Follow-up on Dombrowski, Leyland extension
Still trying to get out of KC — apparently a commercial jet does indeed need a working seatbelt for the pilot (I kid, Delta actually did a wonderful job helping me change my flight plans today, and I am very grateful) — but I wanted to tie up some loose ends coming out of the Dombrowski conference call and the removal of the elephant from the Tigers clubhouse:
First is the question of a four-year contract for Dave Dombrowski compared with only one for Jim Leyland: Dombrowski said on the call that a multi-year deal for Leyland was never discussed. He apparently didn’t bring it up, they didn’t offer it, and he accepted a one-year offer. Does that mean this same contract-year issue will play out next season? Not necessarily, since they could conceivably revisit the issue in the offseason. Does it mean Leyland is set? I’m not sure that’s the case either.
“It’s a situation where for Jim, he’s done a very very good job,” Dombrowski said on the conference. “To me, when we tackle next year I think in my situation, being extended for four years, it puts some stability in the organization, and I’m hopeful that Jim not only signs for next year, but we hope that he’s here for a long, long time. But we thought at this time it was better just to tackle next season and get him signed for then.”
A long-term extension for Dombrowski, in my opinion, makes sense given the situation. To change over a front office is basically a commitment to rebuilding, and that’s not where this team is. And if you’re going to extend a GM, at least three years makes sense for some security.
Next is why now: As I wrote in the story on the site, Dombrowski said it wasn’t a distraction, but it had the potential to become a distraction. Leyland hadn’t talked about it. The players hadn’t brought it up publicly. It became an issue among some players back in 2009 before Leyland got an extension.
“I don’t think it has been a distraction,” Dombrowski said. “We’re in a position where we’re four games in first place and the guys have played well, but it always has the potential to be a distraction, and not from our perspective, but in the sense that it constantly is brought up. You’re aware that it’s out there. If you can avoid it, you try to avoid it. And in this situation, we were able to do that.”
There was another subtle point from Dombrowski that others in the organization had to worry about their status the longer it went. Could have been assistants, or scouts, or instructors, Dombrowski didn’t specify. But if the intention all along was to extend Dombrowski and his front office, it was best to get rid of the speculation and keep folks from jumping elsewhere.
“I think the most important part is you don’t to risk losing people in your organization that are important members,” Dombrowski said. “And I think that it’s a siutation that even though I feel very secure in that regard, I also understand that insecurities at times are part of anybody’s life and part of our business. And so the closer you get to the end of people’s contracts, which is Oct. 31, it’s not that people want to leave your organization, but I’m also not naive. …
“Sometimes people from other organizations will sometimes approach your individuals about other opportunities. You’re aware that those things are out there and you don’t want that to happen if you can avoid it. You’re in a position where, by getting signed now, we have plenty of time to be able to approach all of our people.”
One of the biggest strengths of Dombrowski, maybe the biggest, is the organization. He has a small circle that he trusts, he treats them well and they’ve stuck around. They have honest discussions, honest disagreements and he trusts their opinions. As organizations go, this one runs pretty smooth that way. This should keep that group together, and it should allow them to move ahead with some things.
I asked Dombrowski about that continuity on the conference call, and he got into the topic of evolving as a group, about incorporating new ideas over the years and adding new statistical analysis to the tools they use. He delved into that himself. I don’t know if that would have been a topic six years ago.
“When you start talking about people like Al Avila and Scott Reid and John Westhoff and David Chadd, from the baseball perspective, I think they’re as fine a people in doing their jobs,” Dombrowski said. “They’re very knowledgeable, they’re hard-working, they’re loyal. We know each other’s ways. Everybody’s not afraid to speak their minds. We have disagreements about decisions we make, but when we walk out of there, we’re all in a position where we’re united in what we do.
“They’re also all always trying to get better. It’s impressive because new ways, new styles come into the game all the time. We always look at them. We incorporate them into what we’re doing, things that we think can be helpful. I think the part of it, when you have that continuity, you have that relationship, you’re always looking to get better. So you’re not starting fresh. You’re always looking for ways to improve as an organization and get better, and you’re building upon methods that you already have. So we have a lot of things in place, things that we will examine once again. For us, it’s important now that we know we’re going to be here for an extended period. We need to continue to examine everything we do and make sure we’re as efficient as possible and continue to look at new methods and styles that we can implement.”
In that regard, Dombrowski also mentioned Mike Smith, the baseball operations director, who has been crucial to their work on statistical analysis from the time Dombrowski arrived.