In the wake of Dave Dombrowski being released as Tigers GM I’m seeing some sentiment on the web which goes: “Dombrowski had almost unlimited resources and over a decade at the helm; the Tigers not winning a title in that time means he was a failure.”
Sorry, not buying it. Not at all.
Yes, it would be nicer for Tigers fans if a title had been brought back home, but let’s assess Dombrowski on what he did in his entire tenure, shall we?
He took over in 2002 as team president. At the time Randy Smith was the GM and Phil Garner the manager. Dombrowski fired them early in the season and took over as GM. Those were some bad Tigers teams and they would only get worse — they’d lose 106 games in 2002 and 119 in 2003 and more than 90 each of the next two seasons — but he was building the team from the wreckage that Randy Smith had left. And it was some serious, serious wreckage.
By 2006 the Tigers, with manager Jim Leyland at the helm, were in the World Series. They got there via a number of Dombrowski moves and with the help of players Dombrowski developed. Veterans Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez and Kenny Rogers came to Detroit. Justin Verlander and Curtis Granderson were drafted and quickly rose through the system. Within the next few years he’d flip Granderson for Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson, develop Alex Avila, Rick Porcello and, in a move that will be at the top of his career accomplishments no matter what else he does, managed to trade for Miguel Cabrera in his prime. And he gave up very damn little for him. The winning that was teased by that 2006 pennant came to fruition with four straight division titles beginning in 2011, three straight ALCS appearances and another AL Pennant in 2012.
Could the run have been better? Of course. If Dombrowski had done a better job putting a bullpen together there may have been another pennant and perhaps a World Series title in Motown in the past four years. And, yes, one can question some of Dombrowski’s moves such as letting Max Scherzer go, Justin Verlander’s massive extension and trading Doug Fister. Any general manager has missteps, Dombrowski is no different.
But to look at Dombrowski’s tenure with the Tigers demands that one judge it positively. The entire organization was an utter disaster in the early 2000s and now, its slipping in 2015 notwithstanding, it is considered one of the best organizations in baseball. This is no accident. And for that Tigers fans can thank Dave Dombrowski.