DETROIT -- Al Avila, incoming general manager for the Tigers, admitted Tuesday that did not know why he was handed his job a day after the July 31 trade deadline. Only that Tigers owner Mike Ilitch fully expects the team to contend -- this year.
"Well, he's definitely disappointed," Avila said. "He wanted a championship badly. Even this year, he still has high hopes we can accomplish that. He hasn't given up on this year. He still wants to -- he still has a hope we can win this year. So yeah, he is disappointed we haven't (won one) -- I mean, that's 24/7 with him, where the club is concerned. That's what he wants, and that's what he focuses on.
"So, like I said, this is a year he's still focused on. But he did tell me he's committed, year in and year out until it's done. ... We're confident we can make a strong push this year and that we have the foundation in place to win next year and for years to come."
The offer was made to Avila on Saturday, the day after the trade deadline, which the Tigers went into as sellers. Avila didn't receive a lengthy explanation as to why Ilitch made the move he did. But it was clear from the start to Avila that Ilitch was hell-bent on winning.
Yet this is strange because it is all coming after Dombrowski had announced that Ilitch had signed off on all the moves. The Tigers are three games behind the second Wild Card, which, while it isn't impossible, is made increasingly difficult to obtain without one of its major sluggers and ace starter. On July 30-31, the Tigers sold off three top players -- David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, and Joakim Soria. Avila himself even noted he was in agreement with the trades to send two of their strongest players away. That was done with the future in mind, not just that of the present season.
"Going into that week of travel, our intentions, really, were basically to be buyers," Avila said. "We were hoping to get on a roll and win, and we were hoping to be buyers. But as time went by, the decision was made pretty late, to be sellers, to tell you the truth. And when I say late, I mean we waited until the last possible day that we felt that we could wait to make that transition. We were prepared, obviously, to go the other way, which we were, which I believe we made really good trades."
Judging by Avila's remarks made both in the release and the press conference, the Tigers are very much trying to make a run at the postseason this year while positioning themselves for the future. For Detroit to get back in the race, it's going to take the team going on a ridiculous run and a lot of luck. Avila may not be restricted in payroll terms, but there's only so much you can do in August. Still, the Tigers have to perform well above the .500 level, and, well, that's been a problem.
"I don't think it went as we had planned or hoped, but I think that happens in sports, not just baseball," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I think it happens in baseball more often than it does in other sports, but seasons don't always go the way you expect, whether it's just that things don't happen the way you expect they would, or you have injuries, or different things arise during the course of the season that throw you off. This isn't where we'd hope we'd be, but we're not out of it."
There's a chance the Tigers could come storming back. They could have acquired two sharp, younger starters and topple every team in its path. However, in order for the team to do that, they're going to need a miracle, and possibly a lot of money. Ilitch is committed to do whatever's necessary. Still, at what cost? The postseason is fluky and baseball is unpredictable. This sudden seeming reversal of direction, no matter how good it sounds, just doesn't make any sense.