By: Will Burchfield
With new ownership often comes new direction.
That’s likely to hold true for the Tigers, who, after the passing of Mike Ilitch are now in the hands of Mike’s son Chris Ilitch.
“You’ll see this organization really, really top-notch, a winning organization, but you’re going to see it run a little bit more efficiently,” Al Avila told 97.1 The Ticket on Monday.
But correlation does not mean causation. Though the Tigers are likely to tighten things up as Chris Ilitch takes over for his father, they were embarking on this path with Mike Ilitch just the same.
“As far as the way the club is going to be run in the future, I think I’ve made myself pretty clear that as we move forward, from my perspective and my recommendations, we need to run the organization a little more businesslike,” Avila said. “We’re still going to try to win, we’re still going to try to put the best team forward, but right now, where we’ve driven (up) our payroll, we’re at a crossroads.”
This is something the Tigers’ GM has been saying since October. To hear him echo it in the wake of Mike Ilitch’s death does not mean it’s suddenly Chris Ilitch’s directive.
Still, change remains on the horizon. It’s clear the Tigers want to get younger and they want to get leaner.
“We’re going to depend more on our scouting and our development and bring up young players,” Avila said. “As opposed to trading our young players, we’re going to try to keep as many young players as we can to get a youth movement. It’s not going to happen overnight, it’s going to take time. It might take two or three years to really get it going as far as pumping out players through the system.”
It’s worth pointing out that Chris Ilitch has been running the day-to-day operations of Ilitch Holdings, of which the Tigers are an asset, for more than a decade. He took over as head of the company in 2004, so his fingerprints are already all over its interests.
In regard to the Tigers, that’s worked out just fine for Avila.
“I’ve been privy to the ownership meetings with him,” Avila said, “so we’re on the same page.”
Avila often invoked the idea of family when talking about Mike Ilitch. “He had that father figure compassion,” Avila said on Monday.
He says he shares a similar relationship with Chris Ilitch.
“Obviously we’ve been working together for a couple years, but I’ve actually known him for (much longer) because I’ve been here now going on my 16th season,” said Avila. “I’ve got to know him pretty well and we have a great relationship. You could say almost like brothers, really.”
That bodes well for the Tigers moving forward, at least in terms of front-office harmony. Avila and Chris Ilitch appear to have the same goals and the same vision, and the compatibility to achieve the former through the latter.
The means might change, but the end remains the same.
Looking ahead to the 2017 season, Avila said, “We’ve got to get into the playoffs and this is an important year to accomplish that.”