The Tigers are wounded and facing questions about their organization culture.
The Detroit Tigers ought to be high-fiving and back-slapping their way into the dog days of summer knowing that Spencer Torkelson, an all-world corner infielder out of Arizona State, is headed their way as the No. 1 pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. Sadly, the offseason hasn’t generally been a happy one for the proud old franchise.
As insider Anthony Fenech notes via the Detroit Free Press, a startling number of staffers is business roles with the Tigers organization over the past two years.
And he isn’t exactly suggesting it’s due to COVID-related cutbacks
Nearly 80 Detroit Tigers business employees have left the organization since the start of 2018, their first full year without owner Mike Ilitch
Fenech is obviously taking aim at one man above all others as the leading culprit for this troubling exodus: Chris Ilitch, who emerged as the face of the family trust that owns the team following the death of his father, Mike Ilitch, in early 2017.
After winning the AL Central four times in the 2010’s and winning the AL pennant in 2012 with Mike Ilitch at the top, the Tigers quickly responded to his passing by cutting payroll massively. After spending near franchise-record levels in 2017, their payroll tumbled all the way down last season to its lowest level since ’07. Right on cue, 2019 was the Tigers’ second-worst season in franchise history, trailing only the infamous 43-119 campaign in ’03.
That’s only part of the story, of course. Fenech’s big takeaway is that the organizational culture that made the Tigers an attractive employer isn’t just gone, but “decimated” under Chris Ilitch and Co.’s leadership.
The AL Central has become a fearsome place to operate, as the Indians and Twins are impressively talented and dangerous and the White Sox are beginning to reap the rewards of an ambitious rebuild. With that in mind, the Tigers cannot afford any false moves as they retool in hopes of competing once again.
Sadly, the word out of Detroit is anything but positive, and the worst of it all is that it may as well be self-inflicted.