Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch gave Alan Trammell baseball's version of a Monopoly get-out-of-jail-free card in honor of Trammell's first season as manager. The card absolves Trammell from any media blame or fan criticism for being in charge of what could go down as the worst team in major league history.
Shucks, it's the least Ilitch can do, considering how he hung Trammell out to dry.
First, Ilitch low-balled Trammell on a three-year, $1.5-million contract, after which the owner turned his team of low-talent, high-risk players over to Trammell.
The Tigers are experiencing sharp growing pains, and there's nothing that can be done, other than tearing down everything and starting from scratch - starting with the owner.
On second thought ...
If you're going to run a baseball team on the cheap, which Ilitch is certainly doing, you may as well go all the way.
The Tigers are to baseball what the Dollar Menu is to McDonald's.
Ilitch's fast-food mentality contrasts big-time with his five-star gourmet Red Wings.
Actually, Ilitch is a lot smarter about baseball than the media and fans give him credit for.
Ilitch has figured things out. Regarding his Tigers, it's less about winning and more about maintaining the bottom line.
It's like the chicken and the egg. Which comes first? Ilitch spending wads of money or the Tigers winning?
In baseball, except in extreme cases such as the Oakland A's and Minnesota Twins, you can't have one without the other.
So Ilitch is taking the easy way out.
By allowing most of his baseball money to draw interest and putting the popular Trammell in the dugout, Ilitch hired the only manager in America who could run the Tigers this poorly and get away with it.
Trammell is the anti-Marty Mornhinweg among pro coaches in Detroit, so to speak.
When all else fails, blind faith allows us to believe in Trammell.
We loved him for 20 years when he played shortstop for the Tigers. We want to see him succeed managing his former team.
We're willing to give Trammell the benefit of the doubt. We didn't show the same love for Mornhinweg, who's now an ex-Lions coach.
Former Mud Hens manager Bruce Fields, the Tigers new hitting coach who interviewed for the manager's job before it went to Trammell, would be twisting over an open fire if he had produced similar results at this juncture of the season.
Fields had previous managerial experience. Trammell didn't.
Didn't matter. In Trammell we trust.
I don't have a problem granting Trammell a free ride this season. It's not his fault the Tigers are 3-23, the worst start in team history.
Still, Trammell isn't blameless. As a manager, he's inexperienced and impulsive.
He wavers between living and dying with each pitch when the kids play or dying a slow death when the veterans play.
Trammell should just relax and buy completely into the rebuilding plan.
Play the kids, Tram. You're the owner's security blanket. You can manage the Tigers for a long, long time.