|Mike Ilitch in 2014.|
Ilitch's death raises the genuine possibility that the Tigers will pull back from the win-now philosophy that has reigned there the past decade or so. Ilitch, who played minor league ball in the Tigers chain before knee injury forced him to find a different (and ultimately more lucrative) occupation, wanted a World Series title before he died. He didn't get it.
The word out of Detroit in the wake of Ilitch's death was that
- the Ilitch family will retain the teams; the Tigers and Red Wings will not be put up for sale;
- an Ilitch son has been the effective owner of the Tigers the past year or so and was the one who made the decision at the start of this offseason to stay the course with lots of veterans and a large, luxury-tax inducing payroll.
It seems possible to be that a different decision may have been made had the elder Ilitch died in, say, August. Mike Ilitch may not have been as active an owner as he once was, but I doubt there was any appetite for telling him to abandon those championship dreams.
Yet the odds were getting worse for the Tigers every year. The Tigers' arrow is pointed down. Miguel Cabrera and Jason Verlander are still outstanding players, but they are a bit less than they were five or six years ago, and they aren't getting younger.
Mike Ilitch fired Dave Dombrowski two summers ago when Dombrowski concluded that it was time to jettison some veterans and get younger. Ilitch didn't have time for a retrench and rebuild approach. Christopher Ilitch may conclude otherwise in the next year -- only he won't have Dombrowski, one of the most adept team builders in the game, making the moves.