Tigers GM Al Avila: Nobody’s happy, ‘there could’ve been some mistakes’

Detroit News

Detroit — Last week, while introducing his new Red Wings coach, Tigers CEO Christopher Ilitch raised some eyebrows — and maybe certain fingers, too, at least from the long-past-patient fans — when he said he was “very pleased” with his baseball team’s progress, despite an abysmal record and woeful offense it what was supposed to be a possibly contending season.

Tigers general manager Al Avila, meeting with beat reporters at Comerica Park before Wednesday’s game, was asked his assessment of where things stand.

And Avila gave a remarkably different answer.

“Well, not too long ago on Bally Sports, I said I was not happy. I was very angry, as a matter of fact, with how things have turned out,” Avila said Wednesday. “We expected to have a better record, and we’re working toward that.

“Nobody’s happy right now.”

The Tigers, despite a three-game winning streak, entered Wednesday with a 33-47 record, 12 games out of first place in a very mediocre American League Central. They had scored 251 runs, worst in baseball.

And Avila has taken the brunt of the heat from fans and pundits alike, given so many of the moves he’s made in the last two years — such as bringing back Jonathan Schoop and Robbie Grossman, signing Javier Báez and Eduardo Rodriguez to big-money deals, trading Isaac Paredes for Austin Meadows, and trading for Tucker Barnhart — haven’t worked out in 2022.

Schoop, Grossman and Báez all have an OPS at .602 or below, Meadows has only played 36 games because of several injuries and hasn’t homered, and Rodriguez has left the team and isn’t talking to the club.

The Tigers also have been done no favors by the injury bug, particularly among top-flight pitchers like Casey Mize (Tommy John surgery) and Matt Manning (shoulder inflammation).

“You’re not looking at one player, not one situation, it’s been all over across the board,” Avila said. “It all starts with me. Your job is to get it back together. … That was the expectation coming into the season, and that’s where we need to get back to.”

Avila then was asked, if it all starts with him, have mistakes been made?

“Well, obviously, at this point you can see there could’ve been some mistakes, and we’re trying to correct them,” Avila said in his chat with the beat writers. “And we’re trying to correct them. We’ve gotta get the players that we have on the field better.”

After his chat with reporters, Avila asked to clarify his comments about mistakes. To The News, he said: “We have to see how it plays out. It’s half the season. We want to see the full body of work, see the second half and see how this plays out with some of our signings and also some of our other acquisitions.”

As for a response to Ilitch’s comments about being “very pleased,” Avila said he believed Ilitch, in his comments at Derek Lalonde’s introductory press conference, was talking more about the club’s progress in the minor leagues, where several pitchers have come up to make an impact on the major-league roster, as well as top prospect Riley Greene. Detroit is 9-7 since Green’s arrival.

Before the season, Avila and Ilitch both declared that the long rebuild was over, and Ilitch spent a quarter of a billion dollars to upgrade the roster — even if nearly all of those moves have been a disaster, to date.

Avila reiterated Wednesday that the rebuild is over, and that the Tigers will approach the trade deadline as such. They won’t be in the mode of selling off pieces they believe can help for next year and beyond.

“We want to be better than where we’re at right now,” said Avila, 63, the Tigers’ general manager since 2015. “That doesn’t mean that we have to take a step backward.

“The step backward is already right now, the beginning of the season and the record that we have.”

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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