By:  Holly Horning

Wow. That is still my first thought two days after the announcement. In a strange year with many disappointments, here we come full circle with an extra heapin’ helpin’ of strange and disappointing moves.

I have spent the time since Saturday’s announcement (initially a text from Kurt which I thought was a prank) thinking about what to write for Monday’s blog. And I also learned a valuable lesson. Don’t write a blog in advance. You may remember I was assembling a 4-part blog on viable managers with the best group saved for last.

So I will condense my blog with the final results comprising 4 paragraphs. My final list for top managers, based upon all the criteria outlined in the previous 3 installments are:

Terry Francona – Now that Cleveland’s GM has left, and given a contract clause that allows him to opt out, one of today’s most successful managers (with 2 undefeated World Series titles) may just want to head back to Detroit where he was once the Tigers’ third base coach and worked with Al Avila. This year, he was also voted by Front Offices, scouts and players as one of the top three managers (in numerous categories) in the game today.

Joe Girardi – Rumors have been rampant this year that the Steinbrenners have put the team on notice that not going to the playoffs this year will result in some changes being made in the off-season. And Girardi’s name has come up often. In typical NY fashion, patience is not a hallmark of this family and a 3-year hiatus from October baseball is unacceptable for the second highest payroll in baseball.

Don Mattingly – He has survived new owners and a new GM with sniping by both sides over the past couple of years. Everyone, including Mattingly, is unhappy. The GM has replaced Mattingly’s third base coach with his own hire, Ron Roenicke, who is widely assumed to be the manager next year. Even if the Dodgers do well in the playoffs, he will, barring some miracle, be gone.

Keep these managers in mind because one or more of them is going to come into the equation within the coming months. Will the Tigers have missed out? Will we be wondering what could have been? We’ll explore these questions and more, should they play out in the future.

But in the meantime, back to reality and Avila’s decision to keep Ausmus. In all honesty, I can find no logic to the action. As much as I tried, I can’t connect any of the dots. And I don’t think anyone can – at least not until the dust settles and time allows for more information to come out.

The media, both local and national, were stunned along with the fans. When was the last time every single journalist was shocked? The media universally had Brad listed as the most likely manager to be released. It was just Friday when one of the most trustworthy and well-respected journalists in the game offered an in-depth analysis confirming the many reasons why Brad would be leaving. No one, and I mean no one, had Ausmus pegged as staying.

For those new to our blog, I must clarify the belief held, at least by me, that it is a rare for one person or one issue to be responsible for a team’s poor performance. It is usually a couple of factors combined with either poor decision-making and/or the intangibles at play. But in baseball, as in any industry, when your team goes from first to worst in one year, it does reflect primarily upon the person(s) in charge.

And that person is almost always let go – unless they are new and have just signed a 5-year contract or the person who owns the company. In my research, I could not find another baseball team who kept their manager after going from first place, a division title and playoffs to the cellar and achieving the second worst record in their league all in less than one year. It appears the Tigers are the first to do this.

But the one thought that kept nagging at me was that this move, for lack of a better word, smelled. And I believe that it happened because politics of some type are in play here. Maybe I’ve lived in DC too long, but often when something happens that is totally unexpected, there are other hidden factors at play.

Which brings us to this week. Given this significant news story, Kurt and I are breaking tradition and writing about this event all week. Unless something bigger happens. There’s so much to discuss.

And for me, it’s not about providing answers. I don’t think anyone has the answers – yet. Maybe never. I’m going to be asking questions. Lots of questions.

Afterall, one of the purposes of our blog is to pose queries that make us all think. Totally Tigers doesn’t want to be that quick hit of carbohydrates that rushes through your system and leaves you empty an hour later. We aspire to be the complex protein that stays with you all day.

So during this coming week, I’ll address a topic or two every day about the possible factors at play here. They’ll include:

– Why are there multiple contradictory reports in the media?

– How is the fall of Dave and the rise of Al connected?

– Why do team statements not ring true?

– Has the team considered the impact on fans, attendance and profits?

– What really is the Tigers’ timeline for winning?

– Are the Tigers doing damage control?

– Why did everyone in the media get this all wrong?

– Has “failing up” hit the Tigers?

– What are the experienced analysts saying?

– Who’s really at fault?

– What part did money play in this?

… And more. As the season winds down, we at Totally Tigers are just getting revved up. There’s lots to cover this week – and in the months leading up to the 2016 season. And we’ll be covering it every day.

17 thoughts on “HIT BY A BUS

  1. I was surprised by the decision to keep Ausmus. As a season ticket-holder I wonder how they will market this team next season. That said, I think his better qualities have been over-looked by the determination of fandom to have his head. I am inclined to Avila’s decision at face value: Ausmus is good at developing young players and keeping his cool.


  2. I was surprised by the decision to keep Ausmus and of the reasons Al mentioned, over all what convinced him more was the players backing him up so strongly. By players we are talking about the core of veterans: Verlander, Cabrera, V.Mart and Kinsler. Add to the group the youngsters who said they improved under his teaching.


  3. Thank you Holly. I must say that your finalists would have made fascinating dugout leaders for the Tigers. Let’s hope that we don’t find ourselves looking back at what could have been. My preliminary theory is that the inmates may be running the prison. Perhaps Mr. I sensed a mini-player mutiny if Ausmus was relieved of his duties…


  4. Core players did NOT like Brad during the season. Ausmus hardly could go to the mound to pull JV. VM was livid when Ausmus substituted for him. Kinsler and Miggy rarely spoke to him. Something else drove this bazar decision. Returning Ausmus staff is just awful. The only thing that I can figure is that Tigers are going to REBUILD.


  5. We might be entering a period of dysfunction that will remind us of the ongoing failures of the Detroit Lions. Avila seems like a defiant, hard-talking tough guy, and the reports that Ausmus was going to be fired might have influenced him to emotionally decide to contradict those reports and keep Ausmus.


  6. When the stock market went down 3 weeks ago the Tigers owner and Gm invested heavily in Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds stock. Now they are scared to fire there staff because they won’t have anybody to lean on the dugout rail, chew seeds and spit the shells. Therefore stock will drop and they won’t meet the teams payroll next year!


  7. If the Tigers are going into rebuild mode, then retaining Ausmus isn’t any worse than hiring another placeholder until they are competitive again, which will take a while due to the constraints of too many bad contracts and the minors lack of young talent. Avila’s offseason maneuvers will be the tell.


  8. Owner and front office keeping Miggy and JV happy by keeping Brad. There will be FAs that won’t come here because of Brad, pitchers especially. Jones goes to the mound for a chat with a troubled situation and 90% of the time is a blown game. Dave Clark is horrible. Gene Lamont over the hill. This is a mess. Think the fans are mad now? Wait till next year’s ticket sales!


  9. While I agree with 2 of your 3 finalists neither of them is going to be available. Francona has a contract thru 2018 with 2 additional optional years. The Tribe were early favs to win the Central so he’s not working from a strong base. He has a great relationship with GM Antonetti so Shapiro’s leaving won’t change anything.


  10. Different sport, hopefully different results. MSU football players wanted Bobby Williams when Nick Saban left. Brad may have had many injuries to deal with, as well as flawed roster, but objectively it seems like a change in dugout management was needed. Almost fell off my seat when I heard he was coming back.


  11. Off subject- how long would papelbon survive on the tigers, but that’s what’s needed here. Back on subject- sure core players want brad, fans will take their anger out on him and deflect sloppy uninterested play. If al sr. Has any guys make a deal today for nats closer.


  12. Holly, thanks for taking the time to share your list of viable managers. Something people can reflect on when and if Ausmus continues to stumble and fumble next season, in the same vein as them passing on Maddon. He coached the Cubs to a 91-65 record while our Tigers are 73-83 with a manager who is still learning on the job, one that he may never master.


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