By: Kurt Snyder
Dave Dombrowski had us snowballed. He sold Brad Ausmus to us, packed him up in a nice pretty box and we took him home with us. We had a brand new guy. We had a fresh face. We had a breath of fresh air with new ideas. And since it worked in St. Louis, why couldn’t a former catcher with no experience work out here in Detroit, too?
It sounds like Brad, a smart guy who studied at Dartmouth, probably aced Interviewing 101. Dombrowski didn’t need to hear from anyone else. Brad would certainly take this team where we’ve been trying to go for decades.
But, it was clear to all of us in the 2014 division series, after a miserable managerial showing in Baltimore to end the year, that Ausmus didn’t have the instincts to lead a major league baseball team. We didn’t need another year of that to solidify our feelings.
Lucky for Brad, Dombrowski kept him around for a 2015 season ravaged with injuries and inadequacies that helped to mask and distract everyone from the same instinctive shortcomings the manager had demonstrated in year 1.
The unfortunate luck with health and underperforming pitching acquisitions helped to save Brad’s job. And Avila felt he wasn’t getting a fair shake. But Al made a mistake of his own in evaluating Brad’s second year performance while ignoring his first.
But 2014 did happen, and all glory would shine on the Tigers for winning another division title. But after the embarrassing Baltimore sweep, all signs quickly pointed to a necessary time of fessing up for Dave to admit guilt; to admit responsibility. He needed to end an experiment that had gone so terribly wrong.
But Dave Dombrowski had a hint of arrogance about him. And it may be that Dave just didn’t want to admit that he had made a mistake with his hire, and instead of acting on it, he did nothing. I believe he let it ride with his manager the same way he continued to let it ride with the bullpen. As important as it was to improve that pen, it was always swept into the corner, to be dealt with later. There was money to be spent ‘more wisely’ elsewhere.
It’s the one dominant thing that bothered fans most about Dombrowski. The legacy he left will always include the fact that he often neglected the bullpen. But Dombrowski was always confident in his decisions and frankly, maybe a little stubborn in thinking we could get by with what we had. And you can draw parallels with that line of thinking in his evaluation of Brad Ausmus.
Brad has proven this year that little had changed from 2014. And if it had to come down again to who had the better manager to win a playoff series, I doubt it would have gone very well. And we would be sitting here in the same position, wondering why Brad Ausmus is still the manager of this baseball team.
So if you want to place blame, you can point to Dombrowski. Pride got in the way of performance. It’s why the theory that he was looking at other jobs makes so much sense. He could start fresh and at the same time not have to admit a huge mistake. He never admitted one mistake while he was in Detroit, and he wasn’t about to admit he blew it with Brad.