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Tigers owner disputes report that he opposed deal with players

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Joker Marchant Stadium | Detroit tigers Spring Training Home Image from Wikipedia
Joker Marchant Stadium | Detroit tigers Spring Training Home
Image from Wikipedia

LAKELAND, Fla. March 24, 2022 – (Evan Woodbery | ewoodber@mlive.com) – Detroit Tigers owner Christopher Ilitch pushed back Wednesday on a three-week-old report that painted him as one of the Major League owners obstructing a settlement with players.

The report in The Athletic identified Ilitch as one of four owners who opposed the league’s then-final offer to players because it increased the competitive balance tax threshold (sometimes called a luxury tax).

The point was moot because players ultimately rejected that proposal. A week later, the two sides reached an agreement to end the 99-day lockout. Ilitch and all 29 other MLB owners voted to ratify that deal.

But Ilitch remained irked by the report and addressed it forcefully in his annual spring meeting with reporters.

“I never voted against the CBT increase, number one. Number two, there wasn’t even a vote to be had,” he said.

“The evidence is very clear as to how I voted, and what I voted for. Any other controversy around that subject is really just noise that was created within a very competitive environment, a tough negotiation, (by) teams creating noise for their own gain or their own advantage.”

Ilitch said the Tigers’ aggressive spending this winter speaks louder than words.

“I guess the only other thing I would say is, look at what (general manager Al Avila) and his team and what our organization has done during this offseason,” Ilitch said. “We’ve addressed a lot of needs. We have gone out and done exactly what we said we would do, which is filling our needs through free agency. And when you look at what we’ve added, our club added as much payroll as any club in baseball over the course of this offseason. So if you add it all up, it was pretty clear where I stand on this issue.”

I’m thrilled and excited that baseball’s back, and quite frankly I’m really excited about our team,” he said. “I talk a lot to our staff on the business operation side who talk to our fans quite often. And they tell me our fans are like me, they’re fired up for this ballclub. Our fans are smart, and they’re excited about what’s going on.

—Christopher Ilitch, Detroit Tigers Owner

He suggested that the leak was planted deliberately by someone seeking to influence the ongoing negotiations.

“You guys are smart,” he said. “You guys have to sort through what others put out there and why they put it out there, to create noise for competitive gain.”

Ilitch spoke to players on Wednesday morning. Not only were there no hard feelings, but Avila said Javier Baez and Tucker Barnhart greeted Ilitch individually to thank him for the offseason additions.

“We have a plan that we’ve laid out,” Ilitch said. “Al, myself and the entire organization have been very explicit, very transparent over the last several years as to what our plan is. It really was to strengthen the organization starting with the analytics, player development, scouting, technology, and sports science. And we’ve done that. Then it’s the draft and developing our players. And we’ve done that. And then the plan is to fill it with free agents. And that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

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