By: Kurt Snyder
Following Thursday’s loss to Pittsburg finishing off a 3-game sweep at the hands of Pirates, Tiger players were asked about the mood in the room.
You know reporters. They must have opened their great book that could fittingly be titled, Riveting Questions from Baseball’s Inquisitive Minds and came out with questions like, is the team frustrated?
JD Martinez, the one Tiger who seems like he wants to kick the door down into the All-Star game, admitted his frustration, even reluctantly questioning the energy of his teammates. Lately, when his team looked dead, his impact has been immense; with home runs and extra base hits to get his team back in it. He is one of the few showing any sign of life over these last several weeks.
But what bothered me was the answer to pretty much the same question posed to Rajai Davis. When asked if the clubhouse was frustrated, he answered, “I don’t know what this clubhouse is.”
This kind of answer from a normally happy-go-lucky Davis sounds like more trouble is brewing. What was he trying to say? Was he frustrated with the losing or was the overall demeanor of the team bringing him down?
This is not something Davis would normally say. He has always been very supportive of his teammates, very positive and pretty vocal about the love for his team and how happy he is to be a part of it. But he doesn’t seem to know anymore.
Doesn’t it make you wonder what this playoff seasoned team thinks of their managerial direction?
As we think back to when Jim Leyland decided to retire, he said it was time for someone young to lead this team. Is that all Ilitch and Dombrowski needed? Is that what they stacked all their chips on, one statement by Jim Leyland? Had they made their decision already?
Mike Ilitch and Dave Dombrowski hold Jim Leyland in high regard. But there are limits, and I truly believe that Jim’s friendship with Tony LaRussa and the subsequent hiring of Mike Matheny, a rookie manager in St. Louis totally drove the hiring of Brad Ausmus in Detroit.
I have said this before and I will say it again; Jim Leyland has a continued influence on this team. Personally, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I don’t have many bad things to say about a guy who helped pull this franchise out of a scrap heap and for the majority of his tenure, effectively managed a team of high-priced veterans with the highest of expectations every season; to win it all.
Only a veteran manager could be expected to tackle such a task. And why they didn’t choose one following Leyland’s departure really makes you question their real intentions. Did the Tigers close their own window when they hired Ausmus? Is he a stopgap until they get their salary base in order? Are the Ausmus years really attempts at titles?
A rookie manager, especially as green as Ausmus, with no managerial experience at any level, has to cut his teeth on something. But you don’t cut your teeth on a team starving and primed for a World Championship. The mistakes he is bound to make cannot be tolerated for a veteran team in the position they are in. How dare Mike Ilitch and Dave Dombrowski try to sell the idea that someone fresh and inexperienced could come in and do the job? How dare they expect us to buy it?
No amount of success has been sustainable. There are only so many tricks up Brad’s sleeve, in fact there are none. Every time he pulls out his hat, it’s the same rabbit. In year two, the manager needs to improve his act. But things have gone backwards.
When Rajai Davis, of all people, doesn’t know “what this clubhouse is,” it’s just another guy in a long list of players that Brad Ausmus is losing. It looks like he has already lost the likes of David Price and Justin Verlander and Victor Martinez. There is documented evidence of less than flattering reactions to questions pertaining to their manager.
So, go ahead and add Davis to the growing list of bewildered players. It’s just one more reason why the Tiger brass, if they have any interest at all in saving the 2015 season, must move Brad; then make the necessary moves to improve this team at the trade deadline.
But Ausmus must go first, because there is no sense in letting him put his numbing imprint on players brought in to help.