The dust has finally settled on the 2017 season. A wildly entertaining world series has ended, the parade is over, and all managerial positions outside the Bronx have been filled. This is the time of year where awards are handed out and offseason maneuvering begins in earnest.
The Tigers moved quickly and decisively in their own managerial search. Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was the first name off the board, and he moved just as quickly in naming his staff. It contains some old names (Lloyd McClendon, Dave Clark, and Phil Clark), new names (Fan favorite Ramon Santiago and Chris Bosio), and former coaches from his days in Minnesota (Joe Vavra, Rick Anderson, and Steve Lidle). It’s a nice mix of veterans from the Tigers organization and people Gardenhire felt comfortable with from his previous post.
But what does mean for the 2018 season? First, the hiring of a “Quality Control” coach signifies an acceptance of the role of advanced metrics. While Gardenhire may not be the most sabermetrically inclined, the hiring of a coach whose job it is to parse through the numbers and digest the information indicates that he’s open to a blending of the old and new school.
The hiring of Chris Bosio was also something of a coup for the new Tigers manager. Bosio oversaw the revival of the Cubs pitching staff during his 6 years in Chicago. As the only Tigers hire that was outside the organization and Gardenhire’s network, he will have his work cut out for him. The Tigers gave up more runs than any other team in baseball in 2017. It may be unreasonable to expect the another Jake Arrieta type turnaround from a member of the Tigers pitching staff, but improvement from Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris is necessary in order to rise from the AL Central’s basement.
From a broader viewpoint, hiring Gardenhire represents a shift in organizational philosophy. The party that started in 2004 when Ivan Rodriguez joined the Tigers has finally ended. 2 world series, 4 division titles, MVP’s, Cy Youngs, Triple Crown’s, and every other award a baseball player can earn has made its way to Detroit over the last 12 years. It’s been an incredible run that eventually had to come to an end. This year it finally did. To make up for lost time, the Tigers compensated by being extremely active sellers until the literally last possible moment in the 2017 season.
The reward, beyond the prospects acquired in the trades, was the #1 pick in the draft. Expect more top picks to come over the next few years. The hiring of Gardenhire and his staff is a signal that there is a true commitment to rebuilding beyond merely shedding payroll. While other teams look to win the offseason via signings and trades, there’s a limit to how much you can purchase success. Winning organizations build a culture. Even if the next Tigers perennial all-star isn’t on the 2018 roster, he will be mentored by a then-veteran who is. So it becomes vitally important that the mounting losses do not become soul-crunching or lead to bad habits. That’s where Gardenhire must provide value. Whether the Tigers win 59 or 63 games is unimportant, but identifying and nurturing talent is critical to making the transition from perpetually rebuilding to contender. Jose Altuve was quick to thank Astros fans for enduring the 100+ loss seasons that led to the draft picks and rebuilding process. Who will thank Tigers fans for sticking around the next few seasons? I don’t know, I just hope Ron Gardenhire will help figure it out.