An issue we don't often bring up, but we probably should: CEO, president and general manager Dave Dombrowski only has one season remaining on his contract. (Manager Jim Leyland as well, but let's save that for a future post!) I was asked about it by The KneeJerks on Monday, so I'm going to make a full post of it today.
Dombrowski signed his four-year extension after the World Series in 2006. Of course he still had the 2007 to go, so that's what puts us at 2011 being his possible final year in Detroit. Since the extension, the Tigers have spent $376 million on payroll and they've accumulated a record of 241-246 since that time. The Tigers are paying their general manager a fair amount of money in order for him to spend a lot of money without even a .500 record to show for it. So I guess if you look at it from that angle, there's no way you'd want to see him continue with the Tigers.
That's not the angle I'm going to take, though. I'm going to tell you exactly why they need to make sure to lock up his services for a few more years, and as soon as possible.
The first argument is basic. He's a known element, and he's proven he can put together a club in contention more years than that. Now that club obviously hasn't taken the next step by winning a division title. It's finished in second place numerous times and third place this year. But that's baseball. You can put all the pieces together and you get some bad bounces, a key injury or two and your season is lost. Winning a division title is so much harder than people realize.
Then you start to add in the other things. Look at the organization he's put together from top to bottom. He's got a great team with assistant general manager Al Avila, legal cousel John Westhoff and vice president of amateur scouting David Chadd, as well as many others. We haven't seen the fruits of the labor yet, but the Latin American scouting team has been bringing better and better talent north in recent years too.
What I really like about Dombrowski is that his vision in acquiring players is pretty strong, and he has confidence in his decision-making. In the past few seasons, he's had a couple of high-tension, make-or-break deals. The first was obviously the 2007-08 offseason where he sent six minor leaguers, including the top pitching and top positional player prospects, to Florida for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Then after that, he signed Cabrera for eight years and nine figures. Since then, well, you know all about Cabrera. We're lucky we're from the generation that gets to see him play in the Tigers uniform daily. We're going to all grow old and talk about how great that was.
Then you have the recent trade that sent a popular Curtis Granderson to the Yankees for four young players. Again, you're giving up a wildly popular Tiger for the unknown. I don't doubt if the trade failed there'd be FanPosts on the sidebar calling for Dombrowski's head by now. But he did what he had to do, he made the team younger and better by good scouting and trusting his instincts.
That's exactly the kind of general manager I want to see leading my team. Have some guts. Take a risk. And watch it pay off.
He's not perfect. I've well documented that in my years of writing about the team. Like I told Greg Eno and Big Al on Monday, I could probably name four or five faults off the top of my head. He gives out bad extensions and wastes money, for instance. But so could fans of pretty much every team in baseball. You make a lot of decisions, some turn out bad, some turn out great, most turn out forgettable. You remember the bad ones, don't give enough credit for the good ones. Moves like acquiring Carlos Guillen for Ramon Santiago, or stealing Placido Polanco from the Phillies.
Now you may want to just wait this one out for awhile, but I don't feel like that's the best move. I mean, how much are we really going to learn about Dombrowski by waiting until the end of his contract? Whether players play up to their potential or not is out of his control. You can assess the offseason and decide if you like his strategy and like the direction of the team for the past few years. But I think there's very little to be gained by putting an extension off until the end. Either find and bring in a new guy, or add a few more years to the current guy.
Me, I want to see Dombrowski remain with the Tigers for a few more years to come so he can guide a few more of his plans to fruition. You know what? I bet he wins a division title before it's all said and done, too.
Mike Ilitch should try to lock Dombrowski up for another four years before his eye is even given the chance to wander around looking for other options.
So what do you think of the idea?