I was never a fan of the decision to give Al Avila the Tigers’ GM/President of Baseball Operations job. Sure, I understood it as a stop-gap solution to finish out the season after they canned Dave Dombrowski. I was happy with that move, but I knew Avila wouldn’t bring the Tigers into the 21C – after all, he’d been DD’s right-hand man and hadn’t shown any signs that he was trying to lead from below. His record since has only solidified my impression of his ineptitude.
I am not the only Tigers fan to recognize that for some time the problem with the team has been the Front Office. That was the place that needed a rebuild, and as the sucky seasons passed, Tigers fans grew more vocal in their opinions. Earlier this season, there were FB posts encouraging folks to sneak “Fire Al” signs into the park. The cries online for new leadership were public and vociferous. How did the Ilitches not recognize the problem when it was so obvious to folks in the stadium seats?
Well, I got an early birthday present when Avila was fired August 10th, and I got a late present today when the Tigers announced that Scott Harris is taking over as President of Baseball Operations. Harris seems to have an excellent record demonstrating actual baseball competency. And, if you thought Beautiful Brad was dreamy, well, Handsome Harris appears to be the full package: he’s young (36), he’s smart, he’s attractive, he has hair! It’s a true baseball fantasy. If he can win too, you won’t be able to keep the fans off him.
The first order of business for Harris will be clarifying his role with the organization. His title is President of Baseball Operations, but in San Francisco, it was General Manager. Is this a full promotion or just partial? It’s unclear, and I guess we’ll have to see what he says or if he hires a GM to really know. Certainly, he has to get the okay from Ilitch for the salary for a GM on top of his pay, so I’m sure the organization knows the answer. The rest of us have to wait.
The confusion is a holdover from the DD hiring as well. The Tigers had a GM but Pa Ilitch wanted to bring in DD (as a proven winner with the Marlins), so he hired him as President of Baseball Operations, supervising Randy Smith (the GM). Smith left and DD filled both roles then. When DD got the boot, Avila was elevated to his position and inherited both titles. Whether Harris will continue the tradition of the double-headed eagle or actually separate the jobs – which, frankly, might be part of the Front Office problems – will be a sign of his style, the organization’s confidence in him, and his ability to harness synergies to optimize returns and align his team with strategies that provide real returns for stakeholders…or some business jargon crap.
To fans, this seems like an actual opportunity to fix the piece that seven years of rebuild hasn’t yet addressed. I feel optimistic, but I will again root for another team in the post-season, so there won’t be much short-term change. As the Ukrainians have shown us, though, hope is everything. I may soon look forward to the 2023 season more than I await the end of 2022.