“I wouldn't wish what's happening to Alan Trammell even on Marty Mornhinweg. Believe it nor not, Mike Ilitch really likes Trammell. But with friends like that, who needs enemies?” Ian Benjamin Trippin bellowed into my cell phone.
The call was totally unexpected. I hadn't heard from Detroit Tigers homer I.B. Trippin since the 2002 baseball season. Little wonder. Ever since Trippin's beloved Tigers have become a punch line for late-night talk-show hosts, he's gone into seclusion.
Much like Ilitch.
“Congratulations, Mike Ilitch, for a job well done,” said Trippin, sarcasm dripping from every word.
“Not only did the Tigers become the first team in 41 years to lose 100 games before September, they did it with a day to spare and they're still on pace to break the New York Mets' modern-day record for most losses in a season.”
This is a delicate time for Tigers fans, some of whom may be straddling the fence, so I decided to try a new approach. I feel your pain, I really do. Besides, how many different ways can you criticize Ilitch anyway? The Tigers' deplorable record speaks for itself.
Like most serious sports fans, I.B. Trippin doesn't want to hear the truth. He can't handle the truth. It's easier to believe in a fantasy than to accept reality.
We can only hope Ilitch is so utterly embarrassed by this season that it shames him to cease and desist from stubbornly toeing a fine financial line so that nothing like this ever happens again.
“You're right,” said Trippin, perking up at the mere mention that Tiger prosperity might be forthcoming. “I mean, if this doesn't force Ilitch into action, nothing will. He's not a bad person. He just needs to pay a little less attention to his hockey team and more attention to his baseball team. If he doesn't act excited about the Tigers, why should we?”
Ilitch hand-picked Trammell to lead the Tigers back to respectability, all the way back to 1984 when Trammell and current coaches Kirk Gibson and Lance Parrish played for Detroit's last World Series champion.
Unfortunately, Trammell can't turn back the clock unless Ilitch gives him a fighting chance to show he can manage.
“I like Tram. I like what he represents and what he meant to the Tigers the last time they won big,” Trippin said. “I stopped watching the Tigers this year because Ilitch should be the one suffering in the dugout instead of Tram.”
I don't believe Trammell will be better off after managing the 2003 Tigers. He'll need a month in Maui to clear his head and wonder if he wants to return for another season.
Ilitch hired and fired Phil Garner, Larry Parrish, etc., etc. They all had a better first-year record than Trammell. Every manager in baseball has a better first-year record than Trammell.
Trammell talks optimistically about what the Tigers will take from this year's fiasco. The development of 20-year-old pitcher Jeremy Bonderman. The discovery of former Toledo farm hand Craig Monroe. The opportunity for Carlos Pena and Eric Munson to play every day.
“It all comes down to how badly Ilitch wants to win,” said Trippin. “Is he willing to do whatever it takes? Will he put forth the same 110 percent commitment he demands from his players and coaches?”