Thoughts on what the priorities for a new Tigers' GM should be

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

I have a few things I would like a new GM to focus on, not necessarily in order:

1. Every action MUST have a purpose

Every player in the system must have an individualized coaching/training/milestone program that gives them and the team guideposts of what the player needs to do and how they can improve. Invest in on and off-season fitness coaches, nutritionists, psychological support (if needed, and on a voluntary basis), cultural support and chefs and training staff to maximize every player.

The new team in player development may have started this, but I don’t believe in the old-school "learn by playing" benign neglect approach. This is particularly true when we see player breakouts created by private (expensive, not team-funded) coaching. We should be providing the world-class coaching needed to every player. We are getting surprising value from picks chosen after the 10th round, which is a credit to Avila, but we need to do more. I want some player to credit a breakout to a coach who is in the organization!

Moreover, coming to small-town America for A-ball has got to be shocking for Latino or other foreign players who may not speak English or know the foods, the language, the culture and the background of their teammates or host families. Anything that can be done to make players feel comfortable can only help.

2. Team training staff

This has far less to do with this season’s injuries and much more to do with Justin Verlander’s comments about how an independent flexibility training program helped him as injuries started to accumulate in 2014-2015. The key quotes came from an article called "How Kate Upton Saved Justin Verlander's career" from Bleacher Report.

Verlander’s problem was that he wasn’t flexible. At all. That was the source of his pain, his rapid decline. It started long ago, she said. Old tissue, left untended, had built up around bones and joints in his feet and ankles. Then it spread upward from there. To compensate for his decreasing range of motion, Verlander had been slowly changing his movements every season until essentially he was throwing just using his arm.

"It was really quite interesting," Gow says. "He was this amazing pitcher in spite of himself."

She took care to teach him what was happening. She embraced explanation as much as rehabilitation; for her, explanation was rehabilitation. "How else," she says, "can you heal?"

They watched videos of his pitching. She saw things that, for all his obsessive study, he never even knew to look for. The over-rotation of the hips, the lack of firing in the legs and glutes, the way he started hiking his shoulder when everything else became too stiff and weak to support it.

"My body was a disaster," he says.

I do not see that we’ve made the sort of changes needed to make certain that our players have the maximum support needed to make themselves the best players possible. If the Tigers did not have adequate training for a hard-working player, the most talented pitcher perhaps in team history, they did not have adequate training for anyone. Flexibility training is mainstream for athletes from childhood forward, not some alternative medicine. I know that some of the trainers from 2014-2015 are still involved in the Team's training staff.

3. Figure out what went wrong with the team this year

When every hitter underperforms (other than Harold Castro), there has got to be a systemic problem. Whatever it is, fix it. If it is time to move on from Schoop, Candelario, Willi Castro, Victor Reyes and others, do it. And obviously, while I can’t explain it, I have no confidence in the hitting coaches.

4. No more heavy investment in free-swingers

... no matter the "talent". You can’t win swinging at pitches outside the zone. No more belief that a Dawel Lugo-type can be fixed. For whatever reason, it appears that very few players can fundamentally and drastically improve their pitch recognition or selectivity.

My personal opinion is that, as a player does improve their recognition or selectivity, they get promoted and face pitchers who are more deceptive or have better stuff, and it is partially that very few players improve enough. It's not that the players do not work -- it is just that pitch recognition and selectivity probably is the hardest part of hitting. In any event, free-swingers are not undervalued assets.

5. No more investment in "veteran innings eaters"

...except as Triple A depth. You can’t ask fans to pay to watch a guy who is out there to not lose badly, or to try to win a 7-6 game. It’s one thing to try young pitchers who need an opportunity. It is another to bring in a formerly decent pitcher who has had a stretch of year after year of below average pitching.

How often has that worked for the Tigers? As far as I recall, Mike Fiers - one time. And the cost of these guys is huge, compared to the costs of trainers, nutritionists and minor league coaches. We signed Big Pelf to a 2 year, $16 million contract under Avila. We can hire busloads of coaches, trainers, nutritionists and others for that amount. It may take time, but I guarantee we will get more wins out of an investment in player-development than we will from a series of expensive, mediocre pitchers.

6. No more "fix him and flip him at the deadline"

As we've seen, the strategy sometimes leads to bad players filling spots in the lineup, and even when it works, the returns have not been great. Avila invested a lot of energy in this strategy, which is at best a strategy of marginal gains. Finally, this strategy is only viable if we can develop the prospects we acquire. This has not been the case with hitting prospects.

7. No more boring, fundamentally awful baseball

Unless you like pitching and only pitching, this team is no fun. It falls behind early and leads for opposing teams seem insurmountable. There have been a lot of inexcusable defensive mental errors, and poor baserunning. Again, some of this looked much better in the second half of 2021, so it is a bit of a shock, but whatever is going on needs to be cleaned up.

8. Know your prospects

They are currency and future assets. In either case, you should have superior knowledge of them, over other teams. It is ok if you trade a prospect and he has a good season - you’ve got to give value to get value. But when open mikes pick up players on other teams saying "Detroit are f’ing morons," it hurts.

Every team makes mistakes -- if it doesn't it is being far too conservative. But we need to provide good reasons for the mistakes (and the Meadows-Paredes trade was excusable at the time made, but the issue may have been underestimation of Paredes). Take pride in the organization -- nobody should be able to say that about us without us being able to defend the organization.

9. Give out big contracts rarely, and not just to fill holes

Make sure it is a player you can live with for the whole term of the contract, or at least that you get enough peak years to swallow loss of value at the end. Big contracts are also sunk costs. If a player can’t help the team, the contract should not dictate playing time. I’m really talking Baez and Zimmermann here, not so much Miggy (legends are in a whole different category).

10. It should never take 27 years to honor a retired legend like Lou Whitaker

OK, it was 25 — COVID delayed it the last 2). I know they were waiting on the Hall of Fame, but DON'T. Lou is literally one of the 5 best players ever not in the Hall of Fame (non-steroid and non-Black Sox edition). Lead. Don't follow -- retiring Lou's number, putting up statutes of Lou and Tram and holding Lou Whitaker days remind the BBWOA how great he was, in the context of the league of the 70s, 80s and 90s.

I’m sure there is more, but that’s what I’ve got for now.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the <em>Bless You Boys</em> writing staff.