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Trammell Keeps Dignity While Tigers Lose Theirs

September 21, 2003|From Associated Press

DETROIT — He hasn't cracked or snapped.

During the Detroit Tigers' free fall toward the modern record for losses, Manager Alan Trammell has looked frustrated at times. Remarkably, the former star shortstop for this once-proud franchise has maintained his cool demeanor and positive outlook.

Sparky Anderson said he would've been "screaming like a wild man" by now.

The Hall of Famer, who managed Trammell in Detroit from 1979-95, said the Tigers' first-year manager has been amazing.

"This man has done something I've never seen," Anderson said. "He has taken bullets and he's withstood everything in a class way. I couldn't have done it. It almost chokes me up to think of what Tram's been through."

With a team of rushed prospects and overpaid, lackluster veterans, the Tigers will have to play .500 ball -- spectacular by their standards -- in the final week of the season to avoid the post-1900 record of 120 losses set by the 1962 Mets.

When the Tigers have not failed physically, they have done so mentally.

In a recent loss, Alex Sanchez tried a delayed steal of home while Kansas City's catcher was tossing the baseball back to the pitcher. After Sanchez was thrown out easily -- with cleanup hitter Dmitri Young at the plate -- Trammell wiped his brow and closed his eyes.

"Several times, he could've snapped on people," Detroit's Brandon Inge said. "But he chooses to be a teacher, who talks instead of yells. He'll stomp around the dugout when he's really frustrated, but he hasn't screamed or broken stuff."

If Trammell had been seen throwing bats around the dugout, kicking a water cooler, or berating players, it would've been understandable.

But that's not Trammell.

"I've been testy occasionally," he said. "I think that's only human nature, but overall I think I've been pretty good. That's my demeanor. That's the way I was brought up. That's what I've been taught in professional baseball, but I'm human. I get ticked. I'm competitive."

Like his players, Trammell wants no part of the Mets' record.

The Tigers are currently using a six-man rotation, but Trammell was asked if he may abandon it during the final week of the season -- at Minnesota and Kansas City and at home against the Twins -- in the hopes of avoiding a 120th loss.

"First and foremost we're trying to win, but we have to factor in that other part," Trammell said.

Life was much easier for Trammell when he just played for the Tigers, who haven't finished above .500 since 1993 and are baseball's losingest team over the past decade.

As a 20-year standout in the field and at the plate, Trammell became a six-time All-Star who helped Detroit win the 1984 World Series, the 1987 AL East and post a winning record each season from 1978-88.

After Trammell retired in 1996, he was a baseball operations assistant in Detroit for two seasons and was the Tigers' hitting coach in 1999. Then, he moved near his hometown and coached with the San Diego Padres for three seasons before returning to Detroit.

"It has to be tough to be put in this situation during your first year managing," said Mike Maroth, the first pitcher since 1980 to lose 20 games. "But it has really shown me and the team something with the way he's handled himself. I really look up to him. His actions and the way he carries himself has really been noticed by the players. We've stayed positive and into it because of him."

Hall of Famer Al Kaline, a special assistant to the team, said the Tigers have to give Trammell more to work with next year.

About $17 million was committed this year to players not likely to return, but owner Mike Ilitch has not said whether he plans to spend that money on players or use it to pay off debts on four-year-old Comerica Park. Ilitch did not responded to interview requests this month from The Associated Press.

"I've talked to Tram seven times this season and he's never bad-mouthed, or ragged the front office or Ilitch," Anderson said. "But they have to get him some players."

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