Until this year, the Tigers turned over their roster in significant fashion every year for over 10 years. Sometimes even as high as 50%.
Contrast that to the team’s penchant for retaining Front Office personnel and coaching staffs for decades. In fact, when Al Avila assumed the GM position, he retained every single person who served under Dave Dombrowski . An unusual move considering that the common protocol for new GMs is to turn over most or all of their staff within a year of taking the job.
In previous blogs, we’ve discussed the significant loyalty factor within the organization as well as the close band of brothers who have stayed on under Brad Ausmus after Jim Leyland left the managing position. If you didn’t catch the original article, read it here at:
So when it was announced that Lloyd McClendon, who returned to the Tigers last year, was being brought up to Detroit this year, it made me wonder about how much power Brad Ausmus actually has in choosing his staff. Standard procedure within baseball is that the manager selects his coaching staff with a customary sign-off by the GM.
We know from written reports that one of Jim Leyland’s conditions of staying as manager for the Tigers included having Gene Lamont as his bench coach. They came as a set. And when Ausmus became manager, it seemed logical that Gene stayed for that first year to help ease the transition and communication. Besides, the two had worked together briefly in Houston.
But Gene continues to hang on. Could it have anything to do with Leyland’s continued employment with the Tigers and a friendship with Lamont that spans almost 50 years?
Other coaching changes are easier to explain. New first and third base coaches, along with a pitching coach, were brought in because their predecessors did poorly in their respective positions. And with the advent of analytics, specialized personnel were added to fill those new needs.
And given that the Tigers have a penchant for collecting former managers (6 now), it was no surprise when they re-hired Lloyd McClendon to manage Toledo. But it’s a whole ‘nother story when it came to bringing him up to Detroit.
You see, Lloyd has been friends with Jim Leyland for over 25 years. Played for him, had his first coaching job with him, and came to Detroit with him. And even though he was the Tigers’ hitting coach, he was the acting manager when Leyland had to take time off or got booted from games. Not Gene, the bench coach.
So the move to bring Lloyd back up to Detroit is a rather interesting one. At the end of last year, eyebrows were raised when he appeared in the dugout for the remainder of the season “to observe.”
The same guy who interviewed for the managerial slot after Leyland stepped down. The same guy who lost the job to Brad Ausmus. A guy who became manager of the Mariners, got fired, returned to Detroit and is on the record saying he wants to manage again.
Now, Brad is a smart man. Do you think that he would, on his own, bring back the man he defeated for the job? A guy who has already stated his desire to manage another team? A guy who has been friends with Leyland, Lamont, Clark, Avila and many others within the Tigers’ organization for decades? Afterall, Brad has only been with the Tigers for 3 years. He’s not in the same loyalty clique as the others.
Ausmus is also in his last year as manager with no contract extension. How convenient.
It’s not hard to imagine that Lloyd will be sitting and waiting this year. Waiting for an opportunity to step in. Afterall, the Tigers are his best chance at managing again. Any business-savvy person would see the opportunities for advancement.
I find it hard to believe that Brad would independently welcome Lloyd’s return to the dugout. Someone who will watch his every move. To wait for the mismanaged games or losing streak. To watch how the Tigers do in conceivably their last good year to get back to the playoffs. To breathe down Brad’s back.
If I were Brad, I wouldn’t want that. Would you?
Someone had to influence Ausmus to hire Lloyd. Or someone made the decision for him. Once again, we have to wonder who within the organization actually holds the real power. It may not be the natural or customary choice.