In a major surprise, the Detroit Tigers have released General Manager Dave Dombrowski from his contract, and promoted Al Avila to the position for at least the time being. The decision was apparently made no later than Saturday, when owner Mike Ilitch offered the job to Avila.
"I would like to thank Dave Dombrowski for his 14 years of service. Together we've enjoyed some success, but we're still in aggressive pursuit of our ultimate goal: to bring a World Series title to Detroit and Michigan... I feel this is the right time for the Tigers to move forward under new leadership."
No MLB owner has outspent revenue to the extent Ilitch has in recent years, and while the Tigers have been among the most successful franchises in the league during the last decade, Ilitch's desire to not just make the World Series, but win it, seems to have run out.
Ilitch says the timing is intended to give Dombrowksi time to line up a new job by the end of the year (something he'll have no problem doing. The Angels, Blue Jays, and Red Sox are all reported to be interested in his services), and that may be true, but the timing also feels strange, in that the Tigers had just traded away two significant players, presumably with Ilitch's approval.
When Domborwski joined the Tigers following the 2001 season, they were in the midst of the worst stretch in franchise history. They bottomed out during Dombrowski's early years, as he went about rebuilding them. They won 95 games and made the World Series in 2005, losing to St. Louis in five games. From 2011 through 2014, the Tigers won more games than any other MLB team, reaching the postseason in all four seasons, including three trips to the ALCS, and another appearance in the World Series, in 2012.
Much like the Tribe during the mid to late 90s and early 00s, they made it to the postseason more often than not during the last nine years, but never caught enough breaks to win the World Series.
The early reaction from Tigers fans would seem to be that this was not the right move for the team.
Dombrowski did really well for the Tigers, and a division rival losing a bright GM would seem to be good news for the Indians. On the other hand, I am certain Mike Ilitch has no intention of going through another rebuild, and it wouldn't surprise me if the Tigers' payroll reached a new peak this offseason, which would be bad for the Indians, at least in terms of the next couple years.
If you want more on the story, you should swing by and check out our friends at Bless You Boys, where they'll be covering this eight ways from Sunday.