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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

How rapidly shrinking Detroit Tigers payroll could speed rebuild | MLive.com

Shrinking payroll and victory total.

Jim Furtado Posted: September 26, 2017 at 08:40 AM | 30 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: tigers

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   1. eddieot Posted: September 26, 2017 at 10:47 AM (#5539059)
I somehow missed the Ausmus announcement. Seemed like a pretty competent manager and a good guy. Any Tigers fans want to weigh in?
   2. JRVJ Posted: September 26, 2017 at 11:00 AM (#5539082)
Looking at the Miguel Cabrera numbers going forward, you have to wonder if the Tigers couldn't buy him out at some point.

(I certainly think that the Angels should be trying to buy out Albert Pujols, who has a shorter contract that Cabrera, but not by much).
   3. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 26, 2017 at 11:09 AM (#5539094)
Cabrera for Pujols, straight up. Tigers get a contract that's four years shorter (that's not exactly "not by much"), plus $6 million less over the next four years. Angels get the much better chance that Cabrera will bounce back (plus, even at his current level he's not quite as bad a Pujols). Kind of the bizarro world version of a challenge trade. Make it happen!!
   4. No longer interested in this website Posted: September 26, 2017 at 12:03 PM (#5539188)
As I've opined elsewhere, I think Cabrera will bounce back and have at least two more All-Star quality seasons. He's too good. He was hurt all year in 2017. I suspect we'll see him reluctantly take more starts at DH.

I think people miss something about long-term contracts: they are not solely about on-field performance AND they are back loaded. Cabrera signed his deal in 2014 and Detroit got three seasons at 157 OPS+. Then he got hurt and played hurt all year, suffering his worst season by far. There remains six years on the deal, but the Tigers didn't ever think the 38-40 year old Cabrera was going to be an MVP caliber player. They inked the deal for ten years to offer a superstar security. Like all teams do. Really what the teams are doing is spreading out the money over several years.

I didn't care much for Ausmus. I prefer managers who think outside the box and I also want good PR guys. I guess that latter trait stems from growing up with Sparky Anderson at the helm. Give me a guy who is a solid face of the team and deals well with media and/or is interesting. I'll take a Billy Martin too, because it's fun as hell. Ausmus treated the media like they were a nuisance. He is remarkably bland, sort of an Al Gore in spikes. He also has this habit of wanting to be the smartest guy in the room. He also wasn't good at being transparent, he was loathe to explain decisions in detail because he felt the average media member wouldn't understand because they didn't play the game. That's not a new attitude, but Ausmus never seemed to grasp that the media represents the fans, who ultimately pay his salary.

As for his handling of the club, he was a push-button guy. He is a solid LaRussa Type manager. He uses the 6th inning guy in the 6th inning, the 8th inning guy in the 8th, and so on. He never did anything that was against "the book." It cost him at least one win in the 2014 ALDS. It's overlooked, but in 2016 he probably cost the Tigers a playoff spot when he started Jordan Zimmermann twice when he was hurt and coming off long stretches on the DL. Both times the pitcher was knocked out early and the Tigers lost lopsided games. They missed the playoffs by a game or two. Those starts were unnecessary and misguided, and some observers noted that at the time.

Ausmus was never going to be loved in Detroit unless they won it all. He followed Leyland, and the team was bound to age. Also, the Dombrowski exit sealed his fate. Avila has made bad decisions which has directly led to this "rebuild" phase. Most fans don't recognize this, and are buying into the "2-4 years of futility" line of BS the team is pushing.

As for the article - I've been saying that I don't think this "rebuild" will take so long. I predict the Tigers will be in a wild card race in 2019. That's IF the team doesn't make any real stupid decisions, and they sign at least one or two modest free agents. Preferably an outfielder and a starting pitcher.

The End
   5. Nasty Nate Posted: September 26, 2017 at 12:08 PM (#5539196)
There remains six years on the deal, but the Tigers didn't ever think the 38-40 year old Cabrera was going to be an MVP caliber player. They inked the deal for ten years to offer a superstar security. Like all teams do. Really what the teams are doing is spreading out the money over several years.
Or to phrase it differently, once they were willing to guarantee the giant sum of money to him, they might as well ask for as many years as they can get for it.
   6. No longer interested in this website Posted: September 26, 2017 at 12:12 PM (#5539198)
Or to phrase it differently, once they were willing to guarantee the giant sum of money to him, they might as well ask for as many years as they can get for it.


Exactly, thanks for finding my point for me. :-)

Many fans also underestimate the financial positions of their teams. The owners are filthy rich and the teams have tons of money. They don't sign contracts they can't afford. Few teams are ever "crippled" by contracts. At least I'd like to see some evidence that this happens any more. Teams use every resource at their disposal to make it look like they are scraping by, but that PR is just propaganda.

I guess you can tell I'm a middle aged skeptic with trust issues.
   7. fra paolo Posted: September 26, 2017 at 12:15 PM (#5539201)
Any Tigers fans want to weigh in?

I wouldn't say Ausmus is a bad manager, although he has some obvious blunders on his resumé (most notoriously, the 2014 ALDS). IIRC, more often than not the Tigers have exceeded their Pythags while he has been in charge, which might not mean anything but make it look like he's doing something right.

It's also worth bearing in mind that the Tigers were still on the fringes of the playoff race as late as 24 July. Ausmus I think deserves some credit for that. He's very good about resting his players, and spotting what team weaknesses he has to hide. They had gone 11-9 over the last 20, and were around 6 games out of both the AL Central and the Wild Card. The three-game series that started that day against Kansas City was when it all started to go horribly wrong.

The thing is, after that, it may be that Ausmus 'lost the team'. It is hard to be sure without going back over what happened in some detail, and I've switched off since the Verlander trade, possibly never to return, but the visible dissension within the team during the Sanchez-Cabrera bout did not reflect well on Ausmus. That was the point that I thought his firing was sealed. His chit-chat on the radio before games had been sounding increasingly like he wasn't comfortable, was just going through the motions in a season that had got out of his control.

I hope he gets another chance, because I think he has done enough to deserve consideration by other teams, but it wouldn't surprise me if he got 'not quite good enough' marked on his permanent record. That would be unfair, but who ever said life was fair?

Trading Cabrera would be a silly panic move. If there is one player aged 32+ in baseball I'd bet on to bounce back, it's Miguel Cabrera.
   8. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 26, 2017 at 12:22 PM (#5539207)
Trading Cabrera would be a silly panic move. If there is one player aged 32+ in baseball I'd bet on to bounce back, it's Miguel Cabrera.

Yeah, it's really weird to be declaring a guy who had a 152 wRC+ LAST YEAR, to be done.
   9. Nasty Nate Posted: September 26, 2017 at 12:29 PM (#5539217)
Many fans also underestimate the financial positions of their teams. The owners are filthy rich and the teams have tons of money. They don't sign contracts they can't afford. Few teams are ever "crippled" by contracts. At least I'd like to see some evidence that this happens any more. Teams use every resource at their disposal to make it look like they are scraping by, but that PR is just propaganda.
Right, but if the owners limit the amount of money the front office can spend, one contract can have an effect on another. Just because spending restrictions are self-imposed doesn't make them irrelevant or fake.

E.G. If the Tigers didn't have the Zimmermann and Martinez contracts on the books, they might have not traded Verlander because it would be likely that ownership would have allowed them to spend big this offseason.
   10. JRVJ Posted: September 26, 2017 at 12:36 PM (#5539232)
Or to phrase it differently, once they were willing to guarantee the giant sum of money to him, they might as well ask for as many years as they can get for it.


True, but once it looks like you won't be competing for a number of years (objectively, the Tigers won't be competing for a couple of years), it's not a bad idea to look into trading your superstar or to buy him out.

Since it's unlikely that Cabrera has much trade value after this season (he may rebuild some trade value in 2018, but he certainly has very little this year), the Tigers would be remiss if they didn't at least look into buying out Cabrera (who may actually be willing to be bought out).

Now mind you, the above scenario makes much more sense for Pujols (who knows his body is breaking down on him, what with all his struggles with his feet) than with Cabrera.
   11. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 26, 2017 at 12:40 PM (#5539240)
Since it's unlikely that Cabrera has much trade value after this season (he may rebuild some trade value in 2018, but he certainly has very little this year), the Tigers would be remiss if they didn't at least look into buying out Cabrera (who may actually be willing to be bought out).

What does that mean? Are you going to pay Cabrera $20M a year not to play for you rather than $30M to playf for you?

Cabrera would have to be absolutley done for it to make sense for the Tigers to pay him anything close to what he'd accept.
   12. fra paolo Posted: September 26, 2017 at 12:42 PM (#5539245)
E.G. If the Tigers didn't have the Zimmermann and Martinez contracts on the books, they might have not traded Verlander because it would be likely that ownership would have allowed them to spend big this offseason.

V-Mart's contract was a bad idea at the time, because of the length. I know why the Tigers signed it (lack of LHB alternatives), but it was obviously going to be something that would hurt them later.

The Zimmermann contract made much more sense, but has turned out even worse. There's not much one can say or do about it, except grit one's teeth and hope for the best.
   13. JRVJ Posted: September 26, 2017 at 12:47 PM (#5539254)
What does that mean? Are you going to pay Cabrera $20M a year not to play for you rather than $30M to playf for you?

Cabrera would have to be absolutley done for it to make sense for the Tigers to pay him anything close to what he'd accept.


Cabrera will be making US$30MM the next 4 seasons, and then US$32MM in 2022 and 2023.

He may not want to go through a rebuild. He may not be willing to go through rehab to get his body back into line.

What exactly does it cost you to ask?

As to how much you'd have to pay him, those US$32MM in 2022 and 2023 sure look like sunk costs for the Tigers. If you can get a discount at some point (even taking into account TVM), why wouldn't you try?

But again, all of the above makes more sense on September 26th, 2017 for Pujols than for Cabrera.

   14. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 26, 2017 at 01:12 PM (#5539273)
Cabrera will be making US$30MM the next 4 seasons, and then US$32MM in 2022 and 2023.

He may not want to go through a rebuild.


That's a n argument for eating some salary and trading him.

He may not be willing to go through rehab to get his body back into line.

I can't imagine a player of his ability walking away until he is physically unable to play.
   15. JRVJ Posted: September 26, 2017 at 01:14 PM (#5539275)
That's a n argument for eating some salary and trading him.


If he rebuilds trade value, sure.

I can't imagine a player of his ability walking away until he is physically unable to play.


What exactly does it cost you to ask.
   16. PreservedFish Posted: September 26, 2017 at 01:17 PM (#5539277)
Your respectful working relationship?
   17. Random Transaction Generator Posted: September 26, 2017 at 01:22 PM (#5539279)
Yeah, it's really weird to be declaring a guy who had a 152 wRC+ LAST YEAR, to be done.


Herniated discs (TWO) is definitely career threatening, and even if he does recover enough to play, he might not reach his (expected late career) potential.
I'd be REAL worried if I was the Tigers that he might be good enough to play, but put up a repeat of 2017 for the next couple of years while still trying to grit through the pain (even after surgery).
   18. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 26, 2017 at 01:31 PM (#5539290)

What exactly does it cost you to ask.


What is there to gain?

If he says "yes, give me $125M right now and I'll void the deal" and then signs elsewhere and puts up a 4 or 5 WAR season, you look like the biggest idiots in creation and alienate your fans.

If he literally can't play anymore and retires, you've just voided all the insurance you almost certainly had on his contract.
   19. Tim D Posted: September 26, 2017 at 01:51 PM (#5539313)
Herniated discs are not necessarily career ending. It sounds as if Miggy's issues are more about stiffness than radiating pain down his legs. The latter would be the prime indicator for surgery. No one says he needs surgery yet, but even if he does he could come back. Back treatment techniques have improved dramatically in the last 10 years or so, particularly if money isn't an issue. Lots of laser and non-invasive techniques, very specific therapy for strengthening core spine muscles, better drugs etc. He will have to DH more, but he hurt his back in the stupid WBC and wasn't right all year. If he can improve his core strength, start the year healthy and DH (a lot) more, he should bounce back to a reasonable facsimile of himself. If he does that, the "cost" of buying him out would be the lost production. And he might sign somewhere else and put up numbers there. That would be another indignity for Tiger fans. I'm guessing he will do better and be a 3 WAR or so player for a few years. That isn't worth $30M but Tiger's payroll will be drastically reduced and his contract isn't going to prevent the Ilitches from gradually increasing it.

As for Miggy wanting to do it and the burden of playing on a poor team, I'd say he's among the few players I would happily bet on to bust his ass to make it back. He loves the game,and when he's right is among the very best. He's not going to give up. And his contract has 6 more years to go; presumably the Tigers can rebuild soon enough for him to get back to the post-season.

Re Ausmus, I thought he was ok, competent but not flashy. Doctrinaire LaRussa bullpen usage, a negative IMHO. Lately he got much more negative and pissy with press. Probably knew he was out. Grumbling is he didn't fight hard enough, didn't discipline slackers, too much a players guy. Of course if he had won he would be universally acknowledged as a great leader. I think it ran it's course. Team starting over, might as well hire a manager. Fredi Gonzalez or Manny Acta make sense. Ausmus not so good he will be missed, although I expect he will get another chance.

   20. fra paolo Posted: September 26, 2017 at 02:26 PM (#5539359)
Herniated discs (TWO) is definitely career threatening, and even if he does recover enough to play, he might not reach his (expected late career) potential.

The record is somewhat mixed, it seems to me. Here are three players who had herniated discs and then retired:
Prince Fielder
Kevin Youkilis
Larry Walker.

Here are some who continued to play:
Jose Canseco (before 1998, retired 2001)
Barry Larkin (before 1998, played a bit longer)
Vladimir Guerrero (during 2003, retired after 2011)
Mike Sweeney (during 2004, played a bit longer)
Todd Helton (during 2008, retired after 2013)

Helton is a very close comp, possibly. He also suffered the injury at age 34. Larkin's was also at age 34, while Canseco was aged 33. The others were younger.

If Cabrera retires, though, it's all still good because suddenly the Tigers have loadsamoney for a big extension, and a deeper farm system.

The worst outlook is 'a career-ending injury' where the career doesn't end.
   21. Tim D Posted: September 26, 2017 at 02:56 PM (#5539385)
Re Cabrera back situation:

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/mlb/tigers/2017/09/26/tigers-offseason-program-improve-miguel-cabreras-back/106014896/
   22. No longer interested in this website Posted: September 26, 2017 at 03:33 PM (#5539415)
Cabrera will be making US$30MM the next 4 seasons, and then US$32MM in 2022 and 2023.

He may not want to go through a rebuild. He may not be willing to go through rehab to get his body back into line.


Rush to judgement. The guy was a legit MVP candidate LAST YEAR. He essentially broke his back this spring and played through it.
   23. No longer interested in this website Posted: September 26, 2017 at 03:36 PM (#5539419)
Herniated discs (TWO) is definitely career threatening, and even if he does recover enough to play, he might not reach his (expected late career) potential.


Wow, the assumptions made here are amazing. His herniated discs are in his lower back. Not his neck like Fielder. He is probably in a lot of pain. But he's a warrior and plays through it because Miggy believes you should play when you are paid to play as much as he is.

A LOT of athletes have come back from herniated discs. Some in the NFL, and a few NBA players, where there's more constant movement and pounding. He isn't doubled over in pain and doesn't have a degenerative problem, so I don't understand the panic here.
   24. RobDeer Posted: September 26, 2017 at 06:45 PM (#5539535)
This article says Victor Martinez became a bad clubhouse presence over the past two years, Ausmus struggled to manage personalities:
One former player said he knew early in his Tigers tenure why the team, so talented from afar, had underachieved. The team had a strong veteran contingence, but none of those veterans had anyone to lead them.


   25. cmd600 Posted: September 26, 2017 at 07:00 PM (#5539539)
But he's a warrior and plays through it because Miggy believes you should play when you are paid to play as much as he is.


So he wants to play hurt and maybe aggravate it more in meaningless games instead of trying to help it heal. Sure sounds like the Tigers have got a good plan going forward.
   26. Walt Davis Posted: September 26, 2017 at 07:47 PM (#5539555)
#4: The Tigers didn't sign him to a 10-year extension, they signed him to an 8-year extension 2 years early. He was already under contract for 2014-15 so, in the extension, they have gotten one 5 WAR season and this disaster. Signing him with two years to go was silly ... and next year Trout will be the first player to make more money than him. Harper and maybe Machado then Arenado might pass him in 2018-19 before Trout becomes an FA after 2020. He might still be among the top 5 highest-paid players in 2021. Stanton has a supposedly untradable contract and he won't make as much money as Miggy until 2023, Miggy's final contract year.

I'm certainly not going to write him off but he'll be 35 with a bad back. The projection of 35-year-olds is not good due to production and playing time declines. Add in an injury and terrible age 34 production and the expectations are even worse. I can well imagine that he'll bounce back to 125 OPS+ but in 500-550 PA, mostly at DH.

At age 33, Bautista had a 161 OPS+ in 673 PA; at 34 he had a 145 in 666 PA. That dropped to 118 in just 517 PA last year then 77 in 667 this year (at least he's durable). In WAR terms that was 6, 5, 1, -2.

Frank Thomas did bounce back in terms of quality but not so much quantity. This might be a best-case scenario. PA, OPS+ and WAR from 33:

33: 79 94 0
34: 628 119 2
35: 662 146 4
36: 311 156 3
37: 124 131 0
38: 559 140 3
39: 624 125 2
40: 289 97 0

It's certainly the case that, from age 35 on, that Thomas was generally helping his team. But that's still 12 WAR in 6 seasons, 3 full and 3 less than half. Twelve WAR for $186 M actually wouldn't be disastrous as FA contracts go but it's not recommended. :-)

The other day I put together some age 31-33 Miggy comps. Some are pretty lousy comps as is always the case (Rickey and Morgan are particularly bad) but you can judge that for yourself. At age 34, Miggy's performance by WAR is easily the worst but the second worst is very promising for him -- Thome who also had a bad back. But the next worst reasonable comp is Delgado who had 2.7 WAR so a much better age 34 than Miggy.

Anyway, as we'd expect Miggy's age 34 was very uncommon for a hitter of his caliber and profile so there's no predictive value there. We could refine the comp list to maybe look for guys who were hurt or had lousy seasons at 32 or 33 (and may or may not have bounced back by 34) but I haven't done anything like that.

From ages 35-40, there are two hugely promising comps in Aaron (31 WAR) and Edgar (27) and neither is unrealistic for Miggy. Morgan, Clemente and Thome come next with 17-18 WAR -- the first two are lousy comps but Thome is a good comp and was hurt at 34.

After this comes three OK to good comps in Sheff, Kaline and Manny ... and we can add Thomas ... who produced 10-12 WAR.

Next comes Bagwell, Edmonds, Mantle, Killer with 6-8 WAR.

Then Jack Clark and Delgado with 2-4 WAR.

If we limit it to players who were outstanding hitters at 31-33 (this list) and also great hitters in their 20s then it's Aaron, Sheff, Kaline, Manny, Bagwell, Mantle, Killer and maybe Thome. We can add Thomas. That's a slightly better distribution but not a lot.

Using the whole list (minus Phelps), the median WAR for 35-40 is about 9 (Manny-ARod). If we use the more tailored set of 12 comps, the median is about 9 (Manny-Bagwell). If we use that list of 9 greats, the median WAR is about 12 (Sheff).

A median projection of about 9-12 WAR with about a 10-15% chance of Aaron/Edgar ... or 20-25% chance of Thome or better. Then probably something around 30% for 9-14, about 30-40% for 5-8 and a 5-15% chance of <5.

We can cast the net a bit more widely and just look at the number of players with 2000+ PAs from 35-40 who spent a sizeable chunk in a corner/DH. There are 34 players with 10+ WAR. There are a number of names at the lower end of that group that suggest Miggy should at least make it here -- McGriff, Carty, Stargell, Moises ... and McCovey, Cash and Chili Davis all got to 9. F Robinson at 14, Palmeiro at 17 but Thome is still top 10. There are some new promising names above Thome in Downing, Da Evans, Molitor, Ortiz.

There are also some new scary names on the lower end but not many -- remember, we've required 2000+ PAs. In general these guys weren't ever at Miggy's level but there's Giambi, Murray, Helton, BWilliams, Griffey (both of the actually), Reggie. Then we can add in some scary names of guys who never made it to 2000 PA like McGwire, Sosa, Vlad, Mathews and the lists start to balance out again. Maybe there's enough positive comps now to push the median expectation up to 12-15 WAR.

Teeny samples, comps aren't destiny, other ways to identify comps for Miggy (I don't recall my criteria), etc.

Note, none of this really suggests the Tigers should pursue a buy-out now ... and it all suggests there's no way Miggy would take one that will realistically be offered. It opens the possibility of eating money and trading Miggy. Based on this projection, Encarnacion might be a reasonable comp for what Miggy would get as an FA ... maybe the 4/$80 that EE declined or 5/$90. Suggests Detroit would have to eat about half the contract to move him while getting little back. (Remember, EE is the highest-paid AAV (intended) DH in history, followed by VMart so my suggestions of Miggy's FA value would still make him the highest paid DH at least in years/$.)
   27. Walt Davis Posted: September 26, 2017 at 08:08 PM (#5539562)
Did anybody read the article? What's their argument? I've never seen any evidence that teams take the "saved" payroll from the misery years and spend it when the team starts to get good. So I don't see how there'd be any connection between a reduced payroll for 2018 and how quickly we'd expect the Tigers to rebound.

I can believe there's a correlation in that a team stripped of its overpaid vets would likely win even fewer games than the one that retains their pricey vets, leading to a better draft choice. But that's not the result of reducing payroll per se, that's the result of putting the worst team you can get away with on the field.

I can also believe a correlation arises just because of timing. Chances are the Tigers can't dump some of their pricey vets (or only eating a lot of money). They will have a reasonably high payroll for the next couple of years due to Miggy, Zimm, VMart. Or the Cubs when they still had Dempster, Garza, Soriano, etc. You can only reduce payroll so quickly. Then after two years, the pricey contracts are mostly gone and some of your kids are starting to arrive. So you have two cheap years with lousy-mediocre results as kids struggle and you work out who the keepers are. Then around year 5, the team is hopefully on the upswing and you start spending again.

So the 2012-13 Cubs still had some expensive player and (at start of 2013), almost none of the current players (Rizzo) ... and they had signed Edwin Jackson (oops, a move I supported). For 2014, I'm pretty sure the most expensive players on the roster were the pre-FA Samardzija and Castro (on a buyout). Still primarily a roster of vet castoffs on opening day but a few kids made their debuts as the season wore on (Hendricks, Soler, Alcantara and Baez). They arrived a year earlier than I expected in 2015 but that was partly because they started spending (Lester, Montero, Hammel) plus the great trade for Russell paying off immediately.

Per Cots, the payroll never got low ($93 M) but Theo did strip out $40 Mm between 2011 and 2014 before putting back $28 in 2015 (then $50 more for 2016). So you do see Cubs payroll going down just before the wins starting going back up but that has almost nothing to do with the payroll, a good bit to do with sucking for 2012-14 (Bryant, Schwarber, Happ) and a ton of great, small trades that Theo made.
   28. BDC Posted: September 26, 2017 at 08:27 PM (#5539573)
I've never seen any evidence that teams take the "saved" payroll from the misery years and spend it when the team starts to get good. So I don't see how there'd be any connection between a reduced payroll for 2018 and how quickly we'd expect the Tigers to rebound

This makes sense to me. The Astros, for instance, have spent liberally on veterans over the past 12 months, and some have been solid for them. But the reason they're really good is a core of young guys (Correa, Bregman, Gonzalez, Springer, Peacock, McCullers, even Altuve and Keuchel), whom they are paying relatively next to nothing, considering their contributions.
   29. cmd600 Posted: September 26, 2017 at 09:35 PM (#5539648)
I've never seen any evidence that teams take the "saved" payroll from the misery years and spend it when the team starts to get good


Cleveland, Baltimore, Toronto, KC, Texas, Cinci, Pitt all have spent more than just arb raises, and the Cubs and Astros are almost certainly going to pay their currently cheap young talent, increasing their payrolls as well.
   30. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: September 26, 2017 at 11:26 PM (#5539769)
One former player said he knew early in his Tigers tenure why the team, so talented from afar, had underachieved. The team had a strong veteran contingence, but none of those veterans had anyone to lead them.


So they needed some veteran leadership for their veteran leadership?

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