Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tram Lands On His Feet In Cubs' First-Place Den

Buddy Bell: self-ziggied. Will manage the Kansas City Royals through the end of the season, then he will don a suit and tie and sit in the brass's suite at Kaufman Stadium, working in the Royals' front office.

Phil Garner: ziggied unwillingly. Ordered to stop managing the Houston Astros immediately. Just two years after leading an improbable second half charge all the way to the World Series.

Alan Trammell: safely ensconced on Lou Piniella's bench as his right hand man, helping the Cubs try to capture the NL Central flag.

Bell, Garner, and Trammell. Three former Tigers managers of the past decade. Two of them out of the dugout (or soon will be). The third, Tram, still alive and kicking, in a playoff chase -- something he never sniffed as Tigers skipper.

And don't forget Kirk Gibson, recently in the Tigers' small coaching office -- now helping the Arizona Diamondbacks as their bench coach. The D-Backs are also very much alive in the postseason chase.

The Tigers haven't found a whole lot of stability in the manager's office since Sparky Anderson retired to California in 1995. Not surprisingly, they haven't found a whole lot of winning, either. But the men that they've dismissed haven't set the baseball world on fire, either -- save for Garner's miracle year of 2005.

But Trammell, the poor soul who had to manage a group of minor league ballplayers in 2003 -- and thus won only 43 games -- has landed squarely on his feet, and with one of the game's better managers, for one of the game's most storied (albeit not successful) franchises. And with a chance to experience October baseball for the first time since a player in 1987.

I don't think there's any question that Trammell's hiring was mostly a public relations device when Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski tabbed him in late 2002 to take over a very bad ballclub. Management knew the product on the field was likely to be hideous. So why not try to divert some attention to Trammell and his lieutenants, the coaches from the '84 team? And who knows? Maybe Trammell can learn a thing or two about managing along the way. Certainly he would learn about abject failure.

It's fitting and proper, I think, that Alan Trammell, battle-worn and having survived his managing stint with the woeful Tigers, is now enjoying his just desserts -- even as his old club struggles to stay in their own playoff picture. Though he's a self-admitted Tiger at heart.

It may be harsh and even wrong to say that the Tigers used Trammell from 2003-05. But it really wouldn't be too far off the mark. It's even likely that more qualified candidates were overlooked so that Tram could be hired. If the Tigers didn't use Trammell, they came awfully close. But that's probably all a family secret.

Alan Trammell wears Cubbies pinstripes today. He wears them, at Lou Piniella's side, in first place.

Good for him.


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