There are two types of Detroit Tigers fans on social media right now. There are the fans who want the team to spend money improving the ball club and the fans who want the kids to play and remind everyone that big spending has brought the Tigers to their current state.
Both fans want the Detroit Tigers to be competitive again. But the frustration of a quiet off-season that led MCB employee Michael Sicilia Writing a “letter” to owner Chris Ilitch on this platform reflected what part of the fan base was upset about. They wanted the Tigers to spend money to be competitive, but instead the team lost payroll.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a beating-up piece, or Al Avila’s recent moves, or his designs. Instead, we’ll go back to the Huey Lewis era and News-style until 1992 and see how the Tigers spent money as owners for Mike Ilitch’s first seven seasons before the Tigers moved to Comerica Park in 2000.
When the story of Mike Ilitch who bought the tigers was printed July 29, 1992Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” was the number one song in America, and “A League of Their Own”, “Boomerang” and “Batman Returns” were among the top box office films.
The Tigers were in the middle of a six game loss that would end in the end July 31 when a reliever named John Kiely took the win after Detroit collected three runs in the 7th ahead of Eric Plunk in a 9-6 win. Mike Ilitch’s first official win as the team’s new owner would be a 4-2 win over the Royals on August 28.
So let’s start in the winter of 1992 to 1993, when Ilitch started upgrading the pitching staff. As I wrote about his first in an article GM Jerry WalkerIlitch didn’t limit spending on Detroit, but he was reserved about how much to spend.
“I want to win,” Ilitch said to him Average in 1993. “But Gene Autry (former Angels owner) has proven that you can win talent and still not win. “You have to have management and everything else. It’s not always about spending money. “
December 1992 – January 1993:
- Mike Moore: $ 10 million
- Bill Krueger: $ 2.4 million
- Newly signed Bill Gullickson: two years, $ 4.6 million
- Newly signed Cecil Fielder: five years, $ 36 million (made him the second highest paid player in baseball)
- Dean Palmer: five years, $ 36 million
Palmer signed in November 1998, pretty soon after the season ended. It helped that Cecil Fielder’s contract had just fallen off the books. Palmer’s contract was reloaded and included a $ 10 million bonus that didn’t kick in until the Tigers moved into Comerica Park. Originally the offer was for three years, $ 21 million, and the same offer was made to third baseman Ken Caminiti.
After a period between 1993 and 1996 when payroll went above the $ 30 million mark for the first time player salary increases slow due to the 1994-1995 strike and declining national television revenues. That strike resulted in approximately $ 1 billion in revenue lost between the players and the owners, according to the 1997 paper entitled “Baseball changes the pay structure” written by Paul D. Staudohar.
After 1993, Mike Ilitch didn’t spend a lot of money again until 1998. Even Tim Belcher, whom the Tigers signed to a $ 3.4 million one-year deal in 1994, had one Quote that sounds strangely familiar to baseball fans now.
“The times for free agents are changing. Some teams offered me a two-year contract. But the big, long-term deals just don’t seem to be out there this year. “
Former GM Randy Smith acted just as much as he did because the Tigers refused to spend until their new stadium was built. Gradually, the players were traded for potential customers, as they were earmarked for a raise or near a free agency.
- David Wells: Traded at Cincinnati July 1995. Free agent 1996
- Mike Henneman: Traded to Houston July 1995. Free agent 1995
- Tony Phillips: April 1995 to California.
- In 1996, Mark Lewis, who won his arbitration against the Tigers in which Detroit tried to pay him $ 450,000, won $ 670,000 instead. He took over for Lou Whitaker in 1996 and he met .270 / .326 / .396 and then traded to San Francisco after the season ended. Lewis was one of the players who dropped in on the Wells deal.
Now we look ahead to today. Here’s what Chris Ilitch said Freep.com last February.
“Ultimately, we are building this team the right way so that we can be competitive in the longer term,” he said. “I am absolutely confident that we will build a Tigers team that Tiger fans will be proud of, a team that lives up to the tradition of our legendary franchise.”
“Al and I talk a lot,” said Ilitch. “We’re talking about a short-term plan, a long-term plan, and when Al and I feel the time is right, Al will have the resources to sign the free agents he has for our own base and ours.” Must add core of talent. That day is coming and we will be ready for it and he will have the resources for it. “
As Chris Brown pointed out in his Article in December, Many assumptions are made about Chris Ilitch’s finances. But what seems clear by the time we hit the fourth year of his reign as owners, is that Chris and his father shared eerily similar early ownership experiences.
For one thing, just like the mid-1990s, owners and players are now divided over salaries and the specter of a strike looms. Second, the luxury tax is increasingly being used as an artificial wage cap to keep salaries lower. Third, the Detroit Tigers are waiting for a certain trigger to re-issue.
When Dave Dombrowski arrived in 2003, by that point, after trying to team up with Randy Smith, Ilitch knew he had to spend money to be competitive. Mike liked the stars and as a retired minor league player, baseball was his passion. Maybe, like his father, he is waiting for the right time.