The Detroit Tigers have been all in from the start of the regular season. They knew that losing Victor Martinez was going to be too big of a loss to overcome, so general manager Dave Dombrowski decided to go out and bring in Prince Fielder for the next nine years. This was a Tigers team that was not going to settle for just reaching the American League Championship Series. This team has World Series or bust written all over it.
The problem is, the Tigers are in danger of missing the playoffs entirely with just two weeks remaining in the 2012 regular season. Despite a triple crown threat in Miguel Cabrera and an elite starting pitcher in Justin Verlander, Detroit finds themselves two games behind the Chicago White Sox with 14 games left.
Simply put, if Detroit does not even qualify for the 2012 MLB Playoffs, especially with an additional wild card spot, change will be inevitable in Detroit after this season.
That could all begin with Tigers’ manager, Jim Leyland.
I am not saying that this is Leyland’s fault. Not by a long shot. Some of the Tigers players have underperformed this year. And although Detroit went out and brought in Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez through the trade route, the team has still come up short at times throughout the season. And since you cannot get rid of half the team – unless you are the Boston Red Sox – teams generally get rid of the manager.
Again, I am not saying that this disappointment is Leyland’s fault, especially if Detroit does not even reach the postseason, but he may be the fall guy.
If Leyland is seen as the scapegoat, whether he is relieved of his duties or if he decides to hang it up on his own, could the Tigers replace another manager who led a team to great seasons, only to also be used as a scapegoat himself?
Terry Francona was a major reason why the Boston Red Sox were able to end an 86 year World Series drought in 2004. He also led Boston to another championship in 2007, only to be forced to part ways after a collapse last year brought out the worst in the team with players drinking and eating in the clubhouse. The team said that Francona lost control with the players.
How did that work out by replacing Francona with Bobby Valentine? Clearly, it is not the manager. It is the whiny bunch of overpaid, overrated players still left over.
Francona has taken the year off from managing to work as an ESPN analyst. While I am sure he is content there, his heart is still in managing. Many teams will be interested in his services, but he could come at a costly price, And it is also unknown as to Francona would manage a team who is not all that close to having legitimate World Series aspirations.
But what about the Tigers? They have the money. They are desperate to get back to the World Series. They may be looking for a change.
Leyland may not be the problem. So far, we don’t even know how this story will end. Detroit could catch Chicago and win the World Series. I ave no idea.
But if they do not, whether Leyland is seen as the problem or not, Francona could be the solution.