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.
The Detroit Tigers announced on Friday that they would not be extending manager Brad Ausmus beyond the 2017 season. The announcement not only closed the book on a roller coaster tenure for Ausmus but also wraps up arguably the greatest run in the history of Tigers baseball, albeit with a bumpy landing.
Ausmus has been HEAVILY scrutinized throughout his four seasons as the skipper in Detroit, especially later in his tenure. A new era of Tigers baseball is going to begin on Monday, October 2 — the day after the end of the regular season — when the team begins the search for the 38th manager in franchise history.
But when we look back on the brief stint here in Detroit for Ausmus, perhaps the best way to describe it would be this: he was a rookie manager inheriting a veteran-laden, “win now” ball club.
Simply put, he was never the right fit. And he ended up being the biggest fall man for a core of Tigers whose window of winning a championship was closing.
Quite frankly, it’s hard to pin all the lack of success from the Tigers over the last three seasons on the manager. Ultimately, the players have to go out and execute day in and day out. Unfortunately, more often than not, they were unable to do that. But Brad ended up biting off more than he could chew in his first managerial gig.
This is four years that Ausmus will certainly reflect on and use as a valuable learning experience for where ever he ends up next in the game of baseball; whether that be next season or down the road. Brad himself had comments on the position change — comments that were interpreted as “B.S.” by another staff member here at DSN — where he said he needed to “evaluate himself” moving forward.
To me, that says that he knows he made some rookie mistakes along the way. Whether it be in-game tactics or handling of the media, or whatever you choose to poke holes in his ability to manage a baseball team. Brad has appeared to accept those mistakes and will use those to get better.
And while he has openly shown interest in working with a younger and rebuilding ball club, Ausmus also knows that he has not earned the trust and respect of many Tigers fans in recent years. So, coinciding himself with the expected losing that is to come is something he knows will not go over well with fans.
Now, some like myself could argue that any in-game tactics were clouded due to a lack of trust in player personnel to execute, namely the oft-times pitching struggles. Though Brad has periodically and openly questioned some of his own decisions after the fact. But we could be saying this about 29 other managers as well.
Or we could point to whenever the media approached him (specifically in the last year or two), the interviews always started off negatively. It was either something that happened in-game that had nothing to do with the overall complexion of the game or worse, getting asked about his job security in the middle of a season when he and the team’s fate is nowhere near decided. Could he have handled those instances better at times? Sure, and that’s all part of his “rookie manager” moniker. But it’s unfair to just completely dismiss the media’s role in those scenarios.
But those are arguments for perhaps another day and perhaps no longer needed, because Brad will no longer be with Detroit come October 2.
Is this an indictment on his ability to be a coach of any kind in the game of baseball? Absolutely not. Even most of the people who wanted him gone long before this were aware of that, or at least we hoped. Being a former big league catcher himself for nearly two decades, one would be hard-pressed to find someone who understands the ins and outs of baseball better than catchers.
One has to at least respect and admire the way Ausmus carried himself as a manager outside of the games. Despite often times having a calm, casual demeanor, he never shied away from going to bat for his teammates. Hell, he even went to the plate and used his hoodie to do so in a frantic tirade last season.
There are definitely a number of players, specifically on this current Tigers team, that have taken a liking and appreciation to Ausmus’ presence in the clubhouse. Perhaps none more so than catcher James McCann, who said Brad “was so good with me as a rookie,” and he would sometimes take for granted “being able to bounce stuff off of him.”
Outfielder Mikie Mahtook, who emerged mid-season as an everyday outfielder for the Tigers after breaking spring camp as the team’s fifth outfielder, credited Brad for sticking with him through his early-season struggles.
“He kept throwing me in there once I played, and he rode that hot streak and it gave me confidence and allowed me to have the year that I had,” Mahtook said.
Brad Ausmus’ handling of everything that has revolved around himself and the team is going to rub many the wrong way given the team’s success, or lack thereof, and the fact he is not leaving on his own terms. Although, he did say on Friday that if general manager Al Avila were to offer him an extension, he’d probably decline the offer knowing the team was ready for a change of voice and leadership.
Anyone who openly and honestly says, “No thanks, I don’t think I’m qualified enough,” when and if offered a job, because they need to “evaluate themselves,” takes a lot of pride and class. With all due respect to my colleague, I wouldn’t necessarily call that B.S.
But it’s time to turn the page on a new era of Tigers baseball in Detroit. Brad Ausmus will surely learn from his rookie manager mistakes, and the Tigers are indeed better off finding a new captain of the ship. It’s a win-win.