All hail Scott Harris, the greatest executive in Detroit Tigers history!
(Just don’t call him the Tigers’ general manager. Harris is the president of baseball operations, a step up from his GM role with the San Francisco Giants, and he’ll be hiring the Tigers’ next GM … at some point.)
Ever since he took the top job here in Detroit, the Tigers simply can’t be beat. Well, OK, there was that one loss, Wednesday against the Orioles, but five wins in six tries is pretty good — including a sweep on the South Side of Chicago — especially compared to the 55 wins in 146 tries that came before.
All due respect to Jim Campbell, who took roughly five seasons to construct the 1968 World Series winners; Bill Lajoie, who built the 1984 Series winners in about eight seasons as scouting director under Campbell; and Dave Dombrowski, who took the franchise from 119 losses to the 2006 AL pennant in just three seasons and then another pennant six years later — but they took years to work their magic. (Everything takes time in baseball; even the squad that lost 114 games in 2019 took time for Al Avila to build, er, rebuild, er, tear down … let’s just move on.)
Harris, meanwhile, simply had to show up Tuesday at Comerica Park — and the Tigers weren’t even in town! Just imagine what’ll happen when players and exec cross paths in the 313 … a “We Won Late September” parade, we presume.
Hello, and welcome to the Great Scott! Newsletter.
Of course, Harris hasn’t actually done anything (other than meet the media, though, trust us, that can be enough of a chore) and won’t be able to until Oct. 6, when the 2022 season is over for the Tigers. Soon after that, though, he’ll start remaking the franchise on and off the field.
But before then, let’s review what we’ve already learned about him this past week:
There’s Big Ten in his blood: And doubly so once 2024 rolls around — the San Francisco kid got his undergrad degree (in economics, of course) at UCLA (set to join the B1G in a little under two years), then got his master’s at Northwestern while he was working for the Chicago Cubs in 2015. (How’d he find the time for that? Lots of airport time, writes the Freep’s Evan Petzold, who also tracked how a soccer and lacrosse player made it to the highest echelons of baseball management here.)
He’s a Friend Of Stevie Y: Well, an acquaintance, at least. Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman was part of the search process, but it turns out he’d already met Harris during the baseball exec’s time with the Cubs. Get the story from the Freep’s Helene St. James — including who made the big introduction in Chi-Town — here.
He’s a people person: At least, that’s the impression he made on the Freep’s Jeff Seidel after witnessing an extended introduction to Tigers great Willie Horton at Tuesday’s media session. Horton was won over quickly, saying, “He’s going to do great.” Head here to find out why Seidel agrees.
He’s a baseball person: Not to be confused with a baseball-person, like Mrs. Met in New York or the mustachioed Mr. Redlegs in Cincy — that would be weird. But he has definitely put in his time studying the game on the field — enough to impress A.J. Hinch, who said, “One thing I was struck by was how easily we would fall into some healthy debate about in-game strategy. about how to deploy players the best to allow them to (succeed), how to develop players at this level. It’s a very comfortable conversation.” That and his insistence on strike-zone management wowed the Freep’s Carlos Monarrez (which might be more impressive than getting Hinch’s approval). Find out why here.
He’s an innovator-person: Whatever you call it, he appears to have the chops to get ahead of baseball’s latest and greatest, rather than follow in their footsteps, according to the Freep’s Shawn Windsor. Head here to find out why Harris said, “It’s important to differentiate ourselves,” at his introduction. (To be fair, the Tigers led the way in firing their top exec after the draft and the trade deadline but before the end of the season, and then those pesky Kansas City Royals just copied them last week.)
He’s the next Theo Epstein: OK, maybe that’s a bit much to compare a 35-year-old to the wunderkind exec who brought World Series titles to the long-suffering burgs of Boston and Chicago over the past two decades. Then again, that’s not us talking — it’s what those in the know in MLB are telling Our Man Petzold, as he broke down Harris’ introduction here.
He has high expectations: Harris certainly didn’t come in sounding like the Tigers would be undergoing another tear-down-rebuild-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel-dear-god-just-win-some-games period, something that Hinch took away from meeting him as well, telling Our Man Petzold: “I have a unique perspective because I’ve seen this sport from every angle, but I also know that the standards have been raised pretty high. And I love that.”
Of course, most of this is what you’d expect to hear about a new hire in his first week. And it’s tough to argue with the results at Harris’ previous two employers, in Chicago and San Francisco. Then again, Bob Quinn brought the New England Patriots Seal of Approval to the Detroit Lions, Yzerman built a two-time Stanley Cup winner in Tampa (though he wasn’t around to lift it) and Avila was supposed to overcome a pared-down payroll with expert scouting ability. None of them have a playoff win in Detroit.
Look, the Tigers have a lot of holes, both on this year’s roster and in looking ahead to 2023. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to those in a couple weeks.) But none of that can be fixed this week. For now, we should simply enjoy this mini-run by the Tigers for what it is, and enjoy 10 more games of baseball before MLB’s cold, cold postseason.
But what about Javy?
Well, OK, there is a bit of 2023 wondering already going on, since Harris’ time with the Cubs overlapped pretty closely with the tenure of Javier Báez there. So what does the new PBO have to say about the current SS? “If we and Javy bring the best out of him, it’s a very exciting player,” Harris said Tuesday, “and it’s a player we love to have.” Our Man Petzold has more here on why September has been a big month for Báez — and why it might mean a return to form in 2023.
3 to watch
As we led off with, there are still games going on, which means there are still (at least) three Tigers to keep an eye on:
HAROLD CASTRO: “Hittin’ Harold” even homered this week.
Happy birthday, R.G.!
While we’re on the topic of the future, Riley Greene, the Tigers’ rookie center fielder turns 22 on Wednesday. 2022 has been an up-and-down year for Greene; he essentially made the Tigers’ roster in spring training then broke his foot, delaying his big-league debut until mid-June. His OPS by month since: .733, .639, .745, .623. Still, his OPS+ (OPS adjusted for ballpark and league, with 100 being league-average) is 98; with a surge in the Tigers’ final 10 games, he could become just the ninth player in franchise history to play at least 90 games with an OPS+ of 100 or better in his age-21 season (counting ages as of July 31) — and the first since Lou Whitaker. The others: Ty Cobb, 170 in 1908; Donie Bush, 115 in 1909; George Burns, 119 in 1914; Harry Heilmann, 125 in 1916; Heinie Manush, 132 in 1923; Al Kaline, 139 in 1956; Jason Thompson, 104 in 1976; and Whitaker, 101 in 1978.
Other Tigers birthdays this week: Rob Deer (62 on Thursday), Travis Demeritte (28 on Friday), Danny Worth (37 on Friday), Carlos Guillen (48 on Friday), Jose Lima (would have been 50 on Friday; died in 2010), Ike Blessitt (73 on Friday), Robbie Ray (31 on Saturday), Alex Lange (27 on Sunday).
Mark your calendar
After their day off Monday, the Tigers start their final homestand of the season, with three games against the Kansas City Royals (Tuesday-Thursday) and three games against the Minnesota Twins (Friday-Sunday). None of the three teams have much to play for — The Tigers need three wins in their final 10 to avoid 100 losses, the Royals are trying to stay ahead of the Tigers in the AL Central cellar (they’re 2 ½ games up entering the series) and the Twins need to go 7-2 in their final nine to finish at .500. But both will bring some rookie talent to town: K.C. has shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., the No. 2 overall pick in 2019 (three spots ahead of Greene) who has 20 homers and 28 steals. While Minnesota has 24-year-old infielder Jose Miranda, who has 15 homers and 23 doubles.
Hopefully, though, Harris’ run in Detroit will go better than the last Tigers prez with Big Ten ties: Bo Schembechler, whose brief tenure running the team from 1990-92 featured the firing of Ernie Harwell and an attempt to ban female reporters from the team clubhouse. And they didn’t even beat Ohio State.