Mike Ilitch is widely regarded as one of the better owners in sports. His Detroit Red Wings are in control of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals and have been on top for over a decade.
They're the New York Yankees of hockey. They consistently sell out Joe Louis Arena with All-Star lineups and fat payrolls. All the while Ilitch sits quietly in the background and enjoys the success.
His Detroit Tigers are another story. For years, Ilitch entrusted his team to an incompetent GM while he learned the baseball business.
Finally, Ilitch figured it out: Follow his hockey model.
So after years of floundering, he hired Dave Dombrowski, one of the most revered GM's in the sport.
He infused the Montreal Expos organization with tons of talent that, because of payroll issues, other teams enjoyed after dealing for them.
He quickly built the World Series Champion Florida Marlins team that won in 1997 and brought in most of the key pieces to the 2003 championship squad.
Then he was brought to Detroit. He was at the helm for the embarrassing 43-119 season, but within three years had the team in the World Series.
Also, the minor league organization was the envy of almost every other MLB franchise. It looked like the Tigers were ready to be one of the most competitive teams for the next decade.
During the 2007 offseason, Ilitch approached Dombrowski about picking up one final piece that could be the face of this new franchise, Miguel Cabrera.
it hasn't worked out. The team is struggling 10 games under .500 and everyone keeps expecting them to take off. Yet, every time they get their sail up, it gets knocked back down. More than 50 games into the season, the Tigers look like the most disappointing team of 2008.
So, what's Ilitch to do? He has one of the highest team payrolls. He has one of the most respected GM's in the game. He has Jim Leyland, considered a master leader and brilliant baseball mind. He has All-Star players in Sheffield, Ordonez, Polanco, Guillen, Granderson, Pudge and Cabrera.
If he fires Dombrowski, that sets this team back, and the new GM can only dismantle by dealing off the veterans, which will set them back a few years. If he fired Leyland, you can forget about this season, as the veterans would jump ship.
The time is now for this team to win, but Ilitch can only sit back and hope it all comes together, or he'll lose fans again.
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