Shock waves resonated throughout major league baseball when it was announced that David Dombrowski, who wore the hats of President, CEO, and General Manager for the Detroit Tigers, was suddenly out of a job this past weekend. A press release announced yesterday that Al Avila was promoted to Dombrowski’s spot and owner Mike Ilitch said that he wanted to thank Dombrowski for 14 years of success. WHAT? Just like that? Wha’ happened?
It wasn’t as if Dombrowski was not performing his duties as a GM…quite the contrary, he had done an outstanding job since assuming the role in November of 2001. His first two years were a little tenuous…in 2002, the Tigers finished with a 55-106 record. The following year, the team won only 43 times while losing 119 games…the worst record since the 1962 fledgling New York Mets could only win 40 times while losing 140.
Things began to look up for Dombrowski’s Tigers when they posted 29 more wins in 2004 to finish 72-40. After a one-game regression in 2005, Detroit hit the apex for a Dombrowski-led team by finishing 95-67. Then, the Bengals stood MLB on its ear by ousting the Yankees, 3-1, in the Division Series and the sweeping out the Oakland Athletics in four games of the American League Championship series to reach the World Series for the first time since 1984. The magic did not last, however, as the Tigers fell to the St. Louis Cardinals in five games.
Dombrowski then saw his team stumble in 2007, falling to 88-74 and then to just 74 wins in 2008. Things were getting ready to turn around and the date of December 4, 2007 will remain etched in Tigers’ history as the date Dombrowski executed one of the best trades in team history. He acquired a raw but immensely talented Miguel Cabrera, along with starter Dontrelle Willis from the then-Florida Marlins for outfielder Cameron Maybin, lefty Andrew Miller and four other players. Since his arrival in Detroit, Cabrera has hit .313 or better in every year and has averaged 36 home runs and 121 RBI! He won three straight batting titles and a triple crown in 2012…the first in MLB since 1967.
After a .500 finish in 2010, Dombrowski’s efforts would begin to pay off, as the Tigers won four consecutive Central Division titles and went to the American League Championship series three straight years. Despite winning 366 games from 2011 through 2014, Detroit could not get back into the World Series.
Dombrowski also engineered deals that brought lefty David Price and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to Comerica Park; he wound up flipping those two and reliever Joakim Soria just before the July 31 trading deadline. In return, Dombrowski stocked his system with five pitchers and a shortstop. One of the pitchers, Daniel Norris, made his Tigers’ debut last Sunday and tossed a quality start, beating Baltimore. Another of the prospects, Matt Boyd, makes his debut tonight.
So, was the “fire sale” conducted last week by Dombrowski, the reason why he got fired? Perhaps, but it may not have been the lone event. Some Tigers fans were a little miffed because Dombrowski kept insisting that the team was adopting a “wait and see” attitude; then, a series of three pre-emptive lightning strikes occurred when Soria and Price were dealt on July 30 and Cespedes was sent packing on the following day.
One of the best sports writers in the country, Mitch Albom, posited in a column that either Dombrowski or the Tigers (or, maybe, both) used the events as a negotiating ploy. Dombrowski was in the final year of his contract. It is possible that he went to Ilitch and demanding a new contract or he would walk. Or, perhaps, the Tigers put an offer on the table and told Dombrowski, “Take it or leave it”.
No matter what happened (and we may not find out “the rest of the story” for quite some time), Dombrowski is out…just like that. He is the second GM to be “shown the door” this season. Jerry DiPoto was the GM of the Angels one day; then, POOF! He was gone the next day! Again, the whole story was never revealed.
It just goes to show: baseball is a business and things could change with a snap of the fingers!