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The Trammell Firing

Managers, or coaches in other sports, get fired for three (possibly overlapping) reasons:

  1. They make bad in-game decisions.
  2. Politics, aka players don't like them, management doesn't like them, or fans and the media are able to strum up enough furious dislike to force media to make a move.
  3. They're not bad at what they do, but management has its collective eyes on someone else.
The diehards on the Tiger message boards think it's number one. The national media will have us believe that Trammell lost control of his clubhouse, and that number two is the cause. There's certainly some truth to both of those. Trammell's bullpen usage, in particular, may have been a bit too inflexible, especially once trades and injuries had reduced his options to Spurling for the seventh, Dingman for the eighth, and Rodney for the ninth. There was also certainly discontent: Pudge Rodriguez was allowed to make news about being unhappy, and though Brandon Inge ended the year by saying nice things about his now ex-manager, he mouthed off to the press in a strangely Nitkowski way all year. So reasons one and two both carry some weight.

But I think you can't underestimate door number three: the appearance of a sexier candidate. I think that in this situation, Trammell is Rick Carlisle to Jim Leyland's Larry Brown. Carlisle had his blemishes -- everyone hated him -- but he had led the Pistons to two straight 50-win seasons. Trammell had his blemishes -- his teams stank -- but he hadn't been given much talent to work with. And then the old man with the sterling reputation comes along.

So who is Jim Leyland? He's most famous for his success with the Bonds-Bonilla Pirate teams of the late 80s and early 90s, and for winning the World Series with Tiger GM Dave Dombrowski's Marlins in 1997, though he also led the Rockies to some years that surpassed expectations. We'll dive more deeply into Leyland's reputation in the coming days, as the Tigers go through the required process for a broad and diverse manager search, but he's known for abusing young pitchers and building winners.

So what of Trammell? He was, let's remember, a PR hire in a dark age. If all he did was sell a few extra tickets when he and coaches Lance Parrish and Kirk Gibson rode into town in 2002, his reign wouldn't have been a failure. He was probably not the most qualified candidate the Tigers could have found, but then again this isn't a science, and the most qualified candidates might not have worked out either. Hopefully he'll catch on as a coach somewhere right away, and work himself into another chance.

In the end, the team didn't progress. It's truly impossible to apportion credit correctly - Is it the manager's fault? The players'? Ownership's? But stagnating at 90 losses, with two matching late-season fades, is enough to incite a predictable change.