Ilitch Should Leave Decisions to Dombrowski

Detroit Tigers general manager, Dave Dombrowski’s official titles are listed as “President, CEO, and General Manager.”  That’s a lot of responsibility for one man.  In essence, his extensive titles mean that Dave is in charge.  Or at least that he should be.

But what happens when you’ve got an over zealous team owner interfering from time to time?  Does Mr. Dombrowski’s authority out rank the man who signs the checks?

Tigers owner, Mike Ilitch is a man obsessed with winning.  One gets the sense that he is physically pained by a poorly performing team.  He’s one of the few owners in Major League Baseball who actually watches most of his team’s games in person — and studies the players.  He can be regularly seen at Comerica Park flanked by Willie Horton or Al Kaline, trying to figure out where he’s gone wrong.

Late last year, it was Mr. Ilitch who contacted Mr. Dombrowski to tell him to go after Miguel Cabrera.  It was a sincere attempt to better the team and get it back into contention — and the World Series.

But it was also a 180-degree departure from Mr. Dombrowski’s method of drafting top prospects — and stealing hidden talent from other clubs.  It was Double D who slowly built the entire program — farm system and all — and selectively signed free agent talent as it became available. 

Trade season 2007, in reality, wasn’t a show of strength by the Tigers.  It was a show of desperation.  It was a shotgun approach to win it all or else.  It was the knee-jerk reaction of a frustrated team owner who got a little taste of post-season glamour — and an American League pennant — and wanted more fast.

Mr. Ilitch will be 80-years-old next July.  He’s owned the Tigers since September 1992.  His ownership of 16 years has seen the near destruction of a team he loves to no end.  I believe his desire to win, ironically, has led him to disrupt the team operations over the years — and this season was no exception.

If Mr. Ilitch should be commended for one thing it is this: he is the man who recruited and signed Dave Dombrowski.  He has put the best baseball mind in charge of his beloved team.  The right thing for Mr. Ilitch to do is to stay out of his way and let him run things as he sees fit. 

Throwing money at a baseball team’s problems usually doesn’t work.  Time and patience and luck are the three keys to success.  It seems Mr. Ilitch is short on at least two of those things.