Edson: 2 Bad Decisions Led to Tigers’ Tailspin
I’ve been a fan of the Detroit Tigers for, oh say, 60 years.
The last four years have been tough to watch and this year – especially the last week – has been a struggle for the fans, for manager Ron Gardenhire and for Tigers’ management.
But the team only has themselves to blame for letting this proud franchise deteriorate to the point where they can’t field the ball or hit the ball.
There are two business decisions in particular that I think led to the start of this tailspin.
First of all, let me say that the late owner Mike Ilitch always wanted the Tigers to win a World Series. He did everything in his power to do that.
But he let his heart – and not his head – make two crucial decisions that started Detroit on its free fall.
First, with the Tigers contending several seasons in a row, he got mad at pending free agent pitcher Max Scherzer. Mad Max had the gall to turn down Ilitch’s $144 million contract offer that would have kept him pitching for the Tigers for several years.
Ilitch got mad when Scherzer turned that contract down and vowed not to make Max another offer. This, despite the fact that Scherzer had won 82 games for the Tigers over four years. In fact, during his last two years in Detroit, he posted records of 21-3 and 18-5.
But the Tigers let Scherzer walk and over the last four years for the Washington Nationals, he has won 68 games and two Cy Young Awards.
So Ilitch vowed not to make the same mistake again. This time, however, he overpaid for Miguel Cabrera. He gave Miggy a 10-year, $240 million contract. That contract has five more years to go at $30 million a year.
In 2017, Cabrera hit .249 with 16 home runs and 60 RBI while battling injuries. Last year he was injured for most of the season and hit three home runs and knocked in 22 runs. This year, Cabrera has hit one home run and produced 16 RBI.
No question that he is on his way to the Hall of Fame. But at the same time, the Tigers are headed toward one of the worst records in baseball.
All the spinoff moves that were made when they let Scherzer walk away and watched Miggy grow old have led to this current state of affairs. When Detroit realized it was heading south, they traded stars Justin Verlander and J.D. Martinez.
Now the Tigers are faced with a rebuild that will take several years. Over the last four years, they have loaded up on young pitchers in the draft.
So while the young arms are on the way, the Tigers lack position players at both the Major League and Minor League level.
In fact, not only are too many Tigers hitting below .200, but most of them can’t play defense.
That is driving a veteran manager like Gardenhire crazy. He tries to be diplomatic, but he has chastised his team in the dugout during games and in the locker room after games.
The Tigers are telling their fans to be patient because this is a rebuild.
But my patience is starting to wear out with this current team and with this franchise.
It’s time for Tiger fans to hold both of them more accountable.
Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.