LOOKING OVER HIS SHOULDER

By:  Holly HorningHolly Bio Pic

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:

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/10/13/loyal-to-a-fault/

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.

22 thoughts on “LOOKING OVER HIS SHOULDER

  1. It’s customary for teams to call up their AAA manager at seasons end to coach, observe and advise. The Tigers have done this in the past with Larry Parrish and Mike Rojas. So, the only eyebrows raised must have been yours!

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    • Hi, Hamp – Several local writers actually wrote pieces on Lloyd being in the dugout and questioned the move. It did provoke a lot of conversation when it happened. Sometimes situations dictate analysis instead of automatically following old form. Thanks for keeping the conversation going! – Holly

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  2. Regardless of the norm, there is an overriding reality here. The Tigers REALLY need to BROOM the manager and all the coaches. They are a (still) wet behind the ears manager and a bunch of “has beens” who have been hanging around forever. As the master of communication, Vince Lombardi, once said, “What the h*** is going on out there.”

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  3. If all of this plays out, it flies in the face of tradition. The Tigers could go to rebuild mode next season. Isn’t that when they shoulda’ brought in the rookie manager? Maybe Brad won’t last the full season. (Fingers crossed).

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  4. It has been reported on Totally Tigers in the past that perhaps Jim Leyland is still the puppet-master within the organization. Given Leyland’s distain for analytics and loyalty to Lamont/McClendon, it’s hard not to agree with that assessment.

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  5. We discussed this subject last winter with the consensus that LL was in Toledo to be “at the ready.” Never happened. Now whomever moves him one spot closer to the managers seat. This IS, the Final Curtain for Mr. I and JL.

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    • Hi, Chuck – In JJ’s last year, Tigers’ pitching statistically finished #28 in MLB. Since 2013, the pitching staff stats went down further each year from a high of #9 and then the last couple years in the bottom third. One or 2 great pitchers tends to disguise the overall performance of the entire pitching roster. Thanks for continuing the dialog! – Holly

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  6. One of the Detroit papers is saying “Ausmus hired McClendon”. Is this a typo? Why would Ausmus want to add someone to his bench who desires his job? This whole thing of Ausmus being surrounded by Leyland and his buddies is a little creepy to me. I want baseball, not a soap opera.

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    • Hi, Sprocket – Can’t tell if your first comment is tongue-in-cheek but we know the Tigers and press are loathe to ever say anything’s amiss. Price left the game because of “miscommunication”, Rajai was OK with not running, McClendon wanted to have a beer with Gose…… and Brad bypassed a number of available hitting coaches so he could rehire his predecessor’s old buddy and probable successor. This could be baseball’s version of The Godfather! 🙂 Thanks for reading! – Holly

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  7. I agree with Thomas & John but suggest an additional step be taken after the sweep & drain. The deep-rooted & obstructive problems need to be attacked with a heavy-duty hydraulic root cutter. Let’s finish the job once & for all.

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