Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Trammelled Under Foot
2005-10-03 08:52
by Mark T.R. Donohue

This just in: the Tigers fired manager Alan Trammell after three seasons and a 184-302 overall record. Rockies fans, look at Detroit and smile. There are teams that have it worse than we do. The Tigers' organization is a blight on the face of baseball. With Chuck LaMar on his way out in St. Petersburg, Dave Dombrowski might be the worst GM in the game. The Tigers hired Trammell for the wrong reason: they knew they were going to be horrible in 2003, and they wanted one of the franchise's brightest past stars to draw attention away from their incompetence. Rather than accepting that their crumbling infrastructure was going to take years to repair, Dombrowski shelled out large amounts of money for some players obviously entering their decline phase -- Ivan Rodriguez in '04, Magglio Ordoñez and Troy Percival in '05. Then he had the gall to act surprised when these guys were all bad, hurt, or bad and hurt and the Tigers' homegrown cast of no-hopers (with apologies to Chris Shelton) continued to not be any good.

I'm not saying Trammell was any good as a manager, because he clearly wasn't. Rodriguez was openly maligning him for much of the season, and the abuse he heaped upon the Tigers' many formerly promising young starters was both harmful and fruitless. The point is he was hired for the wrong reason, and fired for the wrong reason. The Tigers still have no farm system to speak of, and they play in a division with three teams that spend less money than they do every year and are better than they are every year. As long as we're kicking them while they're down, it's also worth mentioning that the conventional wisdom has it that Comerica Park is the one dud from the current golden age of ballpark construction. I'm no Clint Hurdle apologist, but I'll take Coors Field and Gen-R over the mess in Motown any day.

Equally unsurprising is the news that neither of Florida's teams' managers, Lou Piniella and Jack McKeon, will return for 2006. The stories are not exactly the same -- McKeon's Marlins, expected to be contenders, turned into a squabbling mess down the stretch, and the ultracompetitive Piniella simply tired of skippering a team with a lower payroll than the Yankees' Columbus affiliate -- but in both cases, a general baseball rule of thumb applies. Grinders, be they salt-of-the-earth types like Larry Bowa or more patriarchal stickler guys a la Buck Showalter, tend to wear out their welcome fairly quickly. They might spur an underachieving team to a focused half-season or so, but ultimately the players of today really don't like being treated like high schoolers. It only makes you admire all the more guys like Mike Scioscia, Bobby Cox, and Joe Torre who are clearly in charge without showily brandishing the whip all the time.

Finally, from ESPN's Page 2: every team's season in a single page. For the Rockies the headlines are the venison incident and (perceptively) the team's continuing difficulty producing offense away from Coors. I particularly like the pages for the Dodgers (blame DePodesta), Pirates (hockey theme), and Cubs ("Cubs disappoint; in other news, earth rotates on its axis once every 24 hours, sun rises in east").

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