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We are now entering year three of the Brad Ausmus management era. In his first season, the Detroit Tigers won the AL Central Division title before being eliminated in three games in the ALDS. In his second season, the Tigers went on to finish in the basement of the AL Central with a 74-87 record. The last place finish sparked rumors of Ausmus’ demise until the Tigers came out and said he would return for a third season in 2016.
The shortcomings in 2014 could be attributed to Ausmus being a rookie manager. Despite that, winning a division title in your rookie season as a manager is still a nice accomplishment. The disaster that was the 2015 season was mostly attributed to multiple injuries and under performing players, and eventually to the decision to trade away major pieces at the trade deadline. Despite these things, there were still times that Ausmus made a decision that left many people scratching their heads. A questionable call to the bullpen, leaving a pitcher in too long, taking a pitcher out to early. These things frustrated the fans, and led many people to turn their backs on Ausmus, declaring him a bad manager. Granted it was still only his second season as a manager, and managing a professional baseball team is no easy task. However, the excuses need to end NOW.
Ausmus is heading into his third season as manager of a team that is expected to contend for a World Series title, and he has arguably the most talented roster of his tenure.
He has a bullpen that features Justin Wilson, Mark Lowe, and Francisco Rodriguez as the 7th, 8th, and 9th inning guys. Gone are the days of guessing who to piece together to close out a game. He also still has the Tigers best reliever in 2015 to plug into one of those spots in case of an emergency in Alex Wilson.
Despite losing ace David Price, he has Justin Verlander who seemed to regain his old form towards the end of 2015. He also has another ace in Jordan Zimmermann and veterans Mike Pelfrey and Anibal Sanchez, along with the rising Daniel Norris. That is a starting five that is capable of having two 20 win starters, and another three with at least 12 wins.
His lineup consists of six players who have been an All-Star at one point of their careers, and many who continue to perform at an All-Star level year after year. He also still has the best hitter of our generation in Miguel Cabrera. There are players such as James McCann and Nick Castellanos who are still very young and show a lot of promise with the bat.
The defense should once again be very strong, after finishing 9th in all of baseball with a .986 fielding percentage in 2015, only .002 points shy of the MLB lead. Led by defensive wizard Jose Iglesias and his double play partner Ian Kinsler, there should not be too many balls that manage to squeak through the middle of the infield.
Yes, on paper this is the strongest team that Brad Ausmus has had the pleasure of managing. With an owner that wants to win, and win now, Ausmus will be expected to send the Tigers to the promised land and deliver a World Series championship to Detroit. The time for excuses is over, it’s now time to get results.