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Published: Sunday, 4/13/2003

Tigers should stick to their long-term plan

Only two weeks and 10 games into the Detroit Tigers' season, and it's already time for the naysayers, haters and second-guessers to predict first-year (and first-time) manager Alan Trammell is sorry he ever took this job.

But Trammell isn't sorry, not in the least, although he does deserve some sympathy. And don't feel too sorry for him.

How can anyone feel sorry for a guy who's fulfilling a dream managing the team he once starred for?

Trammell: shouldn't panic Trammell: shouldn't panic
DUANE BURLESON / AP Enlarge

By watching the lack of talent he has to work with, that's how.

Low expectations for the 2003 Tigers should not be confused with the main objective - or at least what is supposed to be management's main objective: young players hopefully building a major league foundation.

Trammell can't - repeat, can't - allow his hands to be tied on this issue.

He should accept no other alternative than the foundation plan. He should never stray from that.

To be honest, Trammell is already straying a bit, hinting that some of Detroit's journeyman veterans could be replacing struggling youngsters to help win a few games.

That's a bad sign.

Ah, what does Trammell know? He's a rookie manager in charge of the worst team in baseball. He's has no prior experience, so he's panicking.

That's why it was a mistake for owner Mike Ilitch to hire Trammell without giving him better players to manage.

Trammell never had a chance to succeed this season.

Is that so shocking? Did anybody seriously expect the Tigers to contend for the playoffs in 2003?

Not if they were in their right minds.

Last place is still last place, no matter how many games out of first you finish.

No matter who's giving directions from the dugout, no matter who's starting at catcher or in the infield, no matter if 20-year-old pitcher Jeremy Bonderman is pulled from the rotation, the Tigers are still a lousy baseball team.

So, painful as it may be, let the rebuilding continue.

Trammell should go see Ilitch, who likes and respects the new manager, and tell him that despite the empty seats at Comerica Park, despite the smart-aleck newspaper columnists and talk-show hosts ripping the Tigers, based on the long-range blueprint it's important to keep playing the kids.

What's not right at the moment is sitting Brandon Inge, Carlos Pena, Rafael Santiago and Omar Infante for any length of time because they're stinking it up on offense.

They have to be confused and wondering: Does Trammell like me? Does he not like me?

Obviously, if the kids are not going to play every day, then they need to be in Triple-A Toledo.

Pena, Santiago, Infante and Inge deserve about two months of facing big-league pitching. Maybe they're not ready. But at least make that decision by giving them enough at-bats to make a fair judgment.

Trammell must show some confidence in Inge, Pena, Santiago, Infante, Bonderman and Eric Munson that fans and others in the media haven't. Pat them on the butt. Pump them up mentally.

Now is the time for even more drastic measures. Time for Trammell to ignore the critics and stick with his Opening Day lineup.



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