Detroit Tigers Playoff Loss No Fault Of Dave Dombrowski


In the aftermath of the Detroit Tigers being swept out of the ALDS seamheads all around Detroit will be pointing fingers at the players and coaches that failed this season.  Some may even turn the blame on Generla Manager Dave Dombrowski.  The failure of this season rests with the entire team, that includes Dave Dombrowski but should the Detroit Tigers general manager get the majority of the blame?

In my opinion the answer is no.

The biggest issue for the Detroit Tigers this season was the bullpen and even though that issue lingered into the playoffs it wasn’t due to lack of attention from the General Manager. Lets take a look back at the saga that was the Detroit Tigers bullpen in 2014.

Bruce Rondon, Joe Nathan and the tale of the dead arm

The Detroit Tigers bullpen troubles started in spring training.  Bruce Rondon came up with a torn ligament in his throwing arm that ended his season two weeks before opening day.  Rondon was to be a key piece of the Tigers bullpen and the set-up man for the newly acquired Joe Nathan.

With a track record of success that few can equal as a closer, the signing of Joe Nathan was considered one of the best moves of the offseason.  Although he was 39, Nathan had just turned in one of his best seasons as a closer for the Texas Rangers and showed no signs of slowing down.  So when Joe Nathan turned up with a dead arm at the end of spring training it was another major blow to the bullpen.

The Detroit Tigers closer pitched through the problem which resulted in a couple of blown saves.  Nathan’s struggles weren’t of huge concern at the beginning of a young season but those were wins the Detroit Tigers wish they had back down the stretch.

Joel Hanrahan and the Tommy John nightmare

While Joe Nathan was working through his dead arm issues, Dave Dombrowski was working to find a player to replace Bruce Rondon and act as an insurance policy for Joe Nathan.  Once again Dombrowksi landed a top free agent ion Joel Hanrahan out bidding several teams for his services. Hanrahan suffered several set-backs in his rehab and never pitched an inning in 2014.  The one-year deal ended up being a waste of money but it wasn’t the fault of the Detroit Tigers general manager.

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Trades, Waiver Wires and Free Agents

As the stretch run approached Joe Nathan continued to struggle and the bullpen was still in disarray.  The bullpen remained the teams Achilles heal and Dave Dombrowski acted once again to shore up the problem.  Dombrowski made two moves around the deadline.  First he acquired Joakim Soria from Texas Rangers then he picked up the contract of Jim Johnson from the Oakland Athletics.

Jim Johnson was a cast off from the Oakland Athletics after failing to catch on as their closer after an offseason trade.  Although he was serviceable, Johnson was unable to return to form and was left off the playoff roster.

Joakim Soria was in the midst of a great season as the Rangers closer and his acquisition was applauded by national media. But his season for the Rangers failed to carry over in Detroit. Unlike Johnson,  Soria ended up playing a key role in the playoffs but not in the way the Detroit Tigers had planned. He was the center of the bullpen implosions in games 1 & 2 of the ALDS that ultimately cost Detroit the series.

Players Play

At the end of the day the players on the field have to perform and any lack of production should fall directly on their shoulders.  The general manager only become  complicit in their failure if he is fails to provide soultions to problems as they occur. Some of Dombrowski’s moves didn’t quite work out this season but not for lack of a plan.  All his moves whether park of a long or short-term plan were lauded by fans and media alike.

It is important that the blames for the Detroit Tigers playoff failure rest with those responsible not with the easiest to blame.