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PostSubject: Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski's positive outlook a sign of experience   Sun Feb 28, 2010 8:36 pm

Posted: Feb. 28, 2010
Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski's positive outlook a sign of experience
Walt Jocketty and Andy MacPhail speak glowingly of veteran GM

BY JOHN LOWE
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Here's what was interesting about the smile Dave Dombrowski had this past week at the Johnny Damon introductory news conference:

It wasn't much brighter or bigger than the smile he used to greet writers during media sessions at the winter meetings.

For the Tigers, that indeed was a bleak December. Dombrowski, the GM, was trading Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson to cut payroll. He'd just lost Placido Polanco as a free agent. And he was about to bid good-bye to free agents Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon, his top relievers. Dombrowski didn't know that he'd get Jose Valverde to replace Rodney and Lyon, or that he'd get to bid for Damon to fill the void atop the order.

Yet as he met with writers, Dombrowski put up his classic pose. He spoke determinedly and optimistically, and he smiled.

People who know Dombrowski cite this as one of his great strengths: his ability to stay upbeat, and to rally people in his organization.

How does he do it? How does he stay positive and thorough, even when it's an effort? How does he ward off discouragement?

How does Dombrowski keep smiling?

GM stays positive through ups, downs

Walt Jocketty and Andy MacPhail might be the best people to ask about how Dave Dombrowski maintains his steadfast cheerfulness no matter how much adversity his ballclub faces.

Jocketty and MacPhail have known Dombrowski since he was launching his baseball career more than 30 years ago. Like Dombrowski, Jocketty and MacPhail are general managers who keep that smile no matter how deep the adversity, whether it's a big midseason deficit in the standings or a tough loss in the World Series.

MacPhail was GM in Minnesota for two World Series titles. He later became GM of the Cubs, and now he's GM of the Orioles. Jocketty, who produced seven playoff teams and a Series crown as Cardinals GM, is now the GM of the Cincinnati Reds.

This past week, MacPhail and Jocketty spoke in a telephone interview about how someone with Dombrowski's job can stay upbeat when the results become anything but that.

"The key is experience," MacPhail said. "Dave enjoys the fundamental understanding of the game's ups and downs.

"Here he had a team that (in 2003) was threatening to replace the '62 Mets as the worst in history. Three years later, they were in the World Series. When you understand how the game works, there is a certain comfort in that. The bad things are temporary, and the good things might be, too."

Dombrowski was the founding general manager of the expansion Florida Marlins. In their fifth season, 1997, the Marlins won the World Series. But after the season, ownership ordered a cost-cutting fire sale, and Dombrowski had to trade many key players. The next year, the Marlins finished 52 games out of first.

Jocketty, the St. Louis GM then, recalled how when he spoke to Dombrowski in that fire-sale off-season, he never heard Dombrowski complain about having to dismantle the championship team.

"Never once was he critical of ownership or of the situation," Jocketty said. "He was happy to have won, and these were the cards he was dealt. He went about it professionally, like he does everything else.

"I've never really heard him be critical of any situation."

Dombrowski was starting his career in the White Sox front office when he met Jocketty, who was running the White Sox' Triple-A club. The Sox general manager was Roland Hemond.

"Roland was the epitome of the positive-thinking approach," Jocketty said. "Dave and I were fortunate to work for him."

Now Jocketty can talk about why he and Dombrowski are able to stay positive.

"Both of us feel very fortunate to work in something that we love as much as we do, and being able to ascend to the roles that we have," Jocketty said. "We are both very grateful for that.

"We respect the game and love the game. Personally -- and David is probably the same way -- I love positive people. I want people to be positive and upbeat. The worst thing to do is to be negative. There is too much of that in the world today anyhow.

"In your role as general manager, as the head of baseball operations, you have to keep everybody in your organization positive. We have to set an example, and if we don't, it transcends through the organization. David is very, very good at setting that example."

MacPhail, on setting that example:

"Perhaps when you have a true knowledge of how the game operates, you don't have to live and die in the moment. The nature of the sport is always changing, and it kind of allows us not to take the ups and downs too seriously. You keep everything in perspective.

"In certain years, you might not win as many games, but there are things to be proud of that your organization accomplishes. In other years you win a lot of games, but there are some disappointments.

"With experience comes wisdom."

As Dombrowski said again last week, this Tigers' off-season was complicated and sophisticated, but it wasn't his toughest off-season. That came when he had to break up the '97 world champions that he'd built from scratch. Yet when he had to trade those champion players, he diligently worked to get the best prospects in return.

"We got a lot of players that contributed to a world championship in another five years," Dombrowski said.

That was 2003. The Marlins, helped by many of those Dombrowski deals, won their second championship in that same season that Dombrowski's Tigers lost 119 games. Sometimes the highs and lows for a general manager come in the same year.

No matter what, you just keep smiling.

Contact JOHN LOWE: 313-223-4053 or jlowe@freepress.com. Check out his Tigers blog at freep.com/section/blog18.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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