Longtime baseball executive Bill Lajoie, whose eye for talent helped build the Detroit Tigers team that won the 1984 World Series championship, died Tuesday. He was 76.
The key to that Tigers team’s success was not Lajoie’s general manager moves, however. It was the work he had put in the previous fifteen or sixteen years as a Tigers scout, head of scouting, assistant GM and vice president of baseball operations. During those years he found and signed Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Kirk Gibson, Jack Morris and Lance Parrish. As GM his trade for Willie Hernandez prior to the 1984 season sealed the deal, however.
After leaving Detroit, Lajoie worked for the Red Sox, Dodgers, Reds, Braves and Brewers in various capacities.
As I write this, I have in front of me my 1979 Tigers yearbook. Pages 4-6 features team ownership and front office staff. Lajoie is pictured there along with 30 other random executives. He’s one of maybe three or four who look like they were born in the 20th century. I know very little about the Tigers’ front office of that era, but knowing who Lajoie and his staff were responsible for brining in to Detroit — and knowing how tradition-bound the team was under owner John Fetzer — it’s not hard to imagine that Lajoie was the first one in the office each day, the first one who had a computer desk and all of that.
Maybe that’s just fancy on my part and Lajoie was a fuddy-duddy. But he was responsible for the most comprehensive overhaul the Tigers ever experienced, and for helping put together a team against which all future Tigers teams will be measured.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.