Tigers owner Mike Ilitch gave GM/President Dave Dombrowski a four-year extension, through 2015, yesterday. This pisses me off. I know the Tigers are in first place and have been lurking around the fringes of the playoffs for several years, but let me explain my frustration with this extension and Dombrowski’s run as GM.
The beginning of Dombrowski’s tenure was absolutely brilliant from the fan’s perspective. He was serving as the President, and when the team started 0-6 in 2002, he fired that fat piece of shit Randy Smith. Thank you. Dombrowski then turned one of the biggest turds in the history of baseball around and got them to a World Series a few seasons later. He signed Pudge Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, Kenny Rogers, and Ugueth Urbina. The Pudge and Mags contracts were a lot more than most teams were offering, but that was when the Tigers sucked and needed to overpay. Additionally, he oversaw the drafts that produced Justin Verlander and Curtis Granderson. He then turned attempted-murder Ugueth Urbina into the slick-fielding, super-sized cranium of Placido Polanco and traded what amounted to nothing for Carlos Guillen. All of these moves should be applauded and were instrumental in turning the Tigers into a World Series team.
Then the collapse in the 2006 World Series happened, and Dombrowski’s brain lost some of its functionality. He started making questionable moves, overspending on mediocre talent, and overvaluing his own players. Maybe Ilitch said, “BUY WHAT WE NEED I WANT A RING MOTHERFUCKER.” This might explain why the Tigers turned away from a farm system that helped produce several key members of that 2006 World Series team, and instead tried to become the Yankees of the Midwest.
Detroit followed up the 2006 World Series by just missing the playoffs in 2007. That offseason Dombrowski made the trade for Gary Sheffield (good), but then gave him a two-year extension for $28 million (really bad). To make matters worse, Dombrowski released Sheffield after one season, eating $14 million in the process. The same offeason he acquired Sheffield, Dombrowski made the bonehead move of trading Jair Jurrjens (the Tigers top prospect at the time) for Edgar Renteria. That same month Dombrowski traded future All-Star Omar Infante for Jacques Jones (bet you forgot about that guy). All questionable moves at the time. Then Dombrowski made the Miguel Cabrera trade, which was awesome. Even though the Tigers had been doing well for a few seasons, they never had that anchor in the middle of the order. As part of that trade, the Tigers also got Dontrelle Willis. It was widely thought around baseball that Willis was done, but the Tigers had to take him and eat his one year of salary to complete the Miggy trade. What did Dombrowski do? He immediately gave Dontrelle a 3-year/$29 million extension. This made absolutely ZERO FUCKING sense at the time. You would’ve been lucky to find one person involved in baseball who thought that was smart.
That same offseason Dombrowski gave Nate Robertson a 3 year/$ 22 million extension and re-signed Kenny Rogers a 1 year/$9million dollar deal. That’s three starters that are all getting paid handsomely, close to $10 million each, when they are nothing more than back of the rotation arms at best. The Tigers promptly fell from the ranks of competitiveness and finished in last place in 2008.
After losing the AL Central in a one-game playoff to Minnesota in 2009, it appeared Dombrowski was moving in the right direction. That winter he made the Curtis Granderson/Edwin Jackson deal for Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson, Phil Coke, and Daniel Schlereth. I’ll give him credit for that one. Granderson looked done at the time, and Edwin Jackson was getting costly. He got a good return picking up a young starter and a defensive whiz in the process. Dombrowski can’t be blamed for Granderson finally figuring out how to hit lefties in his 30s. Later that week Dombrowski slipped back into his old self and traded Nate Roberson, eating his entire $9million salary for the 2010 season.
Despite spending buttloads of money with nothing to show for it the previous couple of seasons, Dombrowski wasn’t done. In early 2010 he gave Jose Valverde a 3-year deal for $24 million (losing a first round pick in the process). Later that season he traded Dontrelle eating his remaining salary in the process. So, just to recap, he gave Dontrelle almost $30 million, Robertson $22 million, and Kenny Rogers $9 million in one offseason. In return he got around 20 starts. 20 shitty starts. That’s cost efficiency at its finest.
This leads us to this past offseason. Some of the horrible contracts were finally coming off the books, but the Tigers offense was stagnant the year before. Everyone knew they were going to sign Victor Martinez, and they did. He signed a 4 year/$50 million contract. But for some reason, Dombrowski gave Brandon Inge a two-year extension even though he has been FUCKING HORRIBLE HIS ENTIRE CAREER. Then Dombrowski gave Joacquin Benoit, a 34-year-old middle reliever, a 3-year deal, even though the Tigers have used about 5 picks on relief pitchers within the first 3 rounds of the draft the last three or four years. Again, this is not the way a baseball team should be ran.
After turning around a horrible franchise, Dombrowski seemed to have lost his way and started giving out a TON of wasted money to people that never deserved the contracts to begin with. All the while he was ignoring the farm system (which is one of the worst in baseball). The only position players of any merit that have come from his drafts are Granderson, Brennan Boesch, and Alex Avila (who was only drafted b/c his dad is Dombrowski’s assistant and the Tigers fucking love nepotism). The Tigers are winning this season in a mediocre division, but they do not have much of a future. They only have 2 or 3 players in the system that might turn into solid players. Instead of building through the farm system like he did in Florida, Dombrowski has gone for the quick fix by throwing money around like he’s spending daddy’s money in a strip club. More times than not, this approach hasn’t worked. Instead of using that money to set up long-term success, the Tigers are looking at a quick fall. Maybe all of this will be moot if the Tigers win the World Series this year, but I’m not the biggest believer in that happening (must be the MSU fan in me).
I hate to sound like an insufferable Yankees or Red Sox fan, but the Tigers have outspent almost every team over the last five years. What do they have to show for it? Zero playoff trips and an aging lineup with no youngsters ready to step in. They’ve been competitive in a craptastic division, but mediocrity isn’t good enough. Some fans will say that the Tigers were nothing for a decade and a half, and the last six years have been awesome. On one level, being relevant is nice. But at the same time, the Tigers should’ve been better. I can’t help but blame Dave Dombrowski for those shortcomings. He wasted the Tigers’ spending power and let the farm system nearly die in the process. Maybe I’m greedy because I think the Tigers could’ve become the Red Sox of the Central, spending money in the draft and in Latin America to build a system that produces useful players, while still throwing some money around, selectively, in free agency. I’d be naïve to think the Tigers were going to sign a bunch of superstars, but if things were handled better the last five years, they wouldn’t need to.
Long story short, I hate Dave Dumbrowski and I hate Mike Ilitch for giving him an extension.