Ok, so today you are tuning in to read Part Two of “Straight from the Horse’s Mouth” that reveals what the national media is saying about the Tigers rebuild. And it’s not here.
Don’t fret. It’s still coming. It’s just that another story hit the wires hours before publication and it’s something we need to address.
The Angels just fired Brad Ausmus.
And I don’t think any of us are surprised.
But some of you may be saying “He’s history. Time to move on. Why are we discussing him when he hasn’t been with the Tigers for two years now.”
(Or you may be saying “Please, no more. My heart can’t take it and my anger management therapy sessions are getting very expensive.”)
And in response, I will say that yes, he is gone, but the people in charge for the Tigers – the same ones while Brad was here – are still around.
Let’s explore why the Angels action to terminate should be of concern – and a lesson – to Detroit.
First of all, the background.
Ausmus was not fired because of Joe Maddon’s potential availability. No one is going to fire their manager while hoping to hire one who will have many suitors. It’s true that Maddon worked for the Angels for 30 years and has that connection. And he is still employed by the Cubs through October so any contact with him requires the Angels getting permission from Theo Epstein first. So no, the Angels haven’t yet talked to Maddon to gauge his interest.
An equally-compelling case can be made for Joe to go to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Maddon was born and raised there and is fiercely loyal to that city and its nearby towns. He still lives there and has family nearby. He also strongly believes in doing charity work and setting up foundations to help struggling neighborhoods so this may actually be the perfect opportunity for him.
As for Ausmus, the rumors of his demise started over a month ago before anything was really known about Maddon’s tenure with the Cubs. Ironically, it was reported that owner Arte Moreno was livid when the Angels lost 3 out of 4 to the Orioles and 2 out of 3 to the Tigers – and it got him questioning the capabilities of his manager.
It was regularly noted that the Angels underperformed this year and it didn’t help that Ausmus didn’t know how to use the bullpen. If you read their fans’ feedback, it was identical to the comments made by Tiger fans when he was here.
It also didn’t help that, under Ausmus, the Angels had their worst year in 2 decades. They lost 90 games with one of baseball’s largest payrolls and were described as struggling all year. They were outscored by almost 100 runs, had one of MLB’s highest ERAs and routinely finished in the bottom half of most stat categories.
Maybe Moreno saw what happened to the Tigers under Brad. After all, he’s been pouring money into new contracts, including an extension for Mike Trout. And he wants to see results. It would be a crime if Mike Trout didn’t sniff the playoffs again.
It’s also reported that Moreno plans on going after some top talent this off-season. He’s in win-now mode and has been anonymously quoted as wanting an experienced manager.
Maybe Moreno has learned a lesson that the Tigers failed to learn. Maybe Arte saw a team with a huge payroll and lots of stars who failed to win even one playoff game under Ausmus. A manager with a starting rotation of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Anibal Sanchez and David Price.
Maybe he saw a manager who couldn’t get his players into the playoffs for his remaining three years in Detroit. A manager who took all that talent to 2 last-place finishes in his final 3 years. A manager who failed to get top players into even a wild card slot back in 2016.
A manager who had an overall losing record despite the immense talent coupled with one of MLB’s largest payrolls.
And maybe it scared him.
And maybe Arte understands that “fortune favors the bold.”
The Tigers, on the other hand, are anything but bold. They hang onto the same people, the same ideas and the same actions year after year, decade after decade. They rarely rock the boat or go against the status quo.
Even when situations scream for a change.
In 2014, Brad’s first year, the Tigers didn’t win a single playoff game despite the All-Star starting rotation of JV, Mad Max, Porcello, Sanchez and Price. Quite frankly, totally inexcusable and very much a firing offense. And it’s not just me. The national media was all over this at the time.
This was a sign – a big red flag – that the Tigers needed to heed. But they didn’t make a change.
The next year, 2015, found the team in last place. And yet, the Tigers made no changes.
Not even after 2016 when they struggled most of the year and missed the playoffs.
Three years of big red flags, under two different GMs, and what did they do in 2017?
They picked up Brad’s option year.
Seriously, what were they thinking all those years?
Which brings us to today…..
The same people, minus Dave Dombrowski, are still in charge. Still making the same decisions. Still being safe. Still afraid to make moves that may make a difference.
Heck, they can’t even fire a hitting coach who is linked to the overall regression of the entire team’s offensive capabilities.
It’s that bad.
And that is why we need to be concerned. If they couldn’t manage a championship-caliber team, what makes us think that they can manage a rebuild which is much more difficult and labor-intensive?
It took Arte Moreno only 1 year to learn a lesson. The Tigers still haven’t learned theirs.
And they won’t until personnel changes are made.
Maybe Chris Ilitch should review the Tigers history book. Specifically, the section about a previous owner who hired a new GM back in 1978. One year later, this GM snapped up a proven experienced manager despite having hired one just a couple months earlier.
We know how that story turned out.
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