Ilitch seeks new fortune for Tigers

By Pat Caputo
November 8, 2001

With his franchise reeling, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch looked to Dave Dombrowski to turn around the organization's fortunes.

Dombrowski was named Detroit's president the day following the World Series. He has been given total authority to oversee the Tigers' operations, both on and off the field. He received a five-year contract reportedly worth more than $10 million.

General manager Randy Smith and manager Phil Garner, who have two years left on existing contracts, will be retained.

Neither Ilitch nor Dombrowski would discuss whether the Tigers' player payroll, which was dropped from $60 million in 2000 to less than $50 million in 2001, would go up or down. Dombrowski said he wants to assess the situation first.

“I don't think I'm capable of knowing what I'm going to do right now,” he said.

But Dombrowski said he expects the Tigers, who haven't had a winning season since 1993, to be competitive nonetheless.

“You can compete without the top payroll and win without the top payroll,” Dombrowski said.

Dombrowski, 45, left the Marlins, where he was the GM for nearly a decade, to take the position with the Tigers. He was the Marlins' GM when their high-priced squad won the World Series in 1997 and also helped build the Expos farm system into one of the best in the game.

He succeeds Ilitch, who had been the club president since June when John McHale resigned to take a similar position with the Devil Rays. Ilitch hopes hiring Dombrowski gives his floundering franchise the much-needed stability it has lacked recently. He has no intention of selling the team.

“We are not popular at all,” he said. “Do you think it feels good? I want to hang in there and turn things around.”