Ausmus to stay as Tigers manager for 2016
Brad Ausmus is staying as Tigers manager. General manager Al Avila announced Saturday that Ausmus and his entire coaching staff will remain in charge for next season, ending speculation surrounding the second-year manager’s future.
“After almost two months of watching this team play, evaluating our staff and the manager, a lot of discussion with my staff — David Chadd, John Westhoff, Scott Bream, Jim Leyland, Al Kaline amongst others — I’ve decided that Brad Ausmus should be our manager going into 2016,” Avila said in a Saturday afternoon press briefing in the Tigers dugout at Comerica Park.
Ausmus, hired in November 2013 by then-president and GM Dave Dombrowski, will be entering the final season of his three-year contract. No talks have taken place on anything beyond that, but after a two-month evaluation by Avila, he has the front office’s backing to lead next season.
The decision came from Avila, he said, with support from owner Mike Ilitch, who named Avila as his GM in August.
“Mr. Ilitch left it up to me, and I made the decision,” Avila said. “I called him, I said, ‘Mr. Ilitch, I’m going to keep Brad Ausmus.’ He said, ‘God bless you, move forward.’”
He made the decision knowing what some of the fan reaction could be. But he made it thinking about the on-field product gearing up for next season.
“I know where the criticism is. My thing is I believe that Brad has the talent, the knowhow to lead and mentor the young players that are on this team,” Avila said. “They’ve shown great improvement. Guys like James McCann, Nick Castellanos, Anthony Gose, these guys have improved under Brad and his staff. We have a lot of young pitchers also that have improved. He also has the respect and the backing of the veteran players on this team. So that combination, to me, tells me that Brad is the right man to lead this team into next year.
McCann, in particular, has been a focus on Ausmus’ teaching as the season has gone on. Ausmus has had him take on responsibility with scouting reports for pitchers going into series and game plans going into each contest.
The Tigers saw their four-year reign atop the American League Central end this year at the hands of the Royals. Their next loss will clinch their first losing season since 2008 and officially eliminate them from Wild Card contention. It was a disappointing result for a team that had postseason expectations going into the year, even with the Royals’ resurgence.
The struggles cost Dombrowski his job a month and a half ago. The challenge Avila faced was evaluating the struggles in light of the team Ausmus had to work with. Among the factors Avila cited were injuries to Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Joe Nathan, Bruce Rondon and Anibal Sanchez, along with the decision to trade away David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria at the end of July — as well as the challenge of working with the youngsters that replaced them, such as Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, Tyler Collins, Steven Moya and Bruce Rondon.
“I think if you see all the injuries that we’ve had, from Day 1, we didn’t have a chance,” Avila said. “This has been a flawed team coming out of Spring Training because of all the injuries.”
Several veteran players said the same in defense of Ausmus’ work over the past six weeks, including Cabrera, Castellanos, Alex Avila and Ian Kinsler.
That said, the way the Tigers have played down the stretch — their postseason chances essentially over — played a factor, Avila said. Despite an injury-riddled pitching staff, Detroit entered Saturday with a 12-11 record in September and a chance for its first winning month since April. Moreover, the Tigers are 8-5 since reports of Ausmus’ impending dismissal came out two weeks ago.
“This team as you’ve noticed has not given up. They’ve played hard. They’re continuing to try to win every game they can. They’ve never given up. … I know we’ve made some mistakes on the field, but some of those mistakes come when you have young players. Every team has that. The thing is, what do you do about that? I know from the inside, day in and day out, how those things are addressed. I know that we work on these things. I know we work on baserunning; I know that we work on every aspect of the game. I know how this organization, how these guys prepare, before every game.
“We have a system of preparing for every game. And it’s a good system. And it gets followed through. I have every confidence that it will continue and this team will improve. If I didn’t believe that, obviously, I wouldn’t be making this decision. This decision was made based on what I think is best for this organization moving forward.”
Ausmus, for his part, said the reports didn’t impact his work.
“Initially, when the story breaks, it’s a little tough,” he said, “but I’ll be honest with you: It’s been business as usual. We’re prepared exactly the same way. I can’t control what’s written. After talking with Al about it, he said it didn’t come from them. I knew that baseball operations people, of course Al and Mr. Ilitch, would make the decision. And I just continue to do my job. I said I would do my job until they ask me to leave or until my contract expired, and that’s what we’ll continue to do. But we do expect things to be better in 2016.”
The expectation for 2016, Avila said, remains to contend for a title next season. The expectation going into next season is to give Ausmus a better chance at that.
“Once the season’s over, going into October, we’ll have our major league staff come in, we’ll have our advisors in there, too, and we’ll go over every single organization,” Avila said. “We’ll figure out where some possible trades could be made, we’ll rank all the free-agent guys we may be interested in out there, and we’ll try to acquire some of the players that we need additionally to make this team a winning team next year.
“Thank goodness, though, we feel like we have a good core of players here that are a mix of some veterans with some nice young players that are up and coming. That core is very important, because you can’t create a whole, brand new team. We have the basics, the core players here to start that process of just adding a few more to have a winning team.”
Ausmus, they believe, is the guy to lead them.
“You can see the improvement of the young players, and you can see the dedication and the pride in the veteran players,” Avila said. “To me, I’m very proud of how they have faced adversity, how they have come up and continued to do their best, and play their best. And they, in their hearts, all want to come back next year and try to win that championship.”