By: Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder
Remember Al Avila’s first significant move as the Tigers’ new general manager following the dispatch of Dave Dombrowski? How many were shocked that Ausmus was retained as manager? How many thought it was the wrong decision?
Well, we haven’t broached this subject in some time now. But a loyal reader has asked us to re-evaluate his standing given Mr. I’s recent confirmation of where he expects this team to be.
So the question from BG:
Like other folks, I am concerned with the amount of rope Ausmus will be given by Avila if his mismanagement continues, possibly leading to another lost season. Do you believe his leash is short?
The good news is that Brad has more to work with this year but the bad news is that the onus is now fully on him to deliver great, not just good, results.
Mr. I’s massive expenditure of over $200 million on just two players shows how serious he is about getting that ring. And with JV and Miggy getting older, combined with the Upt-out clause, it shows us that the deadline for winning has to be within the next year or two.
Last year, Brad lucked out given the injuries, bad bullpen and Dave’s departure but he won’t be protected by those factors this year. And then there are the reports that Mr. I had a hard time buying into his hire by the man he released from his contract back in July.
So yes, the leash is shorter but the timing is tricky. Yanking him too early would publicly hurt the Tigers but waiting too long may be too late. Any new manager would require a period of acclimation. But we also need to weigh the negative impact a change in management brings to the players which means that Brad will stay unless the team really goes south or if he loses control of the clubhouse.
But there is another reason for hanging onto him even if team performance is not what it should be. No problems can be addressed until you have a viable solution at the ready. The talent pool of available managers is the key to any move made. If the Tigers don’t see a strong replacement, they will probably see if they can wait it out a bit longer.
If I had to guess at a timeline, the leash goes to the All-Star break if the team can’t break out before then. It gives the Tigers 3 months to see the monthly pattern of performance and it still gives the team 3 more months to turn things around.
In Brad’s first 2 years, the team pattern has been a good first month, followed by a month or two of .500 ball and finished with months of under-.500 ball. Mr. I and Al will be watching and I believe it will be Mr. I, not his GM, who will pull the trigger.
Last year, the Royals jumped out in the beginning and never lost the lead. Going into 2016, no one is more aware than Brad Ausmus that he needs to get out of the starting gate early. Let’s hope that this past winter contained many lightbulb moments and lessons learned for him.
You have been following a site that has stood united on a position that Brad Ausmus should have never survived 2015.
And since then, Avila and Ilitch’s great work in revitalizing this team has been very impressive and breathed new life into the franchise and the fan base. The last thing we want is for our manager, who many thought should have been fired, to start sucking the wind out of things again.
Should he have a short leash? Well, if a Les Moss / Sparky Anderson situation should present itself again, Avila won’t need to give him a leash at all. He will only need a collar to yank him out of the dugout. But certainly, a big upgrade would need to fall in our laps before Avila makes a move with the manager.
So how long is the leash? I think with all the improvements that have been made, culminated by the addition of Justin Upton, the Tigers should compete for the division title.
But a team with a lot of new faces will need time to mesh. Ausmus will be given time with more guns, but there will be few excuses if he screws up a team of this caliber. I believe the trade deadline bailed him out last season as the pressure was removed from his shoulders when all the big free agents were shipped out of town.
There were no more expectations. There was nothing left to win, nor were they capable. Justin Verlander was the only thing remotely interesting about the last couple months of the season.
But this is a new team. Everyone is healed and more great talent has been infused into this roster in the areas they needed it the most. The Tigers just need their manager to take the ball and run with it. He will have leash all the way until the trade deadline. But this time, if Brad has led the team into the weeds by then, he won’t be allowed another step.