NOTE: The views expressed in this EDITORIAL do not necessarily reflect the views of Detroit Sports Nation or a majority of its writers and should not be misconstrued as such. The views contained within are the views of the author and the author alone.
Ever since Brad Ausmus’ gross mismanagement of the bullpen against the Orioles in the 2014 playoffs, there’s been a sect of Tigers fans that have been coming for his neck. Most thought Ausmus would get better with time, but the truth is, he hasn’t. The Tigers are struggling mightily right now, losing nine of their past ten games, and they need to make a change while the season is still salvageable.
That change needs to come with the firing of Ausmus. The current early season struggles aren’t entirely his fault of course, and he’s not even the biggest problem; but he’s not the smallest one either. While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how many games a manager wins or loses a baseball team, it’s disingenuous to take the Victor Martinez route and say the players just have to play better. It’s obviously true that in order to win the players have to play better than the other team, but it’s the manager’s job to put the team in a position to succeed. He has to hold the team accountable and be more of a manager than a friend. He has to command respect from his team, and Ausmus doesn’t do that.
His shortcomings as a leader or “rah-rah” motivator could be forgiven if he was a brilliant in-game strategist that knew all the right strings to pull to put the Tigers in advantageous positions. Alas, he is not. Ausmus continues to make puzzling decisions that seem to give the Tigers a lesser chance at winning nightly.
The other night in Washington is a perfect recent example of Ausmus not giving the Tigers the best chance to win. With two outs in the ninth inning and a runner on first, Ausmus decided to let James McCann face Max Scherzer instead of pinch hitting Nick Castellanos. McCann is currently batting .108 and had already struck out three times that night. Castellanos is the hottest hitter in the American League, hitting .362 with seven home runs, and seven more extra base hits.
It’s not a sure thing Castellanos would have driven in V-Mart or even put the ball in play, but he’s a much bigger threat to do so than McCann is. The argument I’ve heard defending the move is that taking McCann out would have forced the Tigers to go to their emergency catcher, but when your team has lost seven of its last eight games, you have to try anything to get your team out of the slump.
That’s not the only reason Ausmus should go, but it is the final straw. Change needs to be made in order for this team to cash in on its potential. There were a lot of doubters when Ausmus first got hired that he wasn’t the right manager for a veteran, ready-to-win team, and they have ultimately been proven right. Ausmus just never looked comfortable in the dugout and there was always this sense that the job, or maybe just this job, was too much for him to handle. The constant second-guessing and scrutiny from the fan base couldn’t have helped, but it comes with the territory of being a big league manager. With last year’s last place AL Central finish, and this year’s brutal start, it’s time for change.
Letting Ausmus finish out the season would be a colossal mistake, and the Tigers need to cut ties before it’s too late. He is an extremely intelligent guy and deserves a job in baseball, just not as a manager. At least, not at this point. A guy like first base coach Omar Vizquel could come in for the rest of the season and command immediate respect from the team. Ausmus started the season on a seat that was hotter than the devil’s furnace on full blast in the middle of July, and by mid-May it was clear that he needed to get burned.