Al Avila Dug His Own Grave – Defector

Al Avila Dug His Own Grave - Defector

You know you’re doomed when your boss tells anyone who can hear him or her, I didn’t do these things. He did.

So Al Avila was condemned as the general manager of the Detroit Tigers, and owner/failure Chris Ilitch referred to two 2017 deals that speeded him on his way:

In 2017, the Tigers traded star pitcher Justin Verlander and All-Star outfielder JD Martinez, but the players the Tigers got in return didn’t end up helping in the majors. “I didn’t trade those players away,” Ilitch said Wednesday. “Our general manager did. Al did.”

And that’s your Tigers replay for today, and for 2021, and 2020, and 2019, and…

Avila’s record explains it all, though not nearly as succinctly as Ilyich did. Going back to their first full year in 2016, the Tigers were the second-worst hitting team in baseball, the second-worst pitching team in baseball, and the second-worst team in baseball by the more rudimentary metric of wins and losses. Only Baltimore has been worse during that time, and the Orioles have made some weird kind of trade-deadline deal with Satan in which they’re trying to tank and instead are now a half-game out of a playoff spot. No one is firing Mike Elias today.

Then again, Mike Elias didn’t guarantee a quarter of a billion dollars in current and future salaries to players who amassed a 43-68 record, worse than every team in baseball except Oakland and Washington, which saved payroll to be bad. Spending more to be just as bad is, well, spectacularly counterintuitive.

That was the Avila heritage in an envelope. He gave them his son Alex as a trap and in exchange led the team into a pit. His best year was his first, and that’s never a good way to avoid the boss sharking you on your way out the door. The current team is on pace to have its second-lowest runs per game production in franchise history (and because we know you’ll ask, 1904) and the fewest home runs in a full season since 1954. We’d call them God. – terrible, but God has lawyers.

And truth be told, seven years is probably long enough to do whatever you set out to do. Avila got his job in August 2015 after Dave Dombrowski was fired, and he would has been to four consecutive finals, including one World Series. Whatever his shortcomings, at least he didn’t get a seven-year streak.

More interesting, though, is the fact that when we list the teams we find most aggressively terrifying, the Tigers aren’t mentioned like the A’s or Nationals or Royals or Pirates or Reds or Cubs. Even the Angels get more condemnation, but that’s because unlike the Tigers, they kept their best players and kept failing. The Tigers just…withered away. Neither hated nor condemned, they simply entered the Phantom Zone and stayed there. They aren’t even appreciated for playing the fastest games in the majors, which is the one blessing you can provide your fans when you stink every day.

So Al Avila was convicted. The team failed with the accuracy of the atomic clock, and it will probably take years to revive it. If anything, Ilitch may have been more patient than most owners. But he will have to show that patience again, because the rebuilding that Avila could never do begins again. If it works, maybe then Ilitch will say of the next GM, with unearned pride, He did not do these things. i did

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