By: Kurt Snyder
Think back for a minute to last season, the very moment that Al Avila announced that Brad Ausmus would remain manager for the 2016 season.
How did you feel? Was it shock? Rage? Disappointment? Confusion? All of the above? If you’re wondering why there aren’t more choices, it’s because these are the emotions that I felt when Al made injuries the excuse to bring back a manager.
Following the season, a year where the Tigers fell and finished in last place in the Central, there was encouragement again. You see, fans have the ability to set things aside, to focus their energy on something else when things don’t go well.
And even though the retention of Brad Ausmus was met with such negativity, fans were encouraged again as Al Avila made acquisitions that served as diversions. They were encouraging moves to address all the areas the Tigers fell short; in the bullpen, in the starting rotation and of course, in the outfield with the acquisitions of both Cameron Maybin and Justin Upton.
Did you find yourself compartmentalizing the Tiger team? Wasn’t there encouragement as you studied the moves, how they would improve the team and how each piece would fit into the lineup? I was certainly encouraged. But every once in a while, all those good feelings would be tempered when you realized that Avila’s very first move was his worst, and the most impactful.
Personally, I have done it all season. It’s a shame we couldn’t have put the cherry on top of a very talented ball club by installing a change in leadership. I don’t believe the Tigers have or ever had a shot at the World Series with Ausmus at the helm. Never.
But at the end of the season, we will hear the fight. The battle between Ausmus supporters who again felt he had no chance with all the injuries and the other side of the ledger, the people who feel the team never had a shot with or without the injuries.
But you might ask, Kurt, what happened to things starting to feel different? What happened to your new-found encouragement about the team and even Ausmus? Did the injuries temper your enthusiasm? Well sure they did! And I did feel that the team was coming on. I honestly did.
But sometimes you forget about your manager and even praise him a little when things are going right. Until the quote, that is. As the injuries piled up and the Tigers began to slip further and further away from the Indians, Brad shockingly revealed that he doesn’t watch the standings. That he didn’t really even know how far the Tigers were behind Cleveland. He said that in August with only 40 games to go!
You know the quote. I haven’t stopped shaking my head since Holly unearthed it. It woke me up. It made me realize that all the encouraging signs prior to the injuries was fool’s gold. It was typical of a manager who has befuddled us with how flippant he leads a baseball team.
This is a talented team with a lineup that really should stay completely intact heading into next season. We have a starting rotation that will only get better and more dominant next season. There is a lot to be excited about. But if this season is any indication about how Avila will address his managerial position, then Ausmus will return for another year.
The retention of Ausmus prior to 2016 puts Avila and the Tigers in a very precarious position as we head down the stretch of a season again ravaged by injuries. Avila has sent the message already. The precedent has been set. Injuries have put the brakes on another run, making it real difficult to get back in the race. So why would Avila hold that against Ausmus? Well he shouldn’t.
But when he sits down again to address the weaknesses of this team, #1 is still the manager, and after another season, the position still needs addressing. Injuries are only masking the fact that their manager and his staff will continue to hold the Tigers back as long as he is allowed to lead them.
You must address your biggest weakness. Al did it with the roster. So what’s different about the manager?