Dombrowski: Every GM gets criticism
So we learned Friday night how manager Jim Leyland attached a little personal satisfaction to the Tigers’ AL Central title, because of the criticism that he took and the speculation early on that he wouldn’t be back next season. Saturday morning was the first chance for team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski to talk since the Tigers clinched Friday night. He wouldn’t go that far.
To him, it comes with the territory. He seemed to take offense to how few pundits and experts had predicted this summer that the Tigers would take over this division, but he didn’t make much of his own situation. The flip side of that, though, is that he didn’t try to take too much credit for all the July trades that worked out in the Tigers’ favor and helped turn them from a contending club into a division champion.
“Do I feel vindicated? Do I feel this? Do I feel that? No,” Dombrowski said, “but I think it’s a situation where it just kind of speaks to how delicate a situation it can be, what a balancing act it is. And you have to make the moves that you think are the right ones. And if you don’t, I think the worst thing you can do [is nothing] — because I’ve seen general managers do this — where all of a sudden they won’t pull the trigger because when they pull the trigger everybody’s on top of them, and then they end up eventually losing their jobs.
“Everybody’s going to make a trade that doesn’t work. Everybody’s going to make a decision that doesn’t work, if you make enough of them, because it’s not a scientific formula. … I think you do all your homework beforehand, but if you’re afraid to pull the trigger, you’re going to be in trouble. You’re not going to be successful. That’s just the way it is. And if you think that every one of them’s going to work, you’re going to be wrong. And you also have to understand there’s criticism that’s attached.”
Dombrowski used 2008 as an example, from the Edgar Renteria trade from Atlanta to the Jacque Jones deal with the Cubs, among others.
“We had a bad year in 2008, and everybody in the world picked us to win,” Dombrowski said. “We didn’t have the Midas touch that year. We made some moves that didn’t work out, and I know I scratched my head that wintertime and looked at those inside and out on why those things happened the way they did and we had meetings on it and discussed it inside and out.”
A year later, he said, they had a better year and contended, and they tried to bolster their case at the trade deadline. They thought they had. So did everybody else.
“To this day, in 2009, when we acquired Jarrod Washburn, I cannot tell you how happy I was and everybody in the organization was, and I remember how everybody praised it to the hilt,” Dombrowski said. “And it didn’t work. That’s why it’s a humbling game sometimes.”
He looked over that deal, no doubt, just as he did with the trade that brought them Aubrey Huff from Baltimore. Washburn had a knee injury that didn’t allow him to pitch down the stretch, when they were struggling to hold on. Huff didn’t work out for performance.
In either case, Dombrowski said, they try to break down the deals and pinpoint what went wrong. Sometimes, he said, it isn’t anything.
“Whose fault is it? Is it yours, that you acquired the guy? Is it the scouts that recommended him? Is it the manager who writes him in the lineup? Is it the players around him? Is it the player’s fault? I’ve never really figured that one out,” Dombrowski said, “because when you make the move, it’s the time where it’s the move to make. And it’s not like you don’t do your homework.
“So it’s a humbling game, and I think as a general manager, when you’re in that position, you just have to make moves and you have to do them the best you possibly can.”
Dombrowski pointed to the Curtis Granderson three-team trade as a rare example of a trade that worked out for all teams involved. The Tigers have clinched a postseason spot. The Yankees and Diamondbacks aren’t far behind.
“And every one of the guys [in the deal] are key guys,” Dombrowski said. “And I’m glad that the guys we traded are doing well, that Curtis is doing well and of course Edwin Jackson brought [Daniel] Hudson in return [for Arizona in another trade]. But our guys have done very well for us, too, and have been integral parts of why we’ve won.”
So have the deals Dombrowski worked out this summer, from the Wilson Betemit deal with Kansas City to the Doug Fister acquisition at the Trade Deadline and the Delmon Young trade with Minnesota last month.
“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” Dombrowski said. “If you think that [they all work], as soon as you think that, you’re going to get smacked down. If somebody in the game thinks they’re better than someone else, boom, it ultimately hits them right between the eyes. And any success that I would have is attributed to the people in the organization — having good scouts, having good people around, having guys like Al Avila and John Westhoff and Scott Reid and David Chadd and Dan Lunetta and those groups and all our Major League scouts. Those are the ones that make us successful.”