10 takeaways from new Detroit Tigers president Scott Harris’ introductory press conference
DETROIT – New Detroit Tigers President Scott Harris spoke Tuesday for the first time since joining the organization, outlining his three-part vision for the team and talking about what drew him to Detroit.
Harris, 36, takes over as president of baseball operations after the Tigers fired Al Avila at the end of seven unsuccessful rebuilding seasons.
Here are 10 takeaways from his intro presser:
Harris plans to hire a general manager
Harris’ announcement as the team’s new president notably omitted any mention of the “general manager” title, but he shut down that speculation on Tuesday.
“I intend to hire a general manager,” Harris said. “I don’t have a timeline for that decision right now. This is day 1. I need to listen a lot and understand the strengths and areas of potential improvement in the organization, and once I get a better idea of that, I will have a better idea of what the schedule will be. for this decision.
Ilitch said Harris will have the freedom to appoint a general manager as he sees fit. The intent is to ensure the organization has all the resources it needs to be consistently competitive, Ilitch said.
Acquire, develop, retain young players
Harris said he had three main concepts when it came to his vision for the Tigers organization.
The first is simple: “We need to acquire, develop and retain young players. »
Harris said it was definitely not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Most MLB organizations have the same mindset, and he said the Tigers need to lean into it.
Culture of development
Its second concept focuses on developing talent on and off the pitch.
“The best baseball organizations right now don’t just get that talent, they make the most of it when they come into the organization,” Harris said. “We have to create a culture of development here.”
Harris said he believes players, coaches, evaluators and everyone in an organization can always improve. He wants Detroit to become a destination where people believe they can come and grow.
“When I think of Detroit, I think of trying to create an environment that inspires players to want to improve and to do whatever they can to improve,” Harris said.
“When I think of the Tigers over the next few years, I think of free agents who might be looking to get to different places in our big game. When they think of Detroit, I want them to think of an environment where they’re confident that they can come and improve. They can perform at a higher level, they can extend their careers, they know they’re going to be surrounded by people in this organization who are going to get the most out of it.
From the strike zone
The final concept is centered on the importance of the strike zone.
“I believe the strike zone disproportionately influences just about everything you see on the baseball field,” Harris said. “It dictates the number of pitches. It dictates the leverage of the account. This dictates the length of the round, dictates the load you put on the pitcher’s body, and the number of pitchers you’re going to have to use throughout a series. It also dictates the quality of contact you drop and the amount of contact you drop, which therefore influences the quality of defense you can build and execute behind the pitcher.
He said it basically affects every facet of the game, so that’s where he wants to start evaluating and improving the team.
“We’re going to start in the strike zone,” Harris said. “We want to dominate the strike zone on both sides of the ball, and we want to acquire, develop and retain players who can give us the chance to do that.”
What Chris Ilitch liked about Harris
Tigers owner Chris Ilitch said there was a long list of attributes that drew him to Harris.
Here are some of the features he mentioned:
Harris had a clear vision and plan and knew how he wanted to execute them, down to the smallest detail.
His approach is progressive and forward-looking on how to win in the modern game.
It has the ability to take data and combine it with technology across the organization.
He is “very intelligent, but humble and discreet”.
He has a tremendous drive to innovate, which isn’t always easy to find in baseball.
He understands how important it is to shape the culture of the organization.
More importantly: “He’s very competitive and he’s determined to win a World Series.”
What drew Harris to Detroit?
Harris was the general manager of the San Francisco Giants, a team that won three World Series titles over the past decade, led baseball with 107 wins last season and generally performs at a consistent level. So why did he want to leave it to the Tigers?
“When this opportunity came up, I was immediately interested,” Harris said. “I was interested in what they were building here. I was interested in the players they have here. I was interested in the staff they have here.
“When I came to Detroit, and when I started walking around with Chris and seeing everything Detroit has to offer, it was different for me than any other opportunity I’ve had in the past. combination of an exceptionally passionate fan base, huge resources in the division, being ahead of some of the things they build under the hood that have inspired me so much, and ownership and tremendous business support.
Ilitch said the Tigers approach the process as recruiting as much as an interview.
Message to Tigers fans
Harris was asked if he had a message for Tigers fans. Here is what he said:
“I would say to the supporters: it’s an exceptional opportunity and responsibility, but it’s not my team. It’s not the front office team. It’s not the team of players. This is the Detroit team, and we recognize that these players and AJ (Hinch) and his coaches will be in the living rooms more often than most family members each night when the television is on. We know this team means more to the fans and the city than I will ever know, so we’ll factor that into every decision we make. We are going to be aware of this when it comes to making impactful decisions that can change the trajectory of this organization, but also, we will be aware of this with the small decisions that seem insignificant and insignificant but can ultimately produce huge returns. .”
In terms of the competitive schedule, Harris said he “sees this as an opportunity for us to improve this winter.”
In the short term, Ilitch’s expectation is simply for the team to regain the momentum it had before that disastrous 2022 season.
“We had a big boost when you go back a few years, even last season, as an organization, as a major league team on the field,” Ilitch said. “We’ve seen improvement and we’ve seen that momentum.”
In 2021, the first year under Hinch, the Tigers rode four months of baseball victories to close the season and surprised the league with a 77-85 record. That was enough for Avila and Ilitch to spend some money in free agency, but the team fell flat.
“At the end of the day, we want to see baseball win Detroit, we want to make the playoffs, and ultimately we want to win a world championship,” Ilitch said. “We’ve been very clear, I’ve been very clear, that’s the goal. For now, let’s see if we can’t regain some of that momentum and shape a better Tigers team next season and this season and build from there.
Is it a rebuild?
Harris was asked whether or not he considered this project a reconstruction. He declined to answer directly, saying there wasn’t much benefit to putting a label on the situation.
Here is his full answer:
“I see this as an opportunity to build processes and make smart baseball decisions, and I don’t think labels are very informative. Labels aren’t even a guarantee that what you intend will happen, so we’re treating this as an opportunity to improve ourselves this winter. That’s what we’re going to do, and we’re going to do a lot of things. A lot of these movements are going to have strong conviction and confidence behind them. Some of these moves are going to be a calculated risk. We need to take calculated risks in this organization to close the gap between this organization and the other organizations that we are pursuing right now.
He reiterated that the Tigers will not hesitate to take risks.
“It will eventually pay off,” Harris said.
Ilitch said Hinch played a “central role” in the research process, which provides insight into how the manager is perceived within the organization.
After the team exceeded expectations last year, fans were concerned that Hinch might leave in the near future. But his team struggled from the jump in 2022, and so he lost some favor.
It seems that Avila bore the brunt of the blame within the organization if Hinch’s contribution was so valued in this research. That means Hinch will likely stick around for a while.
You can watch the full introductory press conference below..
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