks than their own plus those they will be getting as compensation for the Blue Jays’ signing of A.J. Burnett). This is in direct contrast to last year’s signing of Troy Percival, which continues to look worse and worse as time goes on. At least the Magglio Ordonez signing only costs us money.

Then came the Ilitch AP interview. At which point, I think, a thinking Tigers fan can begin to understand a piece of the dynamic going on in the front office of the Tigers. Ilitch is pressing Dombrowski to win, and win now. Thus, the sense of urgency as shown by the firing of Alan Trammell and hiring of the 2200+ games of managerial experience that Jim Leyland represents. Also, we can now understand a little better the signings of Ivan Rodriguez, Rondell White, Jason Johnson, and Fernando Vina in the off-season following the most embarrassing number in recent memory: 119.

So, what to make of this? I see it this way: Ilitch would like to spend like a drunken sailor and win now, throwing caution (and the future of the franchise) to the wind. On the other hand, he finally has a GM he trusts in Dombrowski, and Dombrowski has the authority to put the brakes on ill-considered moves (such as, let’s say, the proposed Granderson and Zumaya for Javier Vazquez trade, which sounds a lot like exactly the kind of idiocy that Randy Smith would have engaged in without hesitation).

So I return now to the Colletti quote. “That’s probably the hardest thing to do in baseball – develop and win at the same time. But that’s what we’re trying to do.” Well, I hate to break it to you, Ned, but you’re the new kid on the block. Get in the back of the line.

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