Were you in the mood for a world-class bus-tossing? Did you want to start your day with the sound of an express pulverizing an unsuspecting individual DJ Jazzy Jeff’d into its path? Does the morning need a kickstart with a thunderous “THWACK?” Friendo, you’re in luck:
That’s Mike Illitch’s failson and Tigers owner Chris Illitch firing his GM Al Avila yesterday, and absolving himself of any responsibility for the putrid river sediment stench that the Tigers have been for Avila’s entire term in the front office. It’s not that Avila didn’t have it coming, but if Illitich were to wash his hands any more he’d have stripped all the skin off.
The decision itself is more than defensible, and a cautionary tale that rebuilds aren’t always about winning so much as being thrifty and hoping that a winner just lands on you while an owner hoovers all the boosted profits from spending dick on the roster. The Tigers have been in a rebuild since they punted Justin Verlander to Houston (2.30 ERA, 3.03 FIP, 186 ERA+ since the trade), and they are no closer to being competitive now than they were then. Other cash-ins for Nick Castellanos, J.D. Martinez, and Ian Kinsler netted bilge water.
There are certainly more than enough names that get the prospect perverts hot and bothered, and yet all of them have come to Detroit and either gotten hurt, been bad, or at best bewildered. Greene, Torkelson, Manning, Mize, and Skubal are just some of the names that were supposed to turn around the good ship Tiger starting this year, and none have done so. Skubal was even put out on the trade market before the deadline so Avila could somewhat restart the process. There’s still time for all of them, and they may end up being part of the next great Tigers team. Progress isn’t linear, but it’s been especially dong-shaped for the Tigers so far.
But front offices don’t act in a vacuum, and Illitch the Younger has no outs here. If he was completely oblivious and is just the dude signing the checks, he’s got to pay more attention to when Avila is firing Molotov cocktails at his own roster for a full seven seasons. Or, as would be customary, Avila laid out his plan to Illitch somewhere during the 2017 season, and considering the Tigers’ payroll went from $199 million on Opening Day 2017, to $125 million, to $115 million, to $80 million in 2021, to $135 million this year, I know which way I’d wager, and he’s lying through his teeth now.
Illitch’s dad wanted nothing more than to bring a World Series winner to Detroit, and was the rare owner who acted like it. Sure, Illitch did sit through a rebuild that included a 119-loss campaign, and it resulted in a true contender for years. But from 2006 to 2016 the Tigers only had two under-.500 seasons and went to the playoffs five times and the World Series twice. Illitch the Elder wasn’t bailing out as so many others has after a brief spasm of competence.
But when you’re the son of the guy who made the money, and you inherit everything, you don’t have to take responsibility for anything. Either Chris Illitich is the oblivious, baseball novice who shouldn’t be making the next hire if recent Tigers history was taking place while he was looking over there. Or he was completely on board with everything they’ve done the past seven seasons and is now trying to claim he didn’t and is a liar.
We’ll never know, but we’ve seen elsewhere in baseball how many owners gleefully run to shed payroll under the guise of a rebuild and only turn away from it when the results are so embarrassing they can’t ignore them anymore. By the way, It’s not clear how much the Tigers get for their Bally Sports TV deal, but the old one before 2021 kicked them $50 million a year and you can bet it was a significant raise on that. The Rays get some $82 million a year, so go from there.
I’m biased, admittedly, as I deal with multiple failsons owning the teams I love or used to love around these parts. One of the McCaskey goobers that sprang from Virginia (according to a close friend they drink room temperature chocolate milk), the barely sentient amoeba that is Joe Ricketts’s offspring, and Danny Wirtz as president of the Hawks when he’s not busy having his balls removed by his dad on live television. You can find others around the country though, like the warring Bolands in Denver or the paint-huffing family that make up the entire Rockies organization, also in Denver (maybe it’s the altitude). Hell, George Steinbrenner’s kid won’t pay AL home run leader Aaron Judge.
And this is where most of the country is headed, because all the billionaires who have torn our society into the current deserted carnival tent that it is will hand things off to their kids who have spent most of their lives trying to blow themselves and screaming at their parents in public from the age of five. It’s gonna be a great time, enjoy the show.
When watching the following highlight, I was reminded of the restaurant scene in Groundhog Day when the server drops the tray of plates and someone shouts, “Just put that anywhere buddy!”
Bella Bixby’s “Ah shit here take this,” is classic, and is reminiscent of someone handing you a shot of Malort post midnight.
Luckily for Bixby, teammate Morgan Weaver bailed her out in injury time to give the Thorns a 2-1 win over the Spirit with this bit of brilliance:
Bixby should be buying Weaver lots of shots of Malort, if that’s Weaver’s particular flavor.