ONE TOPICS – TWO TAKES

SPECIAL EDITION – Are you sitting down? If you haven’t heard, the Tigers have retained manager Brad Ausmus for another season. I know, pretty shocking. We haven’t heard news like this around these parts since, well, last year at this time.

So what’s new with the Tigers? That would be nothing, not a thing. But we’ve got a lot to say about nothing. Nothing is the biggest news of the day. No time like the present for a simple question. And our writers are ready with their answers.


What are your thoughts on Brad Ausmus’ one-year option being picked up by the Tigers?


BANKING ON BETTER DAYS

By: Kurt Snyder

As you can probably surmise, there is no surprise associated with this move. This was expected. It was expected months ago when Al Avila pledged his support for Brad, praising him for his performance and proclaiming him a great manager; one we were lucky to have.

He set the precedent last season when he decided Brad deserved another year given a 2015 season ravaged with injuries. And since 2016 was not lacking for injuries either, you had to expect for that reason alone, that he would be back once again.

The roster and the people missing from it for chunks of the season have once again handicapped Brad and his ability to manage the team effectively. These were key players we counted on for large roles who missed weeks of time. It was definitely a factor when you look back on a season so disrupted by inconsistency.

Is it the one and only factor to consider? No, I don’t think so.  Even with injuries, there is still work to be done. There is still a team to prepare, to inspire and to embrace challenges in the face of adversity. It’s a fancy way to say: suck it up and move on, there is still plenty of talent here. Don’t give people a reason.

I have to wonder if Al Avila has considered all the factors necessary to make an educated decision. Next year, the team may be blessed with few injuries. You just never know. They sure are due to get a break on the injury front, aren’t they? But the Tiger veterans, their stars, will be another year older.

JV returning to form again in 2016, doesn’t necessarily mean he will have the same production next season. It’s a crap shoot with players in their 30’s. With Miggy healthy enough to put up Miggy numbers again, there is still no guarantee he can duplicate that performance in 2017. Rookies don’t come with guarantees of gradual progression, either. You hope for it, but it’s not a given.

What is a given is that the Tiger manager has demonstrated he needs work managing games and inspiring his team. And next season may be the season that we see it. Brad improved this season, no doubt. But he still has much to work on.

So it was the combination of his shortcomings and another injury-plagued season that contributed to another playoff-less season. And maybe that’s what Al Avila sees. Maybe he understands the shortcomings of a third year manager but still sees that improvement. Maybe he anticipates his game management and intensity are ready to bloom. Maybe better health combined with a few more roster tweaks along with the maturity of a manager will check all the boxes.

Maybe. And Al was so excited about Brad’s potential progression that he has opened the gates to a full one-year extension. A 4th-year option has been granted. Not a glowing endorsement. Just a hunch that things will get better, all while the best and most exciting players on this team get another year older, still waiting for that championship season to fall in their laps. But I fear that’s just not how it works.

In the end I hope a fourth year is what Brad needs for things to click. He’s been given another chance to hone his craft and Al had better be right.


IT DON’T COME EASY
(with apologies to Ringo Starr)

By: Holly Horning

First of all, I’m not surprised by the decision, especially after last year’s action to keep Brad despite a last-place finish. And I base my opinion upon the statistical, the practical, the historical and the intangibles.

I do agree that injuries were an issue and factor to some degree, and that it was fair to give some credit for that to Brad. Using injuries as a yearly excuse is another matter and something I won’t discuss in this blog. Add to that, the standings. You’d be hard-pressed to find a manager who was fired for finishing in second place.

As for the practical, I don’t believe in making a change simply for making a change. You gotta have a good, solid solution in hand before making a switch. Otherwise you may find yourself jumping from the pan into the fire. The managerial pool as it stands now is rather slim pickins’.

And despite Al Avila stating that he prefers going year-by-year – which is merely a diplomatic deflection – the trend with managers is awarding them a 3-4 year contract. And I checked – there are no current managers who go on year-to-year contracts as the GM stated in his rationale. Bud Black turned down the Nationals’ offer because it was a 2-year contract and not long enough.  The Nationals weren’t willing to go longer for any candidate but Dusty Baker accepted 2 years because he desperately wanted to return to managing.

Avila’s  longer-than-necessary explanation of the 1-year only action was his attempt to quell any thinking that the Tigers weren’t “all in” on Brad.  Part of the entire Tigers organization’s m.o. to avoid controversy at all costs.

So, in other words, hastily hiring another manager, who may not be ideal and who will be on the books for multiple years, is something many GMs want to avoid.

Retaining Ausmus also offers Avila protection as he gets up-to-speed and tries to recover from some bad acquisitions. A number of former GMs have pointed to this strategy of managers being human shields for the GM. If things go bad, the manager gets fired. Once he’s gone, and things remain bad, then it’s the GM who comes under greater scutiny.

But while Avila has a contract that runs through 2020, all that may change if Chris Ilitch or a new owner take over.

And then there’s the corporate culture. The Tigers are not a bold organization. They were once when they hired Sparky but that was the exception. They hang onto stuff and people way past the expiration date and are one of the very last teams to adopt new ideas and technology. So we shouldn’t be surprised here.

They are also incredibly loyal to employees – past and present. They are the Ellis Island for former managers. What other teams collect the “huddled masses” of former managers, mostly failed, and give them a life-long home and employment? They’ve got 6 of them! Release Brad? Not in their genes.

(Btw, I’m currently reserving my opinion on Al Avila as a whole until we complete the next Hot Stove season. Everyone in a management position gets one free year – or slightly more – before I make my honest assessment of their work. I gave it to Brad and I’ll do it for Al.)

But picking up the one-year option does create three big questions.

The first indicates that the Tigers have doubts about Brad as their long-term manager. Most teams tack on at least a year to that option. This appears to be more of a strategy to keep the status quo while they either wait for a better option and/or a quick way to achieve maximum flexibility and an optimal situation when the right moment and person arrives.

The second concern involves the coaching staff. Will they stay or will they go? We’re hearing that they will remain but that could simply be a statement to preserve dignity. Keeping Brad but with improvements in the one of, if not the oldest, MLB’s coaching staffs would be a good signal. Keeping everyone in the same job, despite visible and long-lasting problems, would not.

And that would be a huge concern indicating that the team is prepared to do the same old thing and hope for the best.  We can only hope for some “retirements” or coaches deciding that they needed to “spend more time with the family.”

But the final concern is something that doesn’t necessarily involve the retaining of the manager. We’ve been told year after year that the Tigers are in “win now” mode. Mr. I told Al at the end of last year “to put the pedal to the metal – hard.” Nothing like that has been heard so far this year.

What if the Tigers understand that they are now in a partial rebuilding mode? What if they understand that competing seriously for the title requires a couple more years at least? What if they aren’t telling the fans this? It’s certainly logical. Give fans a solid reason for attending “must see” games and nothing inspires attendance more than saying “this is the year.”  Even when it’s not.

Attendance is crucial to the Tigers.  They have the second highest committed payroll after the Dodgers at over half a billion dollars.  They need to fill the stands in order to meet their payroll.  And actually, payroll has exceeded revenue for over 10 years.

So if any of these are true, then maybe Brad is the best choice. For this year, that is.

22 thoughts on “ONE TOPICS – TWO TAKES

  1. The Tigers have had 3 years to “have a good, solid solution in hand” to make a switch. The lack of leadership and inspiration this season was a parody of how to manage a team. The game against Cleveland is a perfect example of his management style when he stayed in the dugout while the Indian’s pitcher hit our 3 best players in the head, the hand and the knee.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have written one comment after the Tigers hired Al Avila as their GM…My comment was….he is not smart enough to be the GM..I have followed the Tigers since 1955. Hence….its over!!!!

    Like

  3. Baseball consists of 3 things: Preparation, Focus, and Execution. The Tigers lacked in all 3. PREP “C”- Do they really practice defense and fundamentals? FOCUS “D+”, Too many players with their heads in the clouds. No fire, no passion. Execution “B/D”. Depends on which day. Too schizophrenic.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It could be worse. Look at the situation in Arizona as well as in Denver, where Walt Weiss resigned. His relationship with his GM was toxic dating back to last Winter when he was not even consulted on possible player acquisitions. At least Al and Brad get along and communicate. There are team benefits to this sort of continuity.

    Like

  5. The MSM continually pounds us with the 11-day-full-roster info. Perhaps TT could take a look at those 11 games and let us know how the team performed? The Detroit media (conveniently?) leaves that stat out. Also, maybe we should have a DL report for all of the AL teams. I suspect the Tigers were not the only ones suffering. (I did look into KC’s DL. If Gordon, and a few pitchers been healthy, the Royals would be playing now. The Tigers’ injury excuse does not fly.)

    Like

    • Hi, Herbalicious – Great suggestions. I do have the answers for all the DL lists. Not sure we can easily and quickly pull up those 11 games but let us look into it. Thanks for the ideas! – Holly

      Like

      • The same bogus report also said that there were 26 games during that frame where all hands were available. 11 of 26 games, if buying the numbers, and who was responsible for the line-up? A lot of “rest” days in there!! As for the injuries, as this team is now constructed, the injuries have zero chance of going away or even letting up a bit.

        Like

  6. Love the Ellis Island/huddled masses metaphor..excellent! That misplaced loyalty is the root of the problem..they’re stuck on repeat when it’s time to fast forward. While Brad & Al sing “Ob-la-di Ob-la-da life goes on”, the rest of us are left nursing a wound they’ve just rubbed salt in. It’s been “A Hard Day’s Night” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Injuries are no excuse for sitting a player after going 4 for 4 the night before, nor for any of the other bad moves Brad makes. Kinsler’s remarks of late show only too well what Brad has done to Team Chemistry. I will vote by not buying tickets to Comerica.

    Like

  8. Expect more of the same for next year. Excuses, excuses, excuses. Brad sticking with K-Rod and others in key situations shows he does not know how to manage critical games. Attendance is eroding. Fans frustrated. Bringing Brad back , if we see more of the bad decision making he better be gone by end of June 2017.

    Like

  9. My 2017 season just took an arrow through the heart. But BB flows through my veins 365 so we will go on! It is a “Long and Winding Road” but with TT, we get to play owner, GM, and Manager! Now if I could just “repair” Kurt and Holly, I’d have Life (and the Tigers) by the tail!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Avila must of thought “Here comes the Sun”. I might be the only one here to say, as also posted by TT, at times the best moves are the one you don’t make or you don’t make them just for the matter to make them. Was there really a better choice? And I am not Brad estimator. IMO the main mistake was three years ago when he was hired.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.