David Dombrowski has been President/G.M. of the Tigers for eight baseball seasons, and just what has the team accomplished?
One playoff appearance.
DD is 1-for-8, and that’s a .125 BA—something that even Gerald Laird would scoff at.
It’s time to take a serious look at how Dombrowski has been minding the store.
It’s one thing to miss the playoffs; it’s quite another to do so consistently in a notoriously weak division. It’s yet another to do it whilst frittering away the owner’s money like it grows on trees.
The Tigers, thanks to Dombrowski’s questionable generosity of the past, are on the hook for a whole lot of Mike Ilitch’s pizza dough spent on just a handful of players.
Nate Robertson. Jeremy Bonderman. Dontrelle Willis. On just those three mostly ineffective pitchers alone, the Tigers must cough up millions of bucks annually.
We laughed at DD’s predecessor, Randy Smith, for ham-handed contract negotiations with the likes of Bobby Higginson, who was over-rewarded after his 2000 season, and for the pathetic courting of Juan Gonzalez—a contract that Ilitch ought to drop to his knees every night to thank God that it never materialized.
But Smith, in retrospect, just appears to be Dave Dombrowski Lite.
That’s not a compliment to either man, by the way.
The Tigers are in a trick box this off-season, and for as much as you’d like to blame the field manager, Jim Leyland—and he’s very culpable, too—-the core of their troubles can be traced to Dombrowski.
In fairness, you can pretty much wipe away the first two of his seasons in Detroit, coming off Smith’s disastrous run, which culminated in the horrific 43-119 season of 2003.
And you can give Dombrowski props for luring Pudge Rodriguez to the Tigers, even though Pudge wasn’t exactly being flooded with offers at the time.
There was the Ugueth Urbina-for-Placido Polanco trade of 2005, which was among the very best and most lopsided in franchise history.
This is a “what have you done for me lately?” business, and lately hasn’t been filled with Dombrowski’s finest hours.
The trades have been spotty in their success. The free agent signings have been similarly pocked. Contract extensions have been doled out with frightening recklessness.
The Central Division has never been a powerhouse grouping. Any division with the Kansas City Royals served up 18 times for consumption to each of the other teams can’t be taken too seriously. Not to mention the Tigers.
If you’re the White Sox or the Twins or the (until this season) Indians, and you got to play the Tigers and the Royals 36 times every season, that meant a guaranteed 20-25 wins (at least) per season until 2006, when the Tigers finally woke up.
The Tigers had no assemblance of an offense in 2009, albeit partly due to some players underachieving (yes, I’m looking at you, Curtis Granderson). Yet Dombrowski’s efforts to bring bats in from outside the organization were laughable.
Aubrey Huff will go down as a poster child for Dombrowski’s bungling.
When it was clear that Huff was gagging under the sheer force of pennant race pressure, being swallowed whole by it, DD still had time to pick someone off the scrap heap. That player wouldn’t have been playoff eligible—he would have joined the team after September 1—but so what?
The Tigers added Matt Stairs in mid-September in 2006, and Matt hit a key home run in the final weekend series against the Royals to send a game into extra innings.
The Baltimore Orioles, in 1974, added ex-Tiger Jim Northrup in the final two weeks and Fox went 4-for-7, helping the O’s cross the finish line ahead of the Yankees.
So it can be done.
But Dombrowski treated the September 1 date as if it was some sort of force field beyond which he couldn’t make any more moves.
Dombrowski ought to thank his lucky stars that he works for a generous owner who is loathe to fire anyone. In lots of other towns, DD would have been long gone.
Dombrowski, in eight years, has fired a GM (Smith) and two managers (Luis Pujols and Alan Trammell), and all the franchise has to show for that and all the personnel moves is one post-season appearance—and the 2006 Tigers tried mightily to cough that one up, too.
Now the Tigers may not be able to add to their burgeoning payroll thanks to Dombrowski’s painting them into a corner financially.
This is, like all the other ones, a crucial off-season. The 2010 Tigers are likely not going to look all that much like the 2009 version. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing will pretty much be up to what Dave Dombrowski does from between now and February.
How confident are YOU?