By: Jeff Riger

Seems like forever ago that the Tigers were 27-12 and all was good with the team…

The Day was Sunday May 18th, and the Tigers had just won 6 in a row and completed a sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway on Sunday Night Baseball.  While all of Detroit was celebrating a 4th consecutive A.L. Central title, the team plane ran into some mechanical problems and the trip to Cleveland was delayed until the next day.

Since that plane malfunction, the Tigers have gone 36-41 and 10-14 since the All Star break.  They are 2-5 on their current 9 game road trip.

The AL Central celebration might have been a bit premature considering the Royals now sit just a half game behind Detroit for first place in the division.

This season has been a disaster!  And while the team can still reach their ultimate goal, forgive me for thinking there is a better chance that the Tigers will miss the postseason than win it all.

So who do you blame?

I’m glad you asked…

Dave Dombrowski-

The Tigers President and GM received plenty of praise over the years and a lot of it is well deserved.  Hell, just last week I wrote a blog about all the prospects that DD has traded away and how almost none of them have amounted to anything.  Most of them never even played in an actual MLB game.  It’s true!  Dombrowski, with the exception of the awful Doug Fister trade has been very good in acquiring pieces that his club needs to win.

His latest move; to acquire one of the best left handed pitchers in the game for Austin Jackson and Drew Smyly was a fantastic.  Getting David Price not only helps the team this year but next season as well.

But that is where the praise for Dombrowski ends…

For all the brilliant moves the GM has made, you got to wonder why it has taken him so long to address the obvious…the pen.

The move for Joakim Soria was good but it wasn’t enough.

Dombrowski failed to get his team another arm and it has already come back to bite him.  And, please spare me the whole “getting Price helps the pen because he goes deep into games and blah, blah, blah…”  Price didn’t go deep into the game yesterday.

Joe Nathan cannot be trusted!  His track record doesn’t matter.  Nathan is not a closer on a World Series caliber team, it’s just that simple.  Even when Nathan gets a save, he seems to throw over 20 pitches doing so and there is always constant traffic on the base paths.

Joba Chamberlain was fantastic for the Tigers up until-ahh-about 2 weeks ago.  Chamberlain pitched in 39.1 innings where he had an ERA under 2 and held opposing hitters to a .199 batting average.  If it wasn’t for Chamberlain, this team would have been sunk months ago.  But things aren’t nearly that good anymore.  Joba has a 9.53 ERA over his last 7 games with teams hitting .462 against him.

Yes, 7 games isn’t the biggest sample size in the world but it’s enough to make you wonder if he’ll be able to return to the form he had earlier in the season

As for the rest of the pen, I won’t even waste my time throwing out stats and opinions.  You know the story as well as I; you can’t trust them.   And now that Soria is on the DL, the pen is right back to where it started from before he was brought in.

Dombrowski never addressed the obvious enough and that is a big reason as to why the Tigers continue to struggle night after night.  If you and I could see the weakness how couldn’t he?

The answer is he could and decided to do nothing about it…again!

Dombrowski might have also hired the wrong skipper to run the show…

Brad Ausmus-

It’s hard to blame a team’s struggles solely on its manager.

Brad Ausmus has done some good things.  He’s made sure the team got to the ballparks on time for each and every game… OK, that was unfair and a bad attempt at a joke.

Ausmus has done some good.  He deserves credit for maneuvering a first place team through almost 5 months of the baseball season.  That can’t be easy.

But that is where the praise stops for Boss-mus.

For all the moves he deserves credit for there are a ton of decisions that he deserves blame for.

He hasn’t yanked guy’s quick enough.

He’s hasn’t let guys go deeper into games when they should of.

He’s looked foolish in trying to take a certain veteran pitcher out only to have to walk back to the dugout and see that pitcher give up the game.

He’s trotted out powerless lineups when the team was struggling.  Sometimes it worked while other times it produced predictable low offensive totals like last Thursday in the Bronx.

He’s let lefties pitch to righties when failure was imminent.

He hasn’t paid enough attention to advanced metrics.

Ausmus has been guilty of a lot during the course of his rookie managerial season but that comes with the territory.  For the most part, all of the above is things that skippers do and as long as they have a sensible reason for it then I’m forced to live with it.

But, I can criticize Ausmus for the loyalty.  At least I think that’s what it would be called.

What else could you call it when Ausmus consistently calls upon Nathan to close out games?

I got a couple of words, but I’ll just stick with loyalty.

It was irresponsible for Ausmus to call for Nathan in the 9th inning of Saturday’s game in Toronto when he had thrown nearly 30 pitches the night before.  Soria was healthy at the time and did a fine job of closing in Texas.  Nathan, of course blew the save and the Tigers lost the game in 10 innings.  Nathan then let the media know that the outing wasn’t going to affect him and that he was headed out to have a nice dinner and then go back to his hotel to sleep.

I can’t blame Nathan for blowing save after save this season.  I blame Ausmus for allowing it to happen.

Before Soria, Ausmus didn’t have many options at the closer position.  I guess you have to give him a pass.  But what’s the skippers excuse for not using Soria when he was healthy?  I can’t tell you how many times Ausmus would stay away from the team’s best reliever just because the Tigers trailed in a game.  I would think a good strategy when you trail is to keep the game as close as possible.  Ausmus, for weeks now refused to employ that strategy.

Ausmus has failed in managing the team’s pen.  But as stated earlier you can blame Dombrowski for that too.

The Offense

They can’t hit!  Like, at all!

The Rotation-

It’s hard to blame the rotation!

With the exception of Justin Verlander the starters have been good.  Even Verlander has been better of late.  He’s dropped his ERA by almost a half a run in his last 5-6 outings.  Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and Price have deserved better outcomes.  Anibal Sanchez seemed like he was starting to get it back together before he was placed in the DL.

So did I miss anybody who might be blamable?  Paws maybe?

The Tigers have a payroll of over $160 million and they remain just a half game over the Royals who have a payroll of over $90 million.  That’s embarrassing!

Detroit made trades KC didn’t.

After today, the Tigers might no longer be in first place. If Detroit isn’t careful, they could miss out on the playoffs all together.

So who do you blame?

I blame the plane and…oh…the Zubazz


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