Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Thursday, October 13, 2005

10 days later

Ultimately, firing Alan Trammell was the right move for the Detroit Tigers. I know that. Only someone who grew up totally idolizing the man, wears a Tram jersey four days a week, and still has posters of the man taped all over his bedroom (or den) walls would completely deny that a change had to be made.

I certainly acknowledge that the Tigers' abysmal record can't be entirely blamed on Trammell. Due to injuries, he never had his best lineup together for more than a handful of games. Having players like Carlos Guillen, Rondell White, Magglio Ordonez, and Troy Percival healthy for a full season likely would've pushed the Tigers closer to a .500 record.

(Photo by Steve Perez/ The Detroit News)

But losing control of the team after Kyle Farnsworth was traded to Atlanta was Trammell's biggest failing as manager. The players interpreted the deal as giving up on the season, an excuse which consumed the team and overwhelmed Trammell's management skills. Pudge Rodriguez became a petulant diva and set his own rules for himself, which was best displayed by his "vacation" to Colombia during his four-game suspension in August.

Once you let your employees walk all over you, you just can't be an effective boss. In college football, the worst thing that can happen to a program is for the NCAA to cite it for "lack of institutional control." That's exactly what happened with the Tigers; Trammell lost control of his team.

But though I generally agree with the move, there are few things still rattling around in my brain that I need to dump out.

♦ When Trammell was originally hired, I was happy to see him back in a Tigers uniform. Really, who wasn't? Yet I felt an underlying sadness, because it seemed rather obvious how this was all going to end. Tram was eventually going to be fired, an indignity one of the Tigers' greatest players didn't deserve. Unless he proved to be a managerial genius, the second coming of Tony LaRussa, a first-time manager guiding a youthful, inexperienced team looked like a potentially toxic combination. And with everyone learning on the job, the 2003 Detroit Tigers were almost historically bad. At times, it seemed like Tram was learning his craft and getting a handle on the job. But eventually, his inexperience just couldn't overcome the many screaming failures this team was burdened with. The inevitably sad ending came to pass.

♦ To me, the most troubling aspect of Trammell's firing and Jim Leyland's hiring is the total traveshamockery of a charade General Manager Dave Dombrowski perpetrated when he crammed two quickie interviews with Juan Samuel and Bruce Fields (whom I'd argue could've been named manager instead of Trammell) in the hours before Leyland arrived in Detroit. Major League Baseball, in the interests of equal opportunity, prefers its teams to open up its interviewing process and give minority candidates an opportunity to pursue managerial positions.

Of course, I agree with this policy, in principle. But in practice, it doesn't seem to work. Especially when teams subvert the policy by squeezing in a couple of token interviews before hiring the guy they wanted all along. It was almost comical when Dombrowski admitted that he interviewed Samuel immediately after firing Trammell. He may as well have been holding up a sign that said "Loophole, people!" Dombrowski will say that he had to act fast, before another team courted Leyland, and his actions certainly support that. How fortunate that he had Samuel and Fields on hand to bail him out.

♦ The Detroit News' Tigers beat writer, Tom Gage, astutely pointed out how tiresome this whole hire-and-fire process has become for owner Mike Ilitch. "This time he looked ... bored," Gage wrote. And I'm sure he was. Along with having to fire a man who a generation of Tigers fans idolized, Ilitch had to face the embarrassment of admitting yet another failure and making yet another managerial change. (I also think he had to face the embarrassment of going out in public with that hairpiece. Are you looking at that picture? Damn. How can a rich guy have such bad hair?)

He even tried to pull the ol' Red Wings card (Hey, remember how many Stanley Cups we've won?) by comparing Jim Leyland's hiring to the Wings' hiring of Scotty Bowman.

Let's see, how can I say this most succinctly? No. Let me elaborate. No, no, no. No, no. Bowman has nine Stanley Cup championships. Jim Leyland has five winning seasons. That's not to diminish Leyland's accomplishments. He won a World Series title in 1997 and is easily the best manager the Tigers have had since Sparky Anderson. The Tigers aren't going to lose games because the manager sat the wrong guy or made an incorrect decision within a game. And he has the gravitas to stand up to Pudge when he's acting like a spoiled rich girl who has to drive a Honda instead of a Lexus. But Leyland is not Scotty Bowman. I know that's not exactly what Ilitch said, but he did try to draw the comparison to make himself look better, and needs to be called out on it.

♦ A guy who's been in Detroit for a grand total of four years (Dombrowski) was allowed to dismiss a Tigers legend, one of only three men who played in this town for 20 years. If you grew up in the late-70s or early-80s, Trammell was probably the best Tigers player you ever watched. Getting fired by a relative outsider - when it comes to the Detroit Tigers - just doesn't seem fair.

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