The Dombrowski Compendium

I wanted to highlight some work that Kurt Mensching has been doing over at Mack Avenue Tigers this week. If you haven’t visited his sight, he has been doing a VERY deep dive into Dave Dombrowski’s tenure as Tigers general manager. Kurt has looked at all of Dombrowski’s moves to try and capture his philosophies and tendencies to provide a very comprehensive evaluation. Having undertaken a similar exercise a couple years ago for The Hardball Times Annual I know how much work goes into something like this and he’s done an excellent job. Below are links to the various articles in the series and I encourage you to check them out.

(And he’s not done, plus I’ll have some comments about DD tomorrow)

The Dombrowski Presser

Dave Dombrowski met with the press today and fielded questions for about an hour. Jaosn Beck, Tom Gage, and John Lowe had it covered. There is enough there to warrant about 6 posts worth of further explanation. But until that happens…

Miguel Cabrera

Dombrowski had a range of emotions about the situation, many were negative, but it wasn’t the first time he’s been in this situation in his 20 years as GM. It’s not surprising that he believes Cabrera will take the necessary steps. As for the question on whether he should have played Saturday night, that gets a little more gray. The response was:

“First of all, you have some legalities that are involved. You probably should know the rules when it comes to the Basic Agreement (the collective-bargaining agreement between the clubs and the players union).

“Secondly, we thought he was capable of going out there and playing.”

I admit to knowing nothing about the rules involved when a player has been drinking and is scheduled to play. I will say the answer was somewhat evasive in that they “thought” he was capable of playing. There was no comment on whether they thought they made the right decision.
Continue reading The Dombrowski Presser

Winter meetings end with a bang (my head against the wall)

Things started out so promising with the acquisitions of Gerald Laird and Adam Everett. And they end so disappointingly with the loss of James Skelton and Matt Joyce. To be fair the Skelton thing was set in motion weeks ago when the Tigers chose not to protect a young athletic lefty catcher with a 416 career minor league OBP.
Continue reading Winter meetings end with a bang (my head against the wall)

News from the front office

While other teams are hanging on to World Series dreams, the Tigers are beginning to retool for next season. The last couple days have already seen a little action, but more on the front office side of things.

The Tigers today named Kevin Hooker as the Pacific Rim coordinator. Hooker comes from the Phillies where he had responsibility for Australia the last 6 years and Taiwan, Korea and Japan for the last two.

They also cut ties with Victor Trasoff-Jilg who was the minor league medical coordinator. That appears to be the only minor league staff move though as all the managers and coaches were invited to return. In the same article Jon Paul Morosi notes that the Tigers will interview 4 candidates for the pitching coach position this week. No names were revealed.

Finally, it looks like Al Avila will be back as assistant GM. The Mariners asked permission to interview Avila for their GM vacancy, and were denied. It wouldn’t surprise me if Dombrowski held the GM reigns for only another year or two before handing that job to Avila. Of course after this past season, his grip on the position probably isn’t as solid as it once was.

Dombrowski speaks – a lot more than usual.

Dave Dombrowski held court with reporters today and he revealed a glimpse into this winter’s agenda.

The main points:

  • Edgar Renteria’s option will not be picked up
  • The Tigers are looking outside the organization to fill the closer role
  • The Tigers don’t expect to be a major player in the free agent market
  • Detroit does not expect to cut payroll significantly
  • Dombrowski likes Cale Iorg thinking he’s going to be an All Star very soon.

My thoughts:

  • Declining the Renteria option was pretty much a no brainer. The Tigers can try and sign him for less and offer him arbitration.  If he declines and is signed somewhere else the Tigers get two draft picks.  If he accepts it probably is a decent stopgap.  Renteria is a decent bet to bounce back somewhat and not be a void in the lineup.  While there is a desire to upgrade the defense at short, with Inge and mystery catcher in the fold the Tigers can’t afford to go with a total defensive specialist at short.  They have that at third already now.  Renteria sounds like he’d like to be back.
  • Dombrowski’s comments about Iorg were quite enthusiastic.  It could be he’s trying to up the trade value, or diminish the Tigers needs, but the remarks came on the same day that Iorg made the BA Top 20 list for the FSL. (Rick Porcello was number 1).  It makes one think the Tigers aren’t looking for a long term fix for 2009.
  • Rodney got a lukewarm treatment from Dombrowski saying that he’d be the leading candidate on the current club, but he wanted more consistency.  But with the Tigers not making a splash that probably means no K-Rod or Fuentes which is fine.  The new closer will likely be an established set-up man who can be had for a cheaper price.  It might not satisfy the fan base, but is probably the best and only way to go given the payroll constraints and ridiculous sum that closers get.

In the end Dombrowski is looking for answers like the rest of us…

“Most years, when we go into spring training, I have a good feel for where we’ll finish,” he said.

“I’m so far off on this,” he said, shaking his head, his voice trailing off.

Dave Dombrowski Profile

Google Book Search has The 2008 Hardball Times Baseball Annual. If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you may remember that I contributed an article about Dave Dombrowski. Well that article happens to be one of the ones made available on Google. So if you were to cheap to buy the annual (I kid of course), you can read parts of it for free.

But before you click over there is one thing that I need to heavily emphasize. This was written in August and early September of 2007. This was prior to the remarkably active 2008 offseason. Suffice it to say, I probably would have written a few things differently.

The Hardball Times Baseball Annual – Google Book Search

Junkballing: riding the river of news

A startling amount of news from the beat writers and analysis from bloggers today. Inge likes catching, Cabrera at first base, and more.

Inge says catching is fun

Brandon Inge is just too fascinating to resist. The very different views of his defense, the despair over his offense, the sympathy and lack of sympathy over his plight to get traded, his early season success while essentially being a full time player the first 25 games, people clamoring for Inge to return to third base, it’s the gift that keeps on giving for bloggers. Now it appears that Inge thinks catching is cool.

Inge said Tuesday that he still prefers to play third base — “my first love” — and that a chance to play at third regularly could persuade him to play elsewhere.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m not gonna lie,” Inge said, “but I’m good with the catching, too. I don’t like sitting.

“And I love Detroit. I love everything about it.”

It’s quite the shift from his stance this spring when he was catching and complaining about it, and doing it enough to draw ire from me. He later backed off those statements when it became clear Vance Wilson wouldn’t be breaking camp with the team.

I’m in agreement with Ian and Kurt that the possibility of Inge catching next year if Pudge Rodriguez isn’t back would definitely be a nice option for the Tigers to have.
Continue reading Junkballing: riding the river of news

The Coda

Wrapping up some outstanding items from what very well could be one of the most significant trades in franchise history…


Peter Gammons astutely pointed out that the Tigers were able to make this trade because of Ilitch’s and Dombrowski’s refusal to adhere to the asinine draft slotting system. Not only did a willingness to pay above slot money directly allow for the acquisition of main trade chits Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, it also meant that a this type of aggressiveness meant that the Tigers cupboard – while depleted – isn’t bare.

Many of the Tigers new top prospects are the product of slot-buster signings in the most recent draft. Headlined by Rick Porcello, the group also includes Cale Iorg and Casey Crosby among others.

The question then becomes how long can this remain an advantage for the Tigers? Surely other organizations have taken notice of the Tigers strategy, and it’s not that different than what other big market clubs have done. While some teams will still religiously adhere to the slotting system, I have to believe that more teams adopt a more aggressive stance on acquiring top shelf talent early on.

Will the Tigers be able to reload quickly by just outspending on the draft? I don’t mean to minimize the work that David Chadd and his scouts do, because it is easy to make bad decisions with big piles of money. But when you’re willing to spend what it takes to get Maybins and Millers and Porcellos, it certainly improves your chances for success.

On the defensive

I just wanted to do a quick follow up on the value of Cabrera’s defense. It was a hot topic here on Friday and commentor Ryan S pointed out that PMR thought Cabrera was okay in 2006. I should have looked at more than one year of data, and in my haste I got a little sloppy. In terms of run value PMR had Cabrera at +5.2 runs in 2006 at the hot corner. Perhaps Cabrera isn’t awful, and simply underperformed in 2007 due to his weight gain, or the crappy Florida environment.

Taking it a little further I also looked at UZR numbers for Cabrera. In 2006 he rated -14 runs per 150 games. That happened to be the worst rating for third baseman who played at least 120 games. In 2007 UZR rated Cabrera as the worst third baseman in the National League at -28 runs while Brandon Inge ranked tops in the AL at +12.

As for his outfield prowess, he was merely below average in UZR splitting time between left and right field in 2004, but was -21 runs per 150 games while manning left in 2005.

Continue reading The Coda

The Tigers aren’t interested in A-Rod unless they are

The Alex Rodriguez to Detroit rumors just won’t die. Going into the offseason I thought the Tigers chances would be similar to their playoff chances in September. Stuff had to fall their way, and it was a longshot, but that they were still in a better position than most teams. But since the end of the World Series, the rumors haven’t stopped.

I thought that the acquisition of Edgar Renteria would take care of that speculation. It didn’t even put a dent in it. Ken Rosenthal still thought it was a fit. Even if it meant bringing in the fences. Meanwhile Jayson Stark was saying that he saw Rodriguez ending up with the Mets or Tigers. Jon Heyman from lists the Tigers as one of 3 teams moving up in the A-Rod race.

So to squelch all this talk Dave Dombrowski flat out said:

“We don’t have any interest”

“We filled our spot when we acquired Renteria”

Still, that isn’t enough to dampen the A-Rod to Detroit enthusiasm. Buster Olney reports that other executives think that Boras could just negotiate directly with Mike Ilitch. But interestingly Jerry Crasnick spoke with 15 GM’s and none mentioned the Tigers as a potential destination for Rodriguez. Maybe the latter group of GM’s read the Business Week article about Ilitch from September when Ilitch said the Tigers weren’t ready to make the $30 million a year leap.

And 3 more A-Rod/Boras-y articles I couldn’t work into the above narrative:

Tigers lose 2

It looked like the Tigers were grooming their next manager in Matt Walbeck. He had 3 successful seasons and asked for and was granted a promotion to Erie last year. Now he’s the Texas Rangers 3rd base coach. Maybe this is just some MLB seasoning for the 2010 season? No replacement has been named but Tom Brookens, the Whitecaps manager in 2007, will be considered.

The Tigers also lost scout Greg Smith who will be scouting director in Pittsburgh.

What are they talking about?

Leyland and Dombrowski
Dave Dombrowski, Jim Leyland, and Chuck Hernandez took in some instructional league action today. Everybody is in Lakeland this week for organizational meetings so they could have been discussing anything.

Maybe they were talking about the way that the ball explodes out of Rick Porcello’s hand, or maybe the kid’s follow through.

Perhaps they were discussing how much David Eckstein would be worth if he left the St. Louis Cardinals. Would 2 years and $14 or $15 million be too much for a player with declining skills?

It could be they were thinking bigger and deciding if it is worth dealing with everything besides the money it would take to get Alex Rodriguez signed. That negotiation certainly wouldn’t be a picnic (thanks!). Would you want to deal with this?

‘All these things have to be part of the deal or there’s not a deal,’ including an office at the stadium for his marketing person, a luxury box where he could host people, and after the game people come down to the clubhouse and get things signed. That he had become so big he can’t fly commercially, so he’s going to need charter airfare. That he wanted to meet with ownership and go through the scouting reports in the organization, since he’s making a long-term commitment, of who is coming up in the farm system to know there’s a bright future to play with around him. He wanted to have a tent in spring training to sell A-Rod apparel. He wanted to know what the team marketing plan was going to be around him as he joined the team. I think that’s about everything.

Or maybe they were just talking about Cameron Maybin’s 2 homer night in the Arizona Fall League.

Really, it could be anything.

Dombrowski 48th in Forbes GM Rankings

Forbes has ranked all the general managers with at least 3 years experience from the 4 major sports (MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA). Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski came just about in the middle at 48th. In terms of baseball GMs though he did pretty well.

The highest rated baseball GM was Billy Beane at 26. Dombrowski ranked 9th among MLB general managers behind Beane, Minaya, Epstein, Sabean(?), Gillick, Schuerholz, Beinfest, and Jocketty.

If you’re wondering about the other Detroit general managers, only Joe Dumars garnered a favorable rank (9th). Red Wings GM Ken Holland came in 90th. Amazingly Matt Millen didn’t come in last (which is just one more reason to question the validity of the rankings), placing 96th out of 98 general managers.

Hat Tip Baseball Think Factory

Tigers announce minor league staffs

Here we are only a week and a half into the offseason, and already the team has generated 3 news items – and we haven’t even gotten to trade season or tendering contracts yet. Today, the Tigers announced their minor league staff assignments and things are all shook up.


So things at Toledo are pretty stable. Larry Parrish is back at the helm. Jeff Jones is pitching coach, and Leon Durham remains as hitting coach. With the departure of Don Slaught, Toledo could still lose a member of their staff.


Erie’s entire staff from last year was let go. Matt Walbeck was promoted from West Michigan to lead the Seawolves. He brings along pitching coach A.J. Sager who filled the same role with the Whitecaps last year. Hitting coach Glenn Adams spent the last 6 years as the Mariners minor league hitting coordinator before being let go in August.


Larry Herndon returns as hitting coach, and Britt Burns is pack as pitching coach. But Mike Rojas, the manager for the last 2 years, is now the organizational catching coordinator. Kevin Bradshaw, who was the GCL Tiger manager last year, assumes the same role for the L-Tigers.

West Michigan

Another former Tiger earns a promotion as Tom Brookens jumps from Oneonta to the Whitecaps. Ray Burris was a first year pitching coach for Oneonta last year, and will move with Brookens. Benny Distefano was promoted for the GCL Tigers to become the hitting coach.

The Tigers also announced new staffs at Oneonta (Man-Andy Barkett, Pit-Mark Johnson), the GCL Tigers (Man-Benny Castillo, Pit-Greg Sabat, Hit-Basilio Cabrera) and the VSL (Man-Josman Robles, Pit-JorgeCordova,Hit-Jesus Laya) and DSL (Man-Andres Thomas, Pit-Marcos Aquasvivas, Hit-Francisco Cabrera) teams.

Given some of the desire to change the Tigers approach at the plate, it was little surprise that on the top 5 teams, only 2 hitting coaches returned (Durham and Herndon). Toby Harrah will return as hitting coordinator, and he certainly had a track record of patience as a player. (for more on Harrah’s philosophies check out this article)

And a scout

The Tigers also announced that they hired Murray Cook as East Coast Crosschecker. Cook is a former colleague of David Chadd and spent the last 5 years with the Red Sox scouting department. Prior to that he was a colleague of Dave Dombrowski spending 10 years with the Marlins scouting department.