KEEPING AUSMUS IS TIGERS’ BIGGEST GAMBLE

By:  Kurt Snyder

Have we been completely fair with Brad Ausmus?

As someone who never managed at any level of baseball, doesn’t he have the right to feel his way through a season, to determine what style of play his team will have?

If he starts down one path and then changes direction, don’t we owe him the benefit of the doubt? Don’t we owe him the freedom to try different things? After all, the team was asking him to do something that he had never done before; manage a team, any team.

But sadly, the team was not only asking him to learn how to manage, they were asking him to win a championship. How dare they? How incredibly unfair.

Not with this team, in this town, not now. A team with a “win now” approach and managerial inexperience don’t mix.

At the time, bringing him in seemed like a good idea. After all, according to DD, Brad “blew him away” during the interview process.

So it was easy to expect that we had unearthed a young wizard with fresh ideas, a more broad imagination, someone who would get the most out of the talent on the roster. Why else would you take a flier on someone so green?

After a fast start last season, Brad became tentative and unimaginative. He was a rookie when he started and a rookie when it was over. He never evolved. It was disturbing to watch as Ausmus was brutally out managed by Buck Showalter in the playoffs against Baltimore.

This season, even with some significant turnover, the Tigers have a pretty intriguing mix of talent. The pitching is still solid, the bullpen has a chance to be pretty good, speed and defense will win games that they couldn’t win last year. It is all there again for a manager to succeed. But we cringe at the notion that nothing will change.

It begs a question about how we got here. Given Jim Leyland’s close friendship with Tony LaRussa, did the Tigers just blatantly copy the managerial path of the St. Louis Cardinals?

Because frankly, I think the Cardinals took a serious risk as well, and they are darn lucky that it has worked out as well as it has. The formula just doesn’t make sense.

Who hires someone with no managerial experience and expects them to take a team over the top and win it all? Heck, how long did it take Brad to just figure out how to be a manager, period?

Here’s an exercise for you. Write down a list of teams that you feel have a legitimate shot at a title, but only teams you would list the manager as their weakness? I’m still waiting.

Last season, Ned Yost wasn’t exactly getting carried off the field all season long in Kansas City. But it was hard for him to do wrong with that lock down bullpen. And once they started getting clutch hitting from guys who hadn’t done it all year, before you know it, you’re one game from a World Championship. Things kind of came together.

Even with that, I don’t think the Royals get there without Yost. In the end, he knew his team. And Ausmus, in the end, he was still trying to figure it out.

Can you win a title in spite of your manager? I think the answer is clearly no. So, Brad Ausmus needs to figure out this manager gig pretty darn fast.

3 thoughts on “KEEPING AUSMUS IS TIGERS’ BIGGEST GAMBLE

  1. No, we have not been completely fair with Ausmus. But I am of the school, maybe similar to Leyland, that the players win or lose games, they make the manager look good or bad. Most of what makes a manager good vs bad is what goes on with the team when they are not playing a game. The locker room interactions, getting to know his team, their strengths and weaknesses, preparing them to play, etc. Leyland never got enough credit for how he managed that part of the game. Managing in-game is pretty textbook. The truly great ones will have a feel for the game, a knowledge of their players, that tells them when they should go against the textbook. Takes time to learn that, so you have to expect Ausmus to be pretty textbook right now. Brad got a lot of heat last season for how he managed the bullpen (it was pretty textbook). Fans always clamor for change far faster than it comes from the team. And honestly, more often than not, that patience by the team pays dividends. The guy does work it out, gets out of his slump, starts making the pitches, etc. And last year, at the end, no matter what he did it likely was going to fail. It really was a dumpster fire. But from all accounts, the guy has all the tools to be a great manager. We can either run him off and let some other team have a terrific manager for years to come, or keep him and understand some of the growing pains he, and the team, will go through.

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    • I agree Robert, Leyland was never given enough credit for how he managed the off-field business. I spoke to a ML manager last January and he said the toughest part of managing today is off the field. Brad had a price to pay as a rookie manager on a must winning team, and I believe DD knew that at the very start. This year he must show to be the guy we expect him to be.

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