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The Michigan Daily -Sports Monday- February 5, 1990 - Page 3
The Tiger GM talks about the Tigers' current headaches and
the headaches rotisserie baseball owners have caused him lately
Bill Lajoie is the Detroit Tigers'
General Manager. He is
responsible for building the Tigers
that won the 1984 World
Championship and received high
praise for pasting together a
division championship team in
1987. Now, he has come under fire
for the Tigers poor finish in 1989.
Recently, Daily Sports Writer
Adam Benson talked with Lajoie
and the state of the Tigers.
Daily: How are the Tigers able
to increase spending? How are they
*able to offer a Kent Hrbek the kind
of money they did?
Lajoie: I'll tell you Adam, I just
do what I'm told. If somebody says
there is money available to offer to
players then that's what I'll do.
Where it's coming from or how
we... if we are going to acquire them
or whatever, that doesn't matter.
They just said 'let's go try to sign
-'some free agents.'
D: So picking up players like
Lloyd Moseby and Tony Phillips,
are these the kind of players who can
-make the Tigers contenders again?
Are these the players at the top of
-'your list while trying to rebuild the
L: We attempted to get some
players, Hrbek, (Mark) Davis, and so
on. We were not able to acquie
* those, so we went to the next group
of players that was available.
D: Do Phillips and Moseby,
players known for their speed,
change the personality of the Tigers,
a team that had relied on the home
run during their best years?
L: You make your club around
what's available. If players with
some speed and good defensive
ability are available, then you have
to change your team a little bit.
Baseball isn't something you can
build a long time contender just
from your farm system. If we could
tailor our ball club to our park, we'd
have all power hitters. That's not the
way it is, because the free agency
players that are available one year are
not available the next. You have to
adjust to what's available.
D: Does Bo Schembechler's
0 ° arrival into the Tiger brass change
your job at all?
L: I don't believe it will change
my dealings in any way. I'm just
reporting to a different man. That's
the way I see it and Bo is very
interested and wants to see what's
going on, so it hasn't changed that
D: There has been a lot of talk
over the years about changing the
minor league system in baseball.
Some have suggested that the
colleges should serve as a training
ground for major leaguers, allewing
more potential players to go to
school? The college would become a
sort of training ground for the major
L: I'm not in favor of growing
(the minors) to pay college players.
If you look at All-Star teams in the
major leagues, every year the
majority of players in those game
are signed as high school players.
The biggest stars, the longevity
factor points for a player to sign at
18. The college players are making
greater inroads the last six or eight
years because that is what teams
were drafting. But now, teams are
starting to go back to the method of
10,15, 20, 30 years ago of trying to
get high school players into the
D: The Tigers have for the most
part continued to draft players out of
high school under farm director Joe
McDonald. Will we see those
players, like Phil Clark, Steve
L: We certainly feel that those
players have the ability to play in
the major leagues. Its all a matter of
getting the opportunity. There will
be seven (Tigers out of the farm
system) on our roster this year and
we will get a look at them next
D: What about super prospect
Travis Fryman? Would bringing in
Fryman, a shortstop, move Alan
Trammell out of his position?
L: That's not going to happen.
Hopefully Fryman will get a good
opportunity to make our ball club, if
he doesn't, he'll play in Toledo.
D: Is Fryman the prospect that
everybody makes him out to be?
L: Travis Fryman is the best
prospect we have in the
organization. He's a very well-
rounded player. He can run, he can
hit, he can field and he loves
D: How does Sparky Anderson
appear to you this season after all
the problems he had dealing with a
losing team last season?
L: Sparky is fine. He'll be ready
to lead the ball club.
D: Are you worried about him in
charge of a ball club that may finish
in the lower tier of the American
League East again?
L: We're supposed to finish in
the lower half of the East for four
years and we didn't do to badly two
of the four years. I'm not a
D: What about the pitching staff?
You didn't do as much to bolster
that part of the team?
L: You know, you are a tough
son-of-a-bitch you know that? You
are giving me the idea that you want
to see 24 people change hands, and
that's impossible. Don't ask me
questions that can't answered. If
teams can change their whole
offense, and their defense, and their
pitching in three months - if you
can ask me a question like that, you
tell me who else has done that?
D: It hasn't happened. But I
didn't ask if you could change the
team, I asked about the pitching
L: The pitching staff - the first
thing you have to do, there are fewer
hitters that are available. So you
have to go after the ones that are
available. The pitching can be fixed
very quickly through someone being
a surprise. Hitters usually don't
surpiise, but hitters do. Some guy
comes in and starts throwing the ball
over the plate and you got a pitcher.
Hitters it usually takes, you know
its a time thing with them, but there
could be a pitcher that we just decide
its time for them to make the club,
and they do.
D: Who do you look for to
emerge as a great pitcher, this year.
Will be one of the younger pitchers,
like a Kevin Ritz or a Brian Dubois?
L: They certainly have the arms
to do a good job, but if they don't
its not going to be a disaster. There
is also (Steve) Searcy, and we are
bringing other pitchers who can do
D: Jack Morris comes to camp
this year, without the usual
squabbling that has followed him
through contract negotiations. He is
able to sign quietly and quickly. Can
we expect better things from him
L: Jack is sound and he pitched 9
or 10 games after his injury last
year, most them were pretty good.
So I thin Jack is back on track.
D: Do you think Detroit fans
have come to expect a winner every
year after the great seasons of the
L: We've been very successful
and I think everybody expects a
winner. It's kind of the mentality of
the fan. It's like the Lions, they
were 1-8, now they win a game and
a thousand more people come. They
win another, 5,000 more. I
personally just like to see a good
game. That to me is the joy of
watching any sport, to watch people
perform up to their ability.
D: Is this group more like the
ones in the late 70s, a club in
transition from an older group to a
L: No, we signed players 26 to
30 years old that could carry us for a
few years until the players on the
farm can filter in and start giving us
some experience. It's not a young
club, it's not an old club, its one of
those inbetweeners. Most players
reach their peak at 28, 29 years old.
If players like Moseby and Phillips
want to stay in baseball and continue
to make the money they've been
making, these are the years they
have to be productive.
D: The National League has made
more key signirigs in recent seasons?
Is there any reason for that?
L: The (American League) East
has lost a lot of players over the past
four years. Who knows why a player
leaves a team? Maybe they win once
and they decide its best to go
somewhere else. I felt that myself,
when we put a lot of players
together that maybe I should see if I
could do it somewhere else. It wasn't
that I didn't like where I was, it was
just that I wanted to see if I could do
it again. I think that's why Kirk
(Gibson) left. He wanted to see if he
was the dominant force that could
help another team win and he was.
D: Is this club on the right track?
Is this more than just a thrown
L: We've had 11 years of good
ball clubs here. Last year...you
know, we lost a lot of games, but I
don't think people look at why.
Hell, nobody had a good year. If
Trammell can't play anymore, then
it doesn't matter really what you do.
Now is he going to bounce back, or
is what you saw last year?
D: I know a lot of rotiseree
league owners who hope he will.
L: Well when people want to
dump on somebody because he had a
bad season and say 'Oh the hell with
it' that's the mentality that's going
on today because of the thing you
just mentioned: rotiseree baseball.
Get rid of that son-of-a-bitch, he
only hit .240. And that's what is
going on all over this country. It's
D: Rotiseree baseball is having
that kind of effect?
L: Rotiseree baseball, right now,
is effecting the labor negotiations. It
effects setting salaries, determining
by computer what people should
D: You don't own a rotiseree
team yourself, I take it?
L: Hell no. I can't stand it guys
off the street call up and imitate
general managers. They get right
through to me.
D: Does it worry you that some
of these free agents wanted to only
play in the bigger, warm weather
L: It is. Montreal and Toronto
said they couldn't attract players to
come there. This is something
people predicted would happen in
1976 when the whole thing began.
This year, Hubie Brooks wouldn't
even accept an offer from another
team until California or the Dodgers
said 'we don't want you.' As long as
they were interested, he wouldn't
D: Is there anything you can'do
in the new labor agreement to
L: A free agent is a FREE agent.
a return in the 90s
Just a few years ago, when Reagan was our clue-, uh I mean fearless
leader and "Matlock" was in its first banner season, nobody had ever heard
of the term "Three-peat."
Three-peat? What's that? Can I find that in the Kroger's produce
section? It sounds like some green zuchini-like vegetable. Delicious with
Stove Top Stuffing.
How about a new and improved lawn fertilizer? New Three-peat moss,
it's three peats in one! It's one peat, mixed with another and wrapped
around by the third peat. Nice, fresh lawn in days. Amaze your neighbors.
Ah, but now, in the hip 90s, sports knows all about three-peats. It
seems that after a decade of complete futility, the sports dynasty has re-
turned with a vengeance.
The 80s conventional wisdom taught the sports fan that everyone gun-
ned for you if you were the champion, thus repeats became hard to pull off.
Older sports fans, who remember the day when the Brooklyn Dodgers
were 'dem bums' and players earned their money the hard way, became dis-
appointed that dissension always came along with the championship tro-
phy in the business-like 80s. Championship players demanded more mo-
ney and those who would not get it demanded trades. No stars, no repeats.
But the decade turned and voila! The mighty dynasty has returned! And
without too much warning.
Who thought the 1989 San Francisco 49ers would turn into the greatest
football team to walk on a gridiron? There are still folks who maintain that
the 1989 49ers are one of the best, but not the best.
In fact, the 49ers have the best front office and organization football has
ever seen. All the players seem happy to play for owner Eddie DeBartolo
Jr., who shakes all his players' hands after every game, win or lose. Maybe
George Steinbrenner should wake up and smell the tea leaves.
So, I say they are the best I've ever seen, better than the Steelers and
better than the 1985 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Oops, I meant to say Chicago
Bears. Guess all those Bear losses to the Bucs kinda messed me up.
The Niners made the Super Bowl look like a flag football pickup
contest. Although the Broncos played with the intensity of a jar of Play-
Doh, the Niners are the real thing. As the smoke cleared in New Orleans,
Joe Montana and the rest of his team left the field screaming that word for
the 90s: three-peat.
And they'll do it, too. Don't forget, the dynasty has returned.
This phenomenon has spread to baseball as well, with the Oakland
Athletics being the first team to repeat divisional titles since the Yankees
and Dodgers did it in 1978.
However, dissension looms on the horizon for the A's as headcases
Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco can destroy the team at any moment.
One joyride by Canseco can put the whole 1990 season in the tank for the
A's. But, if the headcases remain stable, this team can become one of the
true baseball dynasties.
Even college football has become susceptible to the dynasty. The
Michigan Wolverines became the first Big Ten team in 23 years to win the
conference twice in a row. Notre Dame, thank goodness, fell just short of
capturing its second straight national title. Miami keeps winning, proving
there is still no one upstairs who likes me.
All throughout the 1980s, everyone wondered why no world champions
repeated - in any sport. Only three teams had the ability to repeat
championship feats in the 80s: the Los Angeles Lakers in basketball, and
the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers in hockey.
And as we entered the 90s, it seemed that of these teams, only the
Lakers would have the chance to actually repeat again. Wait a minute,
repeat again? Redundant? Nah.
The Oilers can't repeat again because I'd say Wayne Gretzky played an
integral part in the Edmonton dynasty. And he's in Los Angeles now. The
Islanders won't win consecutive championships because, well, they play
on Long Island.
So, why has the dynasty returned? Well, "Matlock" is still on the air.
Maybe there's a connection here somewhere.
Are you bothered by
slanted texts and biased
teaching at U of M?
Monday, Feb. 5 at 7:30 pm.
Pond Room, Michigan Union
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