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Wednesday, December 17, 2014
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Published: Monday, 1/20/2003

Trammell hire is smoke screen for Tigers' ills

Don't overreact. Keep a cool head and remember that the most important baseball person in the Detroit Tigers organization no longer plays shortstop.

The Tigers managed by new skipper Alan Trammell are going to look a whole lot like the old Tigers managed by Larry Parrish, Phil Garner and Luis Pujols.

The new Tigers are going to lose a lot of games in 2003.

Apparently that's OK with some Tigers fans, who are darned good sports about their struggling baseball team.

Still, there's no way I could have watched the Tigers play at Comerica Park in person last year without wearing a paper bag over my head. They were dreadful.

Because of what the Tigers have become on the field, it appears that owner Mike Ilitch made the curious decision to hype Trammell to excess.

Since it's obvious that Tigers fans' comfort level with Trammell is of extreme importance to Ilitch, it shouldn't be surprising to see the enormous amount of attention being given to Trammell, along with the emotional hold Trammell has over Tigers fans.

If that seems like a strange way to market the Tigers, it's also the kind of front-office strategy that could backfire if the Tigers continue to lose big.

Ilitch should be commended for shaking things up at the top. It's refreshing to see a long-awaited change in attitude with the addition of Trammell and coaches Kirk Gibson and Lance Parrish, three members of Detroit's 1984 World Series championship team.

Every Tigers player will now be forced to question their passion for the game.

The Tigers coaching staff in general, and the hard-line Gibson in particular, won't buy any garbage about players being deficient in the areas of effort and baseball fundamentals anymore.

Still, improving the Tigers is going to require a serious financial commitment from Ilitch. The Tigers are far from being a competitive team and Ilitch, at least for the time being, has refused to open his wallet.

Ilitch must be held accountable for his decision to strip the Tigers' roster. Trammell can't win until Detroit acquires better players.

It blew my mind when the Tigers traded their best pitcher, Mark Redmond, who earned $300,000 last year, for three bottles of Evian water. It disturbed me when the Tigers didn't try very hard to keep Robert Fick, who signed with Atlanta for $1.3 million.

Ilitch's problem isn't an unwillingness on his part to pay top dollar. His mistake has been constantly overpaying the wrong players (Bobby Higginson, Dean Palmer and Damion Easley come immediately to mind).

Ilitch operates the Tigers as if he believes the winning tradition of his Detroit Red Wings will eventually rub off on his baseball team. He's been burnt so often with the Tigers that he's apparently reaching the point of no return.

By not spending what he should on the Tigers, Ilitch is gambling that Trammell's popularity with fans will sell tickets.

I just wish Tigers fans weren't backed into a corner where they're forced to embrace the glorious past that Trammell represents so they don't have to contemplate the present.



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