June 23, 2017

The hot seat, the rumor mill, and what to make of it all

The Hot Seat is Getting Hotter 

The Detroit Tigers have an off day on Monday, June 26.

The Detroit Tigers are playing the San Diego Padres in San Diego this weekend. The Tigers have lost a half dozen games in a row. I predict they'll lose an even dozen before things turn around, er, they win a game.

Clearly, something is amiss in the clubhouse. Granted, one of the complainers is the perennially troubled "closer," Francisco Rodriguez, but when Miguel Cabrera is annoyed, something isn't right. We haven't seen his bright smile more than three innings the whole season, so he is either in extreme pain and paying through it or he is completely unhappy.

While it's clear the Tigers have regressed under Brad Ausmus, it may not be completely his fault. I believe that the players have aged and it's coming through in their performance. The Tigers made the playoffs for several seasons in a row, making long runs, so the players played more games that other team's players. So, in addition to showing their age, the players also have additional games behind them. That's part of the reason they play, though — make the playoffs and win a World Series.

Ausmus has shown some inability to manage in game situations, especially the ill–prepared bullpen; however, he has also been inconsistent in developing the team for the running game, defense, etc. When Ausmus arrived, the team came out running; suddenly, they stopped running. The focus has been on the three–run home run for so long in Detroit that you have to wonder if Earl Weaver was the team's skipper at one point.

I don't know if changing managers makes any sense at this juncture. I do believe that Rich Dubee has been a complete failure as the pitching coach, and as much as I hate to admit it, Jeff Jones may have been okay in that role. And, where oh where is Wally Joyner? With Legendary Lloyd McClendon back, the Tigers bats have become as soft as they were when he was the hitting coach originally. Dave Clark and Omar Vizquel do okay on the bases, I suppose, but something is amiss.

Maybe it starts with the General Manager, Al Avila. Mr. Avila runs a much looser ship than previous GM Dave Dombrowski. Dombrowski didn't allow for leaks on any issues whatsoever. He ran the show and everyone knew who was in charge. Maybe that's what happened to the relationship he had with Mr. Illitch. Perhaps, Mr. Dombrowski thought he truly was the person in charge of the Detroit Baseball Club. Mr. I made all the big decisions, and when he said get rid of the potential free agents and bring back some prospects in a "reboot," Dombrowski did just that. David Price never fit in Detroit, nor did Yoenis Cespedes. It was fun to watch Cespedes during his time in the Motor City. Still, I'm amazed that we traded him away for a prospect. That day in 2015 is one that will resonate for years in Detroit baseball and sports lore.

If the rumors are true and Ausmus' seat is HOT and the Tigers are going to make a change on Monday, then excitement could be returning to the team. Under Ausmus, the team just simply plays boring baseball. This incarnation of the Tigers is the most lame I've seen since about 1998. Even the 2003 team was fun to watch, and their dismal play was expected. Maybe we're jaded in Detroit; however, a team with baseball's highest payroll should look like it cares on the ballfield.

Who could replace Ausmus? These are the most likely names to replace Ausmus if the current front office regime stays employed.

  1. Lloyd McClendon — The brain trust didn't bring McClendon back to the major league dugout without some thought of his taking the reigns if the season sputtered as it currently shows. McClendon will get serious consideration, and the way things played out in Pittsburgh and Seattle, um, never mind. 
  2. Omar Vizquel — Vizquel was a future manager in waiting in many minds until his Venezuelan team played so poorly in the World Baseball Classic. He seems to be a favorite of the Tigers front office, but we'll see if they give him a chance to run the show. 
  3. Gene Lamont — Lamont is a great friend of Jim Leyland's and that's how he ended up back in Detroit. Lamont was going to work with Ausmus for two years and retire, but he is still around. Why wouldn't the Tigers give him a chance to run the team? 
  4. Jim Leyland — the rumor will be out there, especially after he energized the USA team in the WBC. Leyland claims he's retired and there's no reason not to believe him. This team is talent in search of team, but it may be in too much of a disarray. 
  5. Alan Trammell — Brought back to be a marketing ploy back in '03, the Tigers might owe it to Trammell to let him manage this squad. However, with failure imminent, one of the greatest Tigers would be the manager before and after the historic playoff runs. That wouldn't be a good mix. 
Now, who should replace Ausmus? 
  1. Ozzie Guillen — I will get attacked for making this suggestion, but Guillen has shown an ability to get the most out of his teams. With the Tigers' large Venezuelan contingency, Guillen might be the person to command the clubhouse and salvage something from this season. Yet, do we really want to salvage anything? 
  2. Kirk Gibson — Again, I'll probably be knocked down a peg or two for this suggestion. Gibby is a solid baseball mind. His insights in the broadcast booth are much better than Rod Allen's rambling observations when he tries to break everything down. Gibby has managerial experience and was unceremoniously let go from his gig in Arizona. The brain trust who ousted him ended up looking clueless in retrospect, and they are gone from the desert as well. Gibby was part of Trammell's staff in Detroit. I don't know how that would play out, but you can bet Gibby and Tram would be working together again. 
  3. Ron Gardenhire — I've been a longtime supporter of Gardy and thought he would be a great choice to replace Leyland, but as far as I know the Tigers didn't even consider him. He would be a good choice; moreover, he's on the staff of another guy the Tigers overlooked, Torrey Lovullo in Arizona. 
Well, it's going to be quite a weekend for Detroit Tigers fans. From the highs of a historic era in their history to the lows of having the highest payroll and struggling mightily. Changes may be coming …

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