NOAH TRISTER, AP Baseball Writer
DETROIT (AP) — Dave Dombrowski says there had been no talks with Tigers ownership about a new contract, so as the end of the season drew closer, he began to have doubts about his future in Detroit.READ MORE: Michigan Matters: Pistons’ Rob Murphy on Helping His Hometown
“You’re sort of suspicious there’s a chance it could go the other direction,” Dombrowski said.
The Tigers announced Tuesday that Dombrowski’s tenure as president and general manager was over, naming Al Avila the new GM. The move seemed abrupt, especially because Dombrowski had just finished making a series of trades with an eye toward the team’s future. But Dombrowski was in the last season of his contract, and he says there were no talks about a new deal.
Dombrowski said he found out about the organization’s decision Tuesday. He said Avila — who has been his top assistant — had given him an indication that owner Mike Ilitch would be reaching out to him.
Dombrowski said he spoke with Ilitch a short while later, and the team had simply gone in another direction.
“I respect ownership’s decision,” he said Wednesday.
Dombrowski was with the Tigers for nearly 14 seasons. He guided Detroit to two American League pennants and four Central division titles, building a star-studded team that made Motown home to one of the American League’s glamor franchises. About the only thing Detroit didn’t do during his tenure was win the World Series, which the Tigers still haven’t done since 1984.
“That will sadden me because we’ve had opportunities,” Dombrowski said.
In addition to losing in the World Series in 2006 and 2012, Detroit was eliminated in the AL Championship Series in 2011 and 2013.READ MORE: Ribs RnB Music Festival Kicks Off This Weekend In Downtown Detroit
Avila said he was offered the promotion by Ilitch on Saturday, the day after the Tigers made the last of their major moves before the trade deadline. After winning the last four division titles, Detroit has slipped badly in 2015. Last week, the Tigers traded standouts David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria for younger players they hope can provide help beyond this season.
Avila said the Tigers weren’t sure of their deadline plans until pretty much the last minute.
“We were hoping to get on a roll and win, and we were hoping to be buyers. But as time went by, the decision was made pretty late, to be sellers,” Avila said. “When I say late, I mean we waited until the last possible day that we felt that we could wait to make that transition.”
The Tigers acquired three pitching prospects for Price, including highly regarded left-hander Daniel Norris. Detroit’s offense has been productive this year despite injuries to sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, but Avila will have to figure out how to improve the pitching staff.
The bullpen has been a problem for a while, and the team’s once-stellar rotation became a weak link this year. Now the Tigers have to replace Price — and right-handers Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander need to show their best days aren’t behind them.
And that’s not the only issue Avila will have to deal with. His son, Alex, is a catcher for the Tigers and can become a free agent after this season.
That could obviously become an awkward situation for both the player and the GM, but on Tuesday night, Alex Avila was a proud son. On an emotional, somewhat surreal day at the ballpark, his was a unique perspective.
“Definitely shocked like everybody else, but extremely happy for my dad,” he said. “I don’t think it was the ideal situation that he probably would want the opportunity. So that’s one way that makes it tough, especially — him and Dave have known each other forever, worked with each other for a long time. I’ve known Dave for a long time as well, and his family. So that’s definitely bittersweet.”MORE NEWS: Judge Says Michigan Gov. Whitmer Won't Have To Testify In Abortion Lawsuit
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