DOMBROWSKI PRIDE STIFLED PROGRESS

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.

12 thoughts on “DOMBROWSKI PRIDE STIFLED PROGRESS

  1. Uh, Ausmus went to Dartmouth, not Harvard But ironically in managing his pitchers he sort of paints by the numbers and does not have a knack for knowing when to pull a starter.

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  2. Perhaps it was pride and ego on Dave’s part not admitting mistakes. However, he made bold moves bringing in key free agents and great trades that helped put the tigers back on baseball’s map and the same could be said about the 2012 team. I’ll take 2 AL Championships as opposed to the mess of the previous GM before Dave.

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  3. So… Why promote his understudy? Al seems to be every bit as stubborn and arrogant as Dave, and he swears in pressers too. That’s a mark of a great GM. In Al we trust! $10 says he brings back Nathan for a look.

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    • I will NOT take that bet, because I’ve thought the same thing! LOL. Especially if Nathan signs pretty cheaply, which he’d have to at this point in his career, I can see him being back. I predict that Alex is back as well! Promoting Big Al to GM is, by far, THE dumbest move made by the organization during the Ilitch era.

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    • I’ve humorously thought that Joe Nathan retired every batter he faced in 2015, and was perfect in save opportunities. His strikeout rate was 27 per nine innings, and his WHIP was 0.000. That should be worth something on the open market. 🙂

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  4. You hit the nail right on the head. I disagree a tad and give DD more credit than you on BP signings. Ausmus had no business back here for 2015- I said that after last season. Mr I has “given” the job to Al Sr due to longevity and locality. But now Brad is retained yet again. Crazy. Perhaps a big trade to come that will include Managers?

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    • ….Managerial trades….moves from a bygone era. I can’t remember the last one. Very thought-provoking! Heck-I think I’d take virtually ANY of the current MLB managers in a trade to rid us of Ausmus!

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  5. One crucial element of DD’s pride is his justifiable but overdone confidence in solving problems at the deadline. He risked starting 2013 and 2014 lacking bullpen depth and relied on deadline magic, when he knew more about available relievers. Reports showed he came very close to landing F-Rod (2013) and Andrew Miller (2014). Playoff losses might have been avoided had those deals been closed. But as good of a trader as he is, he relied too much on that talent.

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  6. I think that the conjecture that they’ve written off next year is accurate. Ausmus has been retained because he’s shown talent developing younger players. We’ll find out next year if he can learn to think outside the box and stop making rookie mistakes. A managerial change for 2017 might take them to the next level.

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  7. Wonder if there is a change from the Dombrowski/Ilitch “Win now with stars” philosophy. The idea that the Ausmus move is more about 2017 makes sense if the organization is committing to patiently develop its young players. I’d like that – it’s the philosophy that helped St. Louis survive injuries and free agent losses.

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