July 06, 2015

"Talent a Team"

Making Talent a Team

I remember when Jim Leyland retired from managing and he said that he felt he had done a pretty good job of making talent a team. It could even be argued that that team he acquired in 2006 lacked talent but he was highly effective in creating a team.

It could also be argued that the team that Brad Ausmus acquired reeked of talent. The team, almost position by position, was loaded with talent. You could say it was a talented team. You can look at the statistics if you want, but his first month as manager, he utilized the talent. But as May dawned in 2014, suddenly he backed off on what had been successful in April. The Tigers that April swiped more bases than they had all of the previous season. They were fun, young, and aggressive. But it stopped.

Again, in 2015, Ausmus' team left Florida gunning for October. After the team's solid start, though, they have played blah baseball. Sure, they are decent defensively and hit well, but Jeff Jones' pitching corps is — well, terrible. It appeared that he finally saw fit to tweak Shane Greene after his great start and he destroyed him. Same with Alfredo Simon. I'm not kidding, I've seen Jones do this before. Now, certainly, when your pitching staff is Verlander, Scherzer, Sanchez, Porcello, and Price you look like a genius. The Tigers have more pitching talent then it looks like statistically.

You have two paths to look at here: 1) the Tigers pitching talent is NOT what it should be or 2) the talent is there, the coaching is elsewhere. Either way a problem is apparent. If the talent is not there, then the general manager and his scouts have been insufficient in locating and acquiring talent. A Scherzer find is definitely a rarity; however, it was a trip to the minor leagues that finally "fixed" him if you remember. Scherzer may not be worth the money it would have cost to retain him, but then again, neither is Verlander. If the problem is the coaching, then a change must occur immediately.

I used to argue that when Legendary Lloyd McClendon was the Tigers' hitting coach that he single handedly ended careers. What was the problem with Brandon Inge (okay, maybe bad example), Ryan Raburn, Brennan Boesch, and the many others. Of course, Boesch continues to be the typical AAAA player, but Raburn has done nicely in Cleveland. Just a side note and I realize he is not the hitting coach, but look at the Mariners' offense in McClendon's second season in Seattle.

I digressed there, but my point is that coaching and tweaking matters in the Major Leagues. I sometimes think that Wally Joyner is doing an okay job with the Tigers, but the team hits into too many double plays and doesn't score enough people — they get on base. Is this a problem with the manager and his strategy or is it on the coach? A great discussion point, right? I think it's on the manager at this point because game strategy matters. Each year it seems that Ausmus has the team ready for the season but it quickly peters out.

The Tigers can salvage this season. They can even get by without the injured Miguel Cabrera for a few weeks, I'm sure. But some things have to change. I have argued since about May 5, that if the Tigers are .500 in July, then Ausmus will be traded. Now, others have argued that he didn't have his full offense because Victor Martinez was out and his pitching was lacking because Justin Verlander was out. Well, now the argument could be that Miggy is out …

I think it's more strategy than not. I think that Ausmus has to utilize his talent better. Putting Ian Kinsler into the leadoff spot seems to have energized both him and the team, so that was a good move. Putting Yoenis Cespedes into the two hole almost certainly means he'll depart as a free agent. But, it's the right move for the team. Verlander wasn't worth much last season, so saying not having him effects things could be countered all day long.

So, let's get one more week in, see where the team is at the All Star break, then figure out what we have to do. If the team is still hovering at or below the .500 mark, then I say that Dombrowski jettisons Ausmus and Jones and brings in a veteran manager who can make talent a team. I am not endorsing Jim Leyland here, but he would make sense. I don't think he would do it, though. There is someone out there who could come in and shake up the clubhouse and get them rolling in the right direction. No, it's not Larry Parrish or Lance Parrish or Tom Brookens. It might have to be someone from the outside who can come in, observe the situation quickly, and make something happen.

I feel that the Brad Ausmus experiment did not work for the Tigers. Tomorrow, I will discuss my other Tigers concerns and see what everyone thinks. No matter what, somebody needs to determine the talent level and turn it into a team (if possible).

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