Avila takes blame for underwhelming offseason acquisitions

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers pitcher Mark Lowe didn't pan out as a late-innings reliever.

Detroit — The Tigers' primary offseason moves last winter were the acquisitions of outfielder Justin Upton and pitchers Jordan Zimmermann, Mark Lowe, Mike Pelfrey and Justin Wilson.

Because of either injuries or under-production, general manager Al Avila went 1-for-5.

“Well, of course, I take all the blame,” he said Wednesday in a teleconference to announce manager Brad Ausmus would return for a fourth season. “Because at the end of the day, I make those decisions and you've got to put a lot of the blame on myself.

“The guys that we brought in, let's say they didn't perform for whatever reason, that's on me. Those are things that I've got to take the blame for.”

Zimmermann, after being named American League pitcher of the month in April, had his season derailed by groin, neck and shoulder injuries. Wilson had good stretches but in the end finished with a career-worst 4.14 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. Pelfrey, who was both inconsistent and injured, was removed from the starting rotation in September and Lowe (7.11 ERA) was relegated to low-leverage work only.

Only Upton, after a torturously slow start, produced as expected with 31 home runs and 87 RBIs.

“At the same time, you see what the manager did with those guys and how he used them, and he got through the season with them,” Avila said. “That's even more reason to say he did a good job in getting through those tough situations.”

Attendance drop

Attendance at Comerica Park dropped from just over 2.7 million in 2015 to just under 2.5 million this year.

“We were coming off a last-place finish,” Avila said. “Normally, the trend is, you come off last place, you don’t expect the attendance to go up.”

Avila pointed to a significant increase in television ratings as an indication that the interest level is still there with the fan base.

“I know there were a lot of people watching on TV,’ he said. “We get those reports. So the Tigers were still a very interesting team, very relevant to a very large portion of fans out there.”

The attendance drop, he said, was a function of a two things that were out of the club’s control — weather and unrelenting road construction around the ball park.

“It’s hard to get in and out,” Avila said. “We who have to come here every day complain about it sometimes. So once that construction is over, I think it’ll be easier to come in and out. When the ‘District Detroit’ is finished, I think you’ll see a lot more friendly travel time.

“Also the weather, we had some brutal weather, and some scheduling situations that I think also caused that.”

Why wait?

Avila was asked why he waited until after the season to pick up the fourth-year option on Ausmus’ contract.

“I said all along I’d wait until the end and see how it goes,” he said. “I don’t think it was really in my best interest, or the organization’s best interest to pick it up in the middle of the season. A lot of things can happen at the beginning of the season.”

The Tigers lost 11 of 12 games in May, and Avila said the way Ausmus and the team reacted was critical.

“We had some good streaks, we had some bad streaks, and I knew what was going on — we had to get through it,” he said. “And we ended up getting through it. Those are some of the things I was observing. We got through it and we got better, and we moved on.”

From that point, he felt it best to let the season play out.

“I felt that we needed to wait to the end to see how we ended,” he said. “That’s how I said I was going to do and I decided to do it that way — to see it through to the end.

"I didn’t want to be hasty, let me put it to you that way.”

Twitter: @cmccosky