Since long-time owner Mike Ilitch passed away in the spring of 2017, Detroit Tigers fans have seen a lot of his son, Chris, who took over as chairman and CEO of the franchise. That’s not particularly common. Many owners stay almost totally in the background, emerging only if something good happens [Ed.: Or very bad]. Ilitch, knowing that the franchise and its fans are going through a tough transition, has made numerous appearances and spoken to reporters at length on several occasions. He did so again after Tigers photo day on Tuesday, touching on a wide range of topics.
The key takeaway here was Ilitch’s continued insistence that he and his family are in this for the long haul, and have no interest in selling the franchise. He has said as much before, but he strongly reiterated that position in his Tuesday media scrum. Lynn Henning of The Detroit News had the story, and numerous key quotes from Ilitch.
“I am committed, and we are committed,” said Ilitch, “to long-term ownership of the Detroit Tigers.”
Plans can change, of course, but it also isn’t necessary for an owner to continue to reassure fans that he isn’t selling. The fact that he has repeatedly done so over the past two seasons would seem to indicate that he and his family are fully set on continued ownership of the Tigers.
Of course, one might argue whether this is actually reassuring or not, but at least he’s clearly stating that the team wasn’t being stripped of its payroll obligations in preparation for a sale. Whatever one believes this or not is irrelevant. The Ilitch family is heavily invested in Detroit for the foreseeable future, and there’s no way to walk back definitive statements such as Chris Ilitch has proffered without catching a lot of heat from the city and its diaspora of sports fans. That’s about as good a guarantee as you’re going to get in this life.
Ilitch went on to discuss the organizational upgrading that has been underway in recent years, name-checking Dawel Lugo — le sigh — in particular as one of the early fruits of the replenished farm system, and the overall state of Al Avila’s rebuild. We can find a good deal more to quibble with there, but in his own words, Ilitch is “having a blast.” It’s good to be king. Those who would have something more akin to “a blast” should the Tigers get back to being a winning franchise again soon, will have to wait a while longer.
Things have gone according to plan
More accurately, things have gone according to the projections. Dan Szymborski, creator of the ZiPS projection system, looks at the Tigers teardown and the early stages of the rebuild. ZiPS pegged the Tigers for 68 wins in 2018. While it hasn’t all played out as expected in terms of individual players, that projection is looking pretty good. The Tigers are 59-86, with 17 games left to play. A 9-8 record the rest of the way seems just a bit optimistic with the Tigers headed to Cleveland on Thursday. However, Detroit will see a lot of the Royals and Twins beyond the soon-to-be AL Central champs.
JaCoby Jones, you just keep me hanging on
With time running out before he edges out beyond the continental shelf of prospect status into the true deep waters of his late 20s, the Tigers’ hopeful center fielder continues to make his case. He hasn’t shown anywhere near enough with the bat to ink him into a starting role.
However, the defense, power, speed, and arm are hard to give up on, despite a hit tool that is showing just faint signs of development. Jones is likely going to get a lot more chances next year with those tools, but we need more of this...
...to go with this.
Look, we’ll take what we can get. Just get on base, for crying out loud, and we’ll come to some arrangement.
Around the horn
Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch talks relievers and bullpen management. Pedro Martinez has gone from fiery ace to thoughtful and insightful television analyst. Oakland Athletics prospective ace Sean Manaea is set to have shoulder surgery that will cost him the entire 2019 season. The Cubs have a marathon to run if they are going to take home the NL Central crown again. Yes, baseball players are still very superstitious.