Al Avila is no dummy — or at least he’d like a little more benefit of the doubt. The truth is, Avila has been in the baseball business for a long time, and regardless of how many may feel about his tenure as Tigers general manager, he is a man with experience. With the team in turmoil and the media constantly criticizing his decisions, Avila has opened his ears to the grumblings, claiming that it is part of the job.
“I’ve got to have a pulse. Because I’ve got to worry about more things than just the next prospect coming up or the next guy up. I’ve got a bigger scope. I’ve got finances, scouting, player development, ownership. There’s a plethora of things. If you sit in my chair in a given day, there’s a lot of stuff that comes through and a lot of it doesn’t even have to do with baseball.”
In many ways, Avila appears to feel that general sentiment surrounding him was inevitable regardless of what decisions he made. When the time came to shake up the organization, he felt that much of the fanbase agreed that the team needed to be torn down and rebuilt.
“There was a lot of push to blow it and start all over again. And we did. Now it’s like, ‘Well, you shouldn’t have done that’ or ‘Let’s speed it up.’
“Believe me, as the good Lord as my witness, we knew what was coming. With ownership, it was discussed. When (Christopher Ilitch) took over the team, he knew the situation we were in. It was not good. It was not good. And so he just told me, ‘Well, your skin better be very thick.’”
So far, to Avila’s credit, he has shown that he has rather thick skin, and has dealt with the media in a manner that is underwhelming, but also devoid of any major blunders. But make no mistake, the general manager is not just letting the words roll off his back like water off a duck, but has taken many points to heart. While no examples of such situations were given, he stated that will not accept “blatant inaccuracies.”
“Sometimes [criticism] damaging. And that’s why I have to keep a pulse. There are times when I say, ‘That’s not right. That’s baloney. And we need to correct that.’ I fight back. I’m not just going to crawl under the table.
“I try to be as fair as I can. I understand when you have to write something. When we screw something up, you’ve got to write something. I screwed it up. Fine.”
If Avila’s statements are truly candid, then it is possible that he has been the right man for the job all along. However, it is one thing to talk talk, but the walk has to be walked.
10 predictions for the Tigers
Cody Stavenhagen at The Athletic has released his ten predictions for the Tigers in 2020, most of which are hardly surprising.
At the top of the list is Casey Mize, who Stavenhagen predicts will see time in the big leagues this coming season, with a chance of also seeing Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal and Alex Faedo as well; even Isaac Paredes might get his first cup of coffee this year. Of course, Riley Greene is also expected to continue his meteoric rise, as does Matthew Boyd.
Possibly the most disappointing yet honest assessment is that the Tigers will lose only 95 games, which sounds awful before the memory of 2019’s 114-loss season resurfaces.
TigerFest turmoil: Why this was a bad year to cancel
Mentioned above in the Avila segment was that the Tigers have not made any significant PR gaffes, but there is one thing that has come awfully close, and that is the cancelation of TigerFest.
The Tigers have offered various explanations for the move, none of which bring any semblance of satisfaction to most fans. Arguing that moving the event to the summer would open up more opportunities to use the field and facilities, avoiding the harsh cold of Detroit’s winter, the franchise cannot seem to see the forest for the trees. The whole point of TigerFest is to keep the fans’ interest alight throughout the barren days of winter, a reminder of the warm spring days of baseball ahead. And yet, the team brass just does not quite get it.
It has been a tough three years that has witnessed 310 losses, and the fans need all they can get to keep hanging on. Hopefully, the franchise figures out how bad this decision was and rights the ship for next season instead of going all in on moving it to summer.
Justin Verlander’s baseball cards in motion
After 15 years in the major leagues, Justin Verlander has accumulated a lot of things, from stats to various forms of swag. He has also been the face of many years of baseball cards, each offering an unique pose and emotion. With that large sample of portraits, Twitter guru Pitching Ninja put together an amazing compilation of JV’s many images that have adorned his cards.
Press the play button to witness the magic.
Justin Verlander, Mechanics (baseball card version). pic.twitter.com/U2PgsRc8v2— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) January 8, 2020
MLB releases 2020 regular season schedule
Major League Baseball released its regular season schedule for 2020 on Wednesday, giving the fans a glimpse of how their calendars look for the upcoming summer.
One of the more notable dates is the World Series rematch between the the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals in Washington, D.C., over the Fourth of July weekend. Also listed is the “MLB at Field of Dreams” match between the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees on August 13 in Dyersville, Iowa.
The season opens on March 26 with a pair of games starting at 1:10 p.m. ET with the New York Mets hosting the Nationals and the Tigers traveling to Cleveland to take on the Tribe.
You can see the entire schedule posted here.
The sweet sound of Willi Castro’s bat
Just listen as Castro takes his practice cracks in his home nation of the Dominican Republic. You can also hear him take some swings in this video taken from spring training 2019.
- How the worst team in American League history became pennant winners in 3 seasons. Could the current Tigers repeat the success of 2006 within three years?
- Tigers acquire C Eric Haase for cash considerations. Recent pickup RHP Dario Agrazal was designated for assignment in a corresponding move.
- 2020 BYB Tigers prospect #28: RHP Wilkel Hernandez stayed the course this season. Hernandez made steady progress but is still in need of a leap to boost his stock into true prospect status.
- Let’s talk about some Tigers prospect rankings. Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus have both released their annual top 10 lists in recent weeks.
Around the horn
FanGraphs investigates the cost of a win in free agency in 2020. The top five bounce-back hitters for the 2020 season. Dan Szymborski insists that the Washington Nationals were not magical, but merely awesome. Trevor Bauer has won 2-straight arbitration hearings, so how much might he seek to earn in 2020? Spend Guggenheim’s money: If the Dodgers are going over the CBT this summer, how will they get there? Cincinnati Reds leave Nick Martini out to dry making way for Shogo Akiyama. Jose Miguel Fernandez re-signs with KBO’s Doosan Bears. Realignment, robots and the universal DH — how baseball will change during this decade.