Baseball is a numbers game.
In Dave Dombrowski’s case it revolves around those numbers in the win-loss columns.
As caretaker of the Detroit Tigers, it’s his job to put a successful product on the field. One that will compete for titles and keep the turnstiles spinning. That’s ultimately how he is judged.
It’s hard to argue with what he’s achieved in Detroit. The Tigers have gone deep into the playoffs four times in the last eight years, losing twice in the World Series, and twice in the American League Championship Series. The team’s won three consecutive AL Central Division titles, producing two Cy Young winners and three AL MVP honorees in the process. In four of the last seven seasons, the team’s drawn three-million plus customers, well above the league average.
While that’s impressive, consider the Tigers’ fate before and shortly after Dombrowski arrived. From 1989 through 2005 — 17 seasons — the Tigers had two winning years. The organization was thin on major league talent and had a farm system that was in shambles. Only once in that 17-year window did Detroit draw more fans than the league average — and that was when Comerica Park opened in 2000.
Dombrowski arrived in 2002 and encountered four of those losing seasons, including that embarrassing 43-119 campaign in 2003, before turning it around.
He’s built the foundation, thanks to some shrewd trades. He pilfered Miguel Cabrera, Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante from the Marlins in return for prospects. He sent Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson packing in return for Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson. He caught a break in 2004 when San Diego picked catcher Matt Bush with the first overall pick in the draft, leaving Justin Verlander for Detroit. No team in baseball has three starters that can match Verlander, Scherzer and Sanchez. In football, you win with defense. In baseball, you win with pitching.