Dombrowski out, Avila in as Tigers general manager

The Tigers and president/CEO Dave Dombrowski parted ways Tuesday, ending a 14-year tenure that saw the Tigers rise from the worst season in American League history to two World Series appearances and four straight division titles.

Al Avila, Dombrowski’s top assistant since 2002, was named general manager and president of baseball operations, reporting directly to owner Mike Ilitch. He’ll handle all responsibilities related to baseball operations, while executive vice president of business operations will assume all operations on the business side.

The team announced the split in a press release Tuesday afternoon, with Ilitch directly quoted but not Dombrowski.

“I would like to thank Dave Dombrowski for his 14 years of service,” Ilitch said in the statement. “Together we’ve enjoyed some success, but we’re still in aggressive pursuit of our ultimate goal: to bring a World Series title to Detroit and Michigan.  I’ve decided to release Dave from his contract in order to afford him the time to pursue other career opportunities.  I feel this is the right time for the Tigers to move forward under new leadership.”

The release followed a lengthy clubhouse meeting before batting practice. Dombrowski was seen walking out of the clubhouse with bags. Avila and other Tigers assistants went in.

“I just want to say I’m very excited for this opportunity and honored and grateful to Mr. Ilitch for having the faith and trust in me to run this ballclub in our continuing effort in a pursuit of a World Series championship,” Avila said in a press conference. “And after 24 years in professional baseball and going on 14 years with the Detroit Tigers, I believe I am uniquely qualified to be successful in this role leading the organization. We’re confident we can make a strong push this year and that we have the foundation in place to win next year and for years to come.”

Ilitch hired Dombrowski just after the 2001 season as president and CEO. He took over general manager duties six games into the 2002 season, replacing Randy Smith, and undersaw a rebuild that saw the Tigers turn to younger players in search of talent. After an AL-record 119-loss season in 2003, Dombrowski and Ilitch began rebuilding the team with trades and free-agent signings, from Carlos Guillen and Ivan Rodriguez in 2004 to Magglio Ordonez and Kenny Rogers soon after, along with top draft pick Justin Verlander.

Once Dombrowski hired Jim Leyland as manager, the build-up got a jump start. The Tigers not only posted their first winning season since 1993, they won their first American League pennant since 1984, advancing to the World Series before falling to the Cardinals.

From that point on, the Tigers became perennial contenders, with the exception of a last-place finish in 2008. The Tigers finished second to Cleveland in 2007, lost a division tiebreaker to Minnesota in 2009, then finished .500 with a younger roster in 2010.

All the while, Dombrowski showed the flexibility to adjust the roster as situations changed. He traded for Miguel Cabrera after the 2007 season, giving Ilitch the superstar draw he’d long coveted, then traded away popular All-Star center fielder Curtis Granderson two years later to bring in young talent and retool the roster.

The return from the latter, including Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson, helped set up the Tigers’ four-year reign atop the American League Central. Scherzer and Verlander formed the basis of a dominant starting rotation that overpowered the rest of the division, with trade acquisitions Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez mixed in.

All that was missing on the resume was a World Series title. The Tigers went back to the Fall Classic in 2012 with Cabrera and Prince Fielder a power-hitting duo in the lineup, but were swept out by the Giants. They added Torii Hunter a year later and made it to the ALCS, but dropped a heartbreaking series to the Red Sox that included two go-ahead home runs at Fenway Park.

Dombrowski got creative to keep adding players and leaving the window of contention, swooping in to acquire David Price when few expected a fit, then sending Fielder to Texas for Ian Kinsler. But Detroit was swept out of the AL Division Series by Baltimore last year, and fell out of the division race this season, leading to Dombrowski trading Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria for prospects a few days.

The day after the Trade Deadline, Avila was offered the job.

“The main focus,” Avila said of Ilitch’s message, “was, ‘I’m committed to win. I want you to take this job and I want you to run with it. And make sure you know the foot is on the pedal, hard.”

Ilitch remains committed to doing whatever he can to try to pursue a World Series, Avila said. In fact, other than the man at the top, very little changes immediately, either in goals or personnel. The same core group that Dombrowski is the group Avila trusts, though he noted some will likely leave to join Dombrowski wherever he lands.

“I have the utmost belief that the guys that I want to stay will stay,” Avila said.

As for manager Brad Ausmus, Avila said he’ll remain manager for the rest of the season.

“He’s done a good job,” Avila said. “Just like everything else from here on out, everything will be evaulated. And we’ll make decisions moving forward.”

45 Comments

So, does Avila have a bottomless pit to spend, hard?

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Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr. Ilitch!!! I am now back in the fold as a Tiger fan. With what that clown did last year, that carried over to this year… good riddance!! After 55 years as a die-hard Tiger fan, I will be back rooting for the Boys from Detroit. I can now hope that Mr. Avila will restore some sense Tiger bred swagger.. With 2 months left, the Tigers can make up a measly 4 games for the wild card! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Wow 1st 2 innings tiger’s hitters really couldn’t make it much easier on Duffy 20 pitches and 5 outs.

6 outs.

DD gone. No matter my opinion, it’s done. But to me there are still 2 unanswered questions. Ausmus and Alex Avila.

I’m certainly torn about DD. He did plenty of good things for the Tigers, that is for sure. When he was hired I felt the end of the struggle was near.

On the other side, does this mean Alex Avila has job security?

5 year contract.

Here’s your new ace Justin Verlander. ..Perez struggling last 30 games I mean Victor Martinez struggling. 2 hits and 3 rbi tonight. How many times have we heard that a struggling player and team gets healthy get healthy playing the tigers.

Well, Ausmus appears to have job security through this season at least. Alex is going to be a serious call for Al. Based on his offensive production, Alex should be gone. A .173 BA is a drag on this team, no matter that he is a LHB.

Yes, Gk, 3 runs may be too much if the Tigers can’t hit Duffy. JV has regressed from his last outing.

VMart’s hitting has been atrocius. What’s the deal?

Now JV is in danger of losing a QS.

They look like the grim reapers. Shell-shocked.

If Al deals Alex, it wouldn’t be the first time a GM has done that kind of thing. I remember when Al Campanis dealt his son, Jim, to KC after becoming the GM for the Dodgers.

There is something we haven’t seen the Tigers do very often or not often enough. A double, a sac bunt getting the runner to 3rd, and a sac fly for a score.

I can put up with Brad for the rest of the season, just don’t want to see him back next year. If I felt confident they would make the playoffs I would want him gone now.
Tigers just can’t get runs in. Ugh!

Good riddance to Dumbo! He destroyed the synergy and swagger of the Tigers 2 yrs in a row. Last year was the first straw.. and he never got a CLOSER! This year should tarnish his resume’ forever. I am now back as a Tiger fan after last year’s heartbreaking series of trades. To think he kept Nathan and Jobba and ripped that team apart. Good riddance!

I agree 100% with you. Ausmus needs to go sooner than later.

Done………here after the 5th. I might go get a root canal or something it would be more enjoyable than watching these guys.
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Hope they come back but now it’s the pen no the Cy Duffy.

I’d give just about anything to be there. Haven’t been to a game in about 4 years.

Miguel Cabrera was scouted by Al Avila´s team. He was able to win Miguel´s familly trust to sign him. He was offered 2MM by the Dodgers and signed for 1.8 MM
Well, at least, he cant pull a Dallas Green since there is not that much in the farm system.Jk. He traded for Fister before his last contract in 2011.

The club looks bedraggled tonight. All too often we have seen our team degenerate into a lacklustre, uninspired mess. Tonight’s game is not the first of its kind this year and the earlier ones, even months ago, trumpeted the course of the season.
Glad to see DD go. It is only logical BA is next. He has been the manager of a good group of ballplayers that play bad ball. This is no longer a “re-boot”

Expect DD to head the BlueJays front office

That’s possible. He has also already been linked to the Angels, Brewers, Mariners, Phillies and Red Sox, as well as to an executive spot with MLB. DD will definitely have no problem landing on his feet.

As usual, I will play Devil´s advocate but the worst contract was an Illitch ´s call: Fielder. That is the reason why Miguel got injured playing 3B to open an spot for an inferior 1B.
That the reason why VMart was resigned. He refused to play DH
That is the reason to carry Kinsler making Davis redundant.
Many here think , The Tigers should have signed Scherzer. That is also an Illitch ´s call, It was him who over perceived personal slight allowed him to walk away
. it is his team, it is his right. But dont blame the messenger
The corporation also plays a role.The crony capitalism operation in downtown Detroit needs more money, so less money for the Tigers.
—–
Verlander gave no walks. He is now a contact pitcher like Tigers fans wanted. But the defense it is not that good. I linked yeasterday a fangraph post. Felix has lost more speed than Verlander.And he is younger but pitched a lot before his 24 bithtday
Frank Tanana was a 4 plus pitcher with the Tigers

Aníbal a .500 pitcher?Scherzer 11-8 . Failed to pitch the seven today. Old Maxy

I knew the old Max would show up. He’s not as good as his 1st half.

Dave must have had some inkling ahead of today. Maybe not. I’ll miss his smoothness. Al will have his own style and we will probably have many more changes in the future.

Smoothness or slickness?

I secretly called him Mr. Smooth sometimes. But, yes, both aspects of his personality.

as in “he’s a smooth operator”

Beck retweeted:”Asked some folks around the game to take a guess at what Cespedes might command on open market. Range was $120m to even above $150m” 5 to 7 years deal.
I dont see 20MM /year for his low OBP.But…

Joe Jiminez: 32 IP 46 Ks; 10 BBs; 0.91 WHIP; 1.69 ERA
Still in Western Michigan? C’mon Al what are you waiting for???

KC is the best team in baseball. I doubt we win the next two either. The matchup for me would be KC vs. Mets. Met starters vs. KC pen. That would be interesting. By the way, I hate KC, not because they’re good, but because they feel entitled now. I know a lot of our bloggers like them; I’d soon the Twins or Indians win, if we can’t. I am not sorry that DD is moving on, but am not sure about Avila; he’s always seemed to be a class act, but he has to do what’s best for the team, and that is to let his son fly on his own. It actually might help him, not to have the pressure of his Dad seeing every game. Do think that if Norris and Fulmer are legit, then we can compete well enough in the future. And that’s not counting Boyd.
1. Casty’s good approach in tonight’s AB’s.
2. JV’s walkless streak continues.
3. Cain was 0-5.
With Boyd going tomorrow, you need runs in the first five against Cueto; otherwise it will be just like tonight.

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Having a decade of success can take a lot out of an organization. Not with some organizations like the perennially successful Cardinals. It does feel like the farm has been sucked dry. To be honest, I don’t follow it as closely as many here do. But we watch other teams bring up one after another talented young player, while ours are gone before they ever put on the Old English D. Is that all DD’s fault? ET, you as devil’s advocate suggest that it’s still I’s team and he made at least one very bad decision bringing in Fielder, which caused a chain reaction of events leading Tigers further down the trail of wasted money, time, and effort. That one really bothered me. It feels like we are always a step behind. Reacting. DD and Mr. I have been aggressive in pursuing key players, but there are always glaring holes. And the BP suffered because this was one area they decided they would try to save money and hope for the best. I think Tiger FO needs to get back to a more patient long term approach emphasizing player development. But we are addicted to winning. Where are the talented young players in our system? We were so depleted we had to go out and trade away our top players midseason for 6 prospects belonging to other teams. Humbling.

My fear is the Mr I and DD had a disagreement over this same concept. With DD realizing the errors and saying we need more player development and less reaction. And Mr. I saying I don’t have time to be patient and giving Avila the nod.

I had the same thought.

Who cares if they disagree! Which one won the argument? They built a team last year that should have won the division by 10 games but didn’t have a bullpen to hold games. If you take away the blown saves they would have won the AL too. But when they tore the team apart…..for eventually nothing….it carried over to this year. So no WS last year, no playoffs this year and a bunch of young prospects. You play to win NOW! I’m glad Dumbo is gone as he let his big head get the better of him with his success in the past. Oh, by the way, good morning!

Twins lose. White Sox lose even with Sale pitching. Tigers still have a chance to redeem themselves with a 2nd place finish, WC or not. Let’s have some pride in the team after a season when they seemed to always have a piece missing. JV, VMart, Miggy and now Price, Cespedes, Soria. A recovering Iggy. A learning Casty. DD having too much faith in Nathan, Joba, Gorzelanny. A nearly total collapse by Alex. A manager who just doesn’t appear to be the answer for leadership.
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Someone on this blog is smarter than I am (probably more than one person) when they pointed out that Ausmus seems to use relief pitchers at the wrong time. Tonight, for example, when he used Hardy and Alburquerque in a lost game.

I’d love to sign Cespedes but 7 years? I don’t know.

I think every team has its own list of travails and challenges. The problem beyond the FO has been getting the right kind of players with the right kind of manager. This chapter continues.

I believe that Dombrowski not only did his job, but did it well. He was hired to build a World Series winning team which he did, especially in 2012. He can only put players together, the players have to then do their job.

His panic of last year has diminished his record. That team was steam-rolling. The consensus was that they were going to have to play the A’s for the championship, so he panicked. All he had to do was get a dependable closer and some bullpen help for the stretch. He quite literally “out thought” himself by not dumping Nathan and Jobba and then find something. The fact that they kept those two alone caused their demise. Go back an look at the games those two clowns BLEW and every starter has a better record. Do you really think Scherzer was going to stay with The Tigers with that cast of stiffs? No way. And on top of all of that, he panicked over the perception of this year’s starting rotation. What the Tigers gave up for, and got for, Price not only doomed last year, but it destroyed the whole effort of getting a group of solid starters. Sure, injuries have created problems this year. But he destroyed the perception that they had…. that swagger and synergy. All he had to do this year was get some stability in the bullpen and tread water until Miggy gets back. His past two years have just been awful. He should have poured everything he could into last year and try to win it then….. good riddance! Good luck Mr. Avila, I hope that you are your own man…

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