I happened to turn on the radio a couple of days ago and listened to one of the scariest stories ever told. And my blood ran cold.
No, it wasn’t on the Sci-Fi Channel. It was on MLB Radio and it was about Brad Ausmus’ chances of remaining the manager going forward.
A collection of former Front Office executives, including some former GMs, spent an entire segment talking about his situation and in the end, they agreed that his chances of staying are decent – unless he totally tanks the team.
Shocked? I was, at first, until I heard their rationales.
Let’s face it – if Mr. I were still in charge, the Tigers would have made changes by now as they pursued that dream of a ring. But there’s another Ilitch now running things and despite the silence coming from Chris and Al, combined with the continued lack of moves to improve the team, the direction of this organization has obviously changed.
And as a result, the managerial career of Brad Ausmus may get an extension.
But make no mistake, the many rationales for keeping Brad have nothing to do with his skills but everything to do with the changing direction and dynamics of the team. He may simply be in the right place at the right time.
Let’s lay out the arguments made, shall we?
1. If the team is going to be sold, it is much easier to keep the current manager short-term and allow the new owner to make the changes. It is cleaner, less messy and understandable that way.
2. There is no longer any pressure for the Tigers to win any kind of title so there will be few expectations about performance.
3. It is much more convenient to keep him not because he is the right one to lead the team. The manager will become less important on a team that is rebuilding.
4. Ausmus is inexpensive as a manager. Anyone with more experience would want a bigger salary, as probably also his coaches, and that may not fit the Tigers’ near-future plans.
5. It may prove more difficult to remove Brad because his coaches would also be released. Jim Leyland has a handshake deal specifying that as long as he is employed by the Tigers, Gene Lamont has a job with them, too.
6. Currently, there are no other viable managerial candidates.
7. The team will probably be transitioning from some of the more expensive names/stars into a team that will have more rookies. It is believed that the young fit Ausmus’ wheelhouse a little better.
8. With the assumption that the Tigers will change significantly, Brad’s always-calm demeanor will be seen as a useful skill in keeping an evolving and unsure clubhouse relaxed.
9. The Tigers don’t fire people. The last manager to be fired was 18 years ago. MLB’s average length of a manager’s tenure with one team is between 2.77 – 3.5 years based upon several studies.
10. The Tigers have yet to declare any kind of direction for the future. They may not even have one, especially if the team is going to be sold. If there’s no goal, how can you hire a new manager when you can’t describe what skills you need him to possess?
11. Al Avila’s reputation within Front Offices is one of avoiding the big decisions. Even when he assumed the GM mantle, he fired no one and brought in no new staff. It is believed that he would be unable to pull the trigger.
12. It is also believed that Avila will not make changes simply for the sake of making changes.
Of course, there are also a myriad of reasons supporting why Ausmus’ contract should be allowed to simply expire. Both sides have plausible arguments. But the bottom line is that a decision will ultimately be based upon the team’s future as well as any financial considerations. And the latter point also includes whether the manager has fully utilized or wasted several sizable contracts of some star players.
The next 8 weeks will certainly tell us more. But don’t be surprised if we are told nothing even after the season ends. The Tigers appear to be reluctant to even tell us where they are going.
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