Following the 2001 press conference that introduced broadcaster Matt Millen as president and General Manager (GM) of the Detroit Lions I called a buddy of mine who worked for the Oakland Raiders and was an admirer of Millen’s.
He was near tears.
“I love Matt,” he said. “But Matt is going to be a disaster in Detroit. There is no way this can work out. What are they thinking up there?”
The rest is history. Millen morphed into the worst GM in sports history. The Lions finished 31-84 (.270) under his leadership. They went 0-16 as Millen made some of the worst coaching hires in history.
The fans ultimately revolted in 2005 with the Millen Man March when they wore orange and marched and chanted throughout the streets of downtown Detroit.
It is time for another revolt in Detroit.
When is the Al Avila March?
It’s getting close. Hundreds of fans showed up last Tuesday in right field at Comerica Park to voice their displeasure that Avila remains the Tigers GM and there are no signs that his tenure is about to end. Tigers owner Chris Ilitch sent a chill down my spine by saying he is “very pleased” with the rebuild that he claimed was over in April.
That tells me he has no intentions of firing Avila.
It was also disheartening to see so many positive Al Avila stories in the Free Press. Stories, I suspect, were planted by the Tigers. They are standing by their man.
Everything is good here. Nothing to see.
There is nothing to be pleased with about the Tigers. The parent club is among the worst in baseball. The farm system is mediocre and it seems that the team is at least four years away from contending.
Avila should have been fired years ago when he whiffed on rebuilding the Tigers by trading Justin Verlander and JD Martinez for nothing. None of the trade pieces are helping the Tigers three years later and they will not be of any help three years into the future.
The Tigers last winning season was in 2016. Since then, they have a .389 win percentage. Forget about being a .500 team. The Tigers cannot even win 40 percent of their games.
Detroit is not a great baseball town, but it is one with expectations. There were no demands to win a World Series this season. There were no expectations to make the playoffs, but after six years near the basement, there were expectations to be competitive with stiffs like the Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox, and Cleveland Indians. Oops my bad. The Cleveland Guardians.
Since 2016, the Tigers have won the fewest games (315) in the American League Central and are 21 games behind the Kansas City Royals (336), a team we somehow still make fun of. In that time, the White Sox have recorded 378 wins. The Twins 425 and the Cleveland Guardians (451) have become the class of the division.
Avila is not the only culprit here. Ilitch seems tone deaf.
Where did he learn of this behavior? Like father, like son. People forget that his dad Mike Ilitch, went years accepting mediocrity until the light went on. Mike Ilitch did not trust GM Randy Smith to make changes. So he allowed the Tigers to sink into the depths of despair until he found Dave Dombrowski.
If Ilitch were serious about winning, he’d take a swing at Theo Epstein, who ended two of the longest World Series draughts in history. He was GM in 2004 when the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years. He turned the trick again for the Cubs in 2016, ending a 108 year title-less streak.
Ilitch must act fast because there is speculation Epstein may replace Rob Manfred as baseball commissioner.
I never thought I’d see someone as incompetent as Millen running a team in Detroit. Al Avila is not there yet. But he is getting there.
Follow Foster on Twitter at TerryFosterDet.