Let's step back a few years to consider Al's journey as a GM. Taking over from Dave Dombroski, he was handed a roster with an unsustainable payroll for a medium market team and a farm system on life support. Basically, he was handed a mess to clean up. In your profession, whatever that may be, cleaning up after the previous messy guy is a nightmare. Takes years. I know because I had to do it. Secondly, there was an imperative from the Tigers execs and fan base to win one for Mr. I. Let me be clear: Mr. I is a personal role model. What a great man! However, if you see the end coming, do you spend all the dimes or try to pass on money to the next generation? The trust fund of the Tigers ball club was pretty depleted when Al Avila stepped in.
If I can knock Al on something, it was the failure to sense the coming sea change in MLB. As a result of a hangover of the steroid era, swings and deliveries were scientifically optimized to produce the most power. Trust me when I tell you that this optimization is pushed down through low levels of youth baseball. Judging between the optimized power hitting and the optimized power pitching, pitching has won. In my nearly 50 years of fandom, there is no parallel in the past for the pitch speed and movement. Essentially, every club has Nolan Ryan fastballs and yellow hammer breaking pitches. To the naked eye, a lot of pitches just don't look hittable. The sea change is to solve the problem of the super pitching. It is not solved by backfoot, long swings.
Reasonably, Al pushed his chips to the center of the table betting on pitching. Comerica is a pitcher's park. As you well know, there is a gotcha with the optimized pitching. Does anyone want to make a list of Tiger pitcher injuries over the last 5 years? Is it unfair to call Al to the office about this? A little. I work in IT at a huge institution. Very few software products on the market can wrap its arms around our network. After getting burned with pitching injury for years, the chips kept getting pushed in for a losing bet. Failing to learn from failure is on Al's resume.
Market forces are good teachers and there is no shame in copying success and improving upon it. If you regard what the Rays, Guardians, and Mariners are doing, you have your templates. In negative relief, the White Sox are in bad shape. The revamping of the Tigers executive staff for metrics and the minor leagues came too late. In an ecosystem like pro sports, you better be ahead of the adaptation curve. Other sports have a lesson here too, look at the spate of young GMs and coaches in the NFL. Al would have done well to surround himself with young achievers years ago.
Often it takes two rounds of personnel to clean up a mess. The first guy is there to take the lumps. Let's hope the Tigers have a deep understanding of the needs of the future.