October 04, 2014

Brad Ausmus — Back to the Padres or the Astros

The Brad Ausmus Experiment Failed

"It's outside the box thinking and similar to what the Cardinals did a couple of years ago with U–M grad Mike Matheny. He's been successful with St. Louis so there's a precedent for the Tigers' move. I still expect the team to be more aggressive. They'll probably pay more attention to numbers but not match–ups." — Rick's Writing Again (November 3, 2013) 
 Ausmus. At Spring Training. 

I liked the hiring of Brad Ausmus. I thought it would be a change from the last several years. I thought there would be more focus on speed and creating situations to score runs; I thought the defense would be markedly better; I thought fundamentals would be a focus.

At Spring Training Ausmus was involved in all aspects of the training camp. He clearly was teaching. It looked like new beginnings. And Brad Ausmus was handed the keys to a shiny car. Well, it had a couple of dings that we thought had been shored up: the bullpen closer situation was supposed to be fixed with the addition of Joe Nathan for $20 million; the defense was supposed to be improved with the change at second base and addition of Rajai Davis in the outfield.

It turns out that Nathan's best years are probably behind him. He blew a save on Opening Day — then, again and again — and Ausmus stuck with him in the closer role. There's a good thing about loyalty because it sets up and builds trust, but he stuck with Nathan way too long. In fact, his handling of the bullpen all season was questionable. Sure, that's easy to say from the outside, but sticking with Joba Chamberlain in the eighth inning when he clearly had lost his effectiveness turned out to be a playoff downer. He clearly has said that he hasn't used Al–Al because he used him in the earlier innings during the season. Has he not realized we are in the situation where we need "all hands on deck" ?

I loved the idea of going with Ausmus when they hired him. It seemed like a change in philosophy that could possibly get more out of the squad. I think — and this blew my mind — that Ausmus was more set in his ways than Jim Leyland ever was. Leyland was a great manager who sometimes drived us crazy with his reverence for certain players (e.g. Inge, Raburn, Valverde, et al.)

Mr. Leyland. 

Ausmus was handed talent and the team — but something along the way didn't click. The Tigers came out of the shoot rolling and were a team to be reckoned with. Then, the won eight games in 30 and things were unravelling. I can't put all of this on Ausmus because the General Manager Dave Dombrowski traded away Doug Fister for a couple of spare parts from the Washington Nationals and Fister had a Fisteresque year for the Nats. Yes, Dombrowski did pull off a swindle of the Texas Rangers by sending Prince Fielder to them for Ian Kinsler. Many of his moves have worked well, including trading FOR Fister in 2011 among many others.

Ron Gardenhire wasn't available a year ago. Kirk Gibson wasn't available a year ago. Alan Trammell wasn't available a year ago. Ron Washington wasn't available a year ago. Jim Leyland made himself unavailable a year ago. I think at this point the Tigers have a better talent pool to pick from than when they decided to hire the inexperienced Brad Ausmus. I thought they would go with Torey Lovullo a year ago. I thought going with a younger manager would make a difference.

I don't think the Tigers are going to win this series with the Orioles. I thought they would. I thought the Tigers would go to the World Series. But with the bullpen in the shape it's in, no lead is safe. It's even mental for the Tigers who if they have to go to the bullpen will be nervous. I think the season's end is near. Maybe they can beat the Orioles on Sunday (I'll be there!) and maybe Monday. But I don't think they're going to win the series.

If they don't win the series, I think the Tigers immediately fire Ausmus and have Ron Gardenhire in town the following morning at 9 a.m. He would be my number one choice to turn things around. But I would also consider interviewing Trammell, Washington, and — if he would consider it — Leyland. I don't think Gibby is the answer in this situation. To me, Gibby is a Billy Martin style of manager who can only last for two or three years before his "act" wares thin. That clearly happened in Arizona with the focus on "grit" and other ... "stuff."

Gardenhire knows the Tigers well from managing against them so often in the past several years. He's a winner, just never the World Series. Trammell had a bad deal his first time around, has coached every year since leaving the Tigers, and is a Tiger to the bone. Washington is a good manager who ran out of gas with the Rangers. I think he would be a good addition in Detroit. If Leyland would consider it, I think he might be the best choice to run the team. This time around, no one would question him. He could take the team to the promised land. But, I don't think he would want to come out of retirement. I think Gardy might be the guy for the job. Ausmus was a good choice then.

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