By: Holly Horning
Avila’s announcement of Brad’s retention before the end of the season may have been based more upon a pre-emptive strike strategy, damage control and lack of available candidates than support for Brad’s actual managerial ability.
I’ve been blogging all week in an attempt to dissect Al Avila’s decision to retain Brad Ausmus. In the business world, what sits on the surface is often a superficial distraction to cover up the reasons why decisions are made as well as to lay camouflage for actions planned down the road. Baseball is big business and plays along with these rules. In other words, all is not what it may seem.
Most are in agreement that Saturday’s announcement was unexpected. (Although now I have to give Kurt credit in his blog on Saturday for sensing the changing wind.) The reasons are numerous and outlined in Monday’s blog:
I’ve modified Tuesday’s blog statement with additional reasons which may support other potential hidden agendas for keeping Ausmus. This time the focus moves from political goals and power plays to three other factors that conveniently support Brad’s return. If you haven’t read Part One, catch it at:
Avila’s statement, a week earlier than expected, and contradictory to his original statement of waiting until the season is over, could have been made in order to avoid the media spotlight and intense analysis that would start immediately after this Sunday’s last out was made.
If Avila had waited and made an announcement to terminate Brad’s contract next week, how many in the media and public would have claimed those rumors from weeks ago really were true? The bad press would resume again anew.
And what if he waited? MLB protocol says teams shouldn’t be making headline news during playoffs so Al would be forced to wait until almost November, all the while having to involve Brad in the upcoming November meetings preparation. And the charade and keeping him hanging would not have been fair to either Brad or the coaches.
But even though Avila may have escaped a media maelstrom, the Tigers have taken a number of negative hits in the news since July. The sell-off of Price, Cespedes and Soria that officially announced the Tigers were no longer in the running. The news that Avila was hired before Dave was fired. Reports that Dave was seeking other employment opportunities while still employed by the Tigers. The firing by phone, the cold announcement of Dombrowski’s departure and the absence of Ilitches at the presser. Reports of Mr. I’s unhappiness with the manager. And the pièce de résistance, Avila’s decision to release Brad at the end of the year.
Time for damage control, and what better way to undermine the rumors than to do the opposite of what the media reported. And a first step to getting the wheels back on the bus.
So why is this important? Anytime your organization takes a hit, your perceived value drops – with fans, media and the players. And when enough of these shabby stories hit the news, the belief that your organization is unstable only grows. Fans drift away – and most importantly, potential free agents start to think twice if they want to be a part of this organization.
The Tigers understand what it is like to be unable to attract name players and how important it is to maintain a polished reputation. And they will need a number of new FAs this winter. Preferably ones they don’t need to bribe with additional payroll dollars to come to Detroit.
But the final rationale for Al’s announcement may simply be the lack of candidates currently available. Potentially, he saw the need to update everyone on Brad’s status because he did not yet see a viable manager on the horizon.
You can’t fire your skipper without having your replacement at the ready. And players won’t come to your team if there’s no manager in place.
There’s a chance that the ideal candidate may become available between now and spring training. Maybe the Tigers prefer to wait for the right guy instead of grabbing someone currently available. Remember, any new manager is going to insist upon at least a three-year contract. Keeping Brad may be the team’s short-term solution until the right opportunity presents itself.
The Tigers do have precedence in firing a manager when a better one comes along. Does the name “Sparky” ring a bell?
Tomorrow, the questions continue as we explore the impact money, team vision and a secret the Front Office may want to keep from revealing.