Dombrowski holds out hope for Tigers

What began as a couple questions about the Tigers’ 2013 schedule turned into a wide-ranging interview team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski conducted with reporters Wednesday afternoon. In it, he pretty much agreed that Detroit’s offensive struggles have been confounding to him, but he held out hope that it could break out at a time the Tigers need runs most.

“We’ve been very inconsistent so far,” Dombrowski said. “But as I’ve said before, we have the chance to make this a very good year or a very disappointing year. It’s not over yet. We’ll see which way it goes. I’m still hopeful and think it can be a very good year.”

Dombrowski had a couple terms to describe his team’s offensive inconsistencies. Bewildering was one. Streaky was another.

“Maybe you people are wiser than me, but if you would have said to me that we would lose in consecutive fashion 2-1, 2-1, 3-2, 3-2, 3-2, 3-2, I think almost anybody in Major League Baseball would say there’s no way,” Dombrowski said. “And that’s what our totals were for a number of losses we had in a row. But things happen. It’s a strange game. I’ve been with clubs that have been very good hitting clubs that have gone through stretches in which they haven’t swung the bats very well and all of a sudden they come busting out. I’ve been with some clubs in Montreal in Florida — and I’m talking clubs with some Hall of Fame hitters on them — and all of a sudden they’re not scoring runs for a lengthy period and all of a sudden, boom, here they come.

“That’s what’s so interesting about the game, because all of a sudden, you just never know. It may be tonight. It might have been last night that starts it. It might not be. I don’t know. You just don’t know. But I know we’re a better offensive club.”

Those comments came before Prince Fielder’s three-run home run paced an offensive breakout in an 8-6 Tigers win over the White Sox, whittling their deficit in the AL Central standings to one game with a chance to move into a tie Thursday night.

“This club has been bewildering in that we haven’t hit on a consistent basis,” Dombrowski said. “But we can hit. So for whatever reason, it’s been streaky. But just when you think it’s at its lowest moment, all of a sudden we start to swing the bats. And hopefully that will be the case. I know they continue to work at it. [Hitting coach] Lloyd McLendon continues to work at it with the guys on a daily basis. And the one thing we have done, we have pitched very well. Usually when you pitch very well, it usually ends up being good for you. So let’s hope that it ends up being good for you, because we’ve got a lot of guys who are throwing the ball really well right now — starters and bullpen.”

A selection of Dombrowski quotes on other topics:

On the abundance of contending teams under the new postseason picture this year: “It’s healthy for the game that everybody’s competing. The other thing we talked about yesterday, if you get in, anything can happen, because we’re so closely bunched nowadays. There’s not — I don’t think, when you go in there — one club that you say, ‘Wow, that club is so dominant that it’s going to be an upset for anybody to beat them.’ There’ll be favorites in every series, but there’s nobody. What happens if the Phillies sneak in? They’re only going to be a little over .500 if they get there, unless they win all the rest of their games. If they sneak in and win their first game, all of a sudden you’re facing Hamels, Halladay and Lee, I don’t think you’re sitting back saying, ‘Wow, this is an easy series.’

“Usually you’re a clear-cut favorite if you have dominating starting pitching, or if you have a lineup that just thumps so much more and it can get good pitching. I don’t see any team that’s just dominant.”

Comparing the success of the Oakland Athletics: “That’s why managing large payrolls is such a great exercise, because now I’ve been at both. I’ve been here for a while. My first 15 years I was in the game, was with a payroll that was in the upper half one time. We had some clubs that were very competitive. The thing is that there are times when you have a low payroll, you just have to say no. So when you have a tough question for signing guys to long-term contracts to big dollars, that may push them at the point that you know the last couple years may not be as productive, you don’t say, ‘Well maybe I can do this.’ There’s one answer: No. Not, ‘Can I …’ No. And sometimes then, if you’re wise, and a lot of guys are wise, you can trade that player for two or three players that are just on the verge of stepping in. And there’s been some clubs that have done that, and it’s a wise move.”

“The reality is, sometimes those guys are smarter that are making the trades. Look at Oakland, what they did this past winter. I remember everybody was writing, ‘Oh look at them, they’re folding a tent.’ We didn’t think that, because the guys they kept getting, we kept saying, ‘Wow, they’re getting some good players.’ And when they called us about [Gio] Gonzalez and the guys that we were going to trade, we said, ‘Well, they’re asking for the right guys.’ And if they had gotten those guys, they would’ve been very productive too. And so, it’s amazing they’re doing a good job, and I think clubs have become better at that, most clubs — maybe not all clubs, but most clubs. The clubs that are acquiring the talent have become better at identifying players through their scouting — not all, but most of them.”

On the Tigers ending next season in Miami with Interleague Play: “I knew that somebody was going to get the last week. I prefer it not be us, but somebody was going to get it. That’s it. It all equals out. You play the same number of games in that regard.”

On reconciling Interleague Play in September with September call-ups: “Well, you know that when all this happened, there’s going to be some inherent situations that are not going to be fair. I mean, that’s just the way it is, because if you’re going to play Interleague Play all year long, ideally if you’re an American League team, you don’t want to be playing that later in the year. Also, if you’re a National League team, if you’re going to play it, you’d prefer to play it at the end of the year. The reason I say that is because you can play your roster in September, so you’re not tied to the same 25-man [roster], unless they change that rule. You can go ahead and add somebody, even if they’re not eligible for the postseason, in September that can be a DH. Now that’s unfair to some National League teams, because if you’ve got [Interleague games] early and you don’t have them late, well you don’t have that same advantage.”

On the potential for changing the rules on September call-ups: “We have had that discussion for years now. I think a lot of people share that feeling. For whatever reason, it’s never been passed and I’m not privy to those final conversations. I think a lot of it had to deal with you have to negotiate, you have to be in a position where the Players Association has to favor it. I think it’s finally starting to get more attention, but we’ve had that conversation for over 10 years. It’s actually called the Doug Melvin Rule among the general managers.”

On the feedback he hears from fans: “You know what? That’s great. That’s passionate fans. I mean, the number of letters I get on a daily basis from people that want us to trade this guy or get rid of that guy or why are doing this, why are we doing that, they’re passionate. I never have a problem with that. Now, if somebody’s vulgar or somebody oversteps the bounds, and once in a while you get one of those, I don’t think there’s any place for that. People write in on a passionate basis, and I bet you there’s a handful of people I get a letter from every single day. Sometimes when I get them I tell them, ‘Why are you writing to me? Write to the player or write to the manager or something. That’s not my decision.’ But I get them and it’s great. I don’t have a problem with it.”

On the emergence of new media and new modes of feedback: “Well, you make trades sometimes by texting. I mean, most of the deal we did with the Marlins [for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez] was by texting, this last one. Now, I basically feel that I’m in a position where I need to learn that, because it’s my responsibility. If I want to stay contemporary, you need to do what is comtemporary. I feel it’s incumbent upon me in my position, because part of your job is communication. And if part of the world is communicating by texting, and I’m not, then that’s not good. So I’ve had to learn how to do it. It’s still not my favorite form of communication, but I do it. I’d rather talk to a lot of people. My son sends me five texts and I say, ‘Why don’t you just call me? We can get this done in one minute.’ By the time I get it, it takes me a long time to text.”

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