By: Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning
Today’s topic has everything to do with our manager and how he manages to survive this most significant of Tiger downturns. As we enter the All-Star break, it is anyone’s guess as to what the organization will do or not do.
As is the norm, Kurt and Holly have not shared their responses to the following topic; the best way for our readers to get the best bang for their buck. So here we go.
The start of the All-Star break is the traditional time for teams to make managerial changes in-season. What does the Tigers’ inaction tell us about the immediate future of the team?
I love writing about the Tigers but geez, this isn’t really what I had in mind. But as we hear time and time again around the league and especially here in Detroit, it’s baseball. But this isn’t the kind of baseball we like to talk about.
These don’t have to be dark days if things are done right. I mentioned in the spring that I felt a little jealous of the White Sox, a team that was collecting high-end prospects, while the Tigers sat and did nothing, thinking they had another shot at the playoffs.
Under Dave Dombrowski and Mike Ilitch, the Tigers had become one of the most active franchises in baseball when it came to building a team; but under Chris Ilitch and Al Avila, it is now a team sitting and waiting.
This is a team headed for transition, and I cannot stress it enough that they need to have the proper management in place to make sure the transition goes smoothly. The Tigers still have not made a move with Ausmus when they need it the most.
But should we be surprised?
Al Avila is behind his manager. Every time he speaks about his ballclub, he praises Brad. And that’s fine if your team is winning. But news flash, they aren’t winning anymore. So, this inactivity and lack of recognition of the right time to let Ausmus go, just speaks to the indecisiveness that has become commonplace at the highest levels of the organization.
I don’t think the Tigers have any intention of making a change before the end of the season. They don’t understand how important it is to make the change before the trade deadline.
Brad has been lauded for player development by Al Avila. So why on earth would we expect Ausmus to be kicked to the curb at this point? We shouldn’t if we have been paying any attention to how this club operates.
This inactivity simply signals business as usual, and there is no time for that.
(sigh) It is sad seeing this team “go under for the third time” but it is most upsetting seeing things take a decided downturn, especially in the visible sniping between the players and management – and a decision……not to make any decisions. It’s one thing if you take those first difficult baby steps in making changes and it’s a whole ‘nother story if you sit still and do nothing.
In the past week, we’ve seen the team take the express elevator down not just in the standings but also in the overall performance within all of MLB coupled with the two reports ranking Brad Ausmus as the 29th or 30th worst manager in baseball. And it brings to mind Darryl Rogers famous quote “What does a coach have to do around here to get fired?”
I’d like to believe there is a logical explanation in making no replacement and I can possibly see how Al Avila doesn’t think the timing is right or that it’s not wise to fire his manager while he is hoping to trade off some Tigers. But I can also point to the fact that he made zero personnel changes since assuming his job (which is atypical) and not even made any decisions worth noting since signing Jordan Zimmermann almost 2 years ago.
Avila’s decision not to make a change could also be his strategy in protecting his own job. Afterall, once a manager is fired, non-performance issues then laser-focus on the GM if problems are not resolved. And let’s also not forget that the Tigers have a history of not firing anyone and have a creepy tendency to allow failed managers to return and burrow back into the system for life.
Then there’s the issue of who would take over managing. The pickings are certainly very slim to none in-house which may also be a significant factor in their decision to stand pat.
But the continued trickle of info gradually leaking about the preparation for the sale of the team could also be a factor. (Stay tuned for a future blog on this.) Chris Ilitch could simply be wanting to leave things as clean and simple as possible for a new owner and if new ownership doesn’t come along immediately, allowing a contract to simply expire and not be renewed is the safest way to achieve the least amount of negative PR.
But in the meantime, unhappiness within the club continues to grow and at some point this summer, if it’s not addressed, it will only continue to grow more toxic.
There’s a lot of $$$ sitting at those lockers and from the visible evidence we’ve seen on national tv and read in the papers, the unhappiest of the lot is also 1 of 2 franchise faces, owed more than $184 million and not at all likely to be traded.
Expensive franchise players set the tone and allowing this bad relationship between Miggy and Brad to fester is not a good decision at all – and it will only continue to grow.
The appearance of waiting until the season is over in order to make changes is just another example of the team’s trademark lack of urgency. Half the season is left – a time in which they have the chance to reset the mood, try out an interim manager and most importantly, allow the players to refocus on their own performances. Performances that just may benefit the team in shedding some contracts over the winter, and potentially for better returns.
What the Tigers have to do going forward is a monumental task and it will take time. Time for them to stop sitting on their hands because there is a ton of work to do.