Ausmus, Avila go another year
The Tigers have Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, Anibal Sanchez and others under contract for one more season. Now, they have Brad Ausmus for those terms as well.
After a couple days of offseason, the Tigers did what had been expected since midseason, picking up the club option on Ausmus’ contract. In explaining the move, Avila noted continuity as a factor. Though there had been some speculation that they might work on a new deal, general manager Al Avila said they preferred to go year to year, the same timetable Dave Dombrowski had with Jim Leyland for his final few seasons, though for different reasons.
In my opinion, I don’t think [a long-term deal] is necessary,” Avila said on a conference call Wednesday. “I personally like the year to year [approach] at this time. The club itself can change from year to year, and things could change from year to year. So I think for our organization, having those options are good for us, and actually I think it works for Brad.
“There are several managers in today’s game that work year to year, and there have been managers in the past who’ve worked year to year. I am comfortable with it. I’ve spoken with Brad about it and he’s comfortable with it. And at this point, there is no reason for me or for Brad to think different.”
They discussed that. They discussed the team. And they discussed what is to be done with the team on the heels of being the last team out of the postseason picture, having lost two of three in Atlanta and five of their last eight overall.
“In talking to Brad, I mentioned some of the things I’d like to improve on,” Avila said, “and it just so happened he and I were on the same page. When I say improve, I mean on the field. Obviously, we need to improve our defense in some areas. We have to improve certain things with our baserunning. It’s not for a lack of practice or instruction, but maybe there are some ideas about doing some things differently. It could also lead to changes in personnel. We also talked about our players going forward and what we need to do. Things of that nature is what we talk about.
“At the end, we’ve been on the same page all year. Whatever things we disagreed upon — and we have had disagreements on certain things — we can move forward and work through those things with no issue.”
Whether that means changes on the coaching staff remains to be seen. Most of the staff is expected to return. But Avila stopped short of saying all.
“We’re still in that process,” Avila said. “I guess you could take it as, we anticipate most of them coming back, but I don’t know if they all will at this point, because I haven’t talked to them. So I think that’s a question for maybe another day, not too far down the road.”
More from the conference call:
- Avila on changing course after not making playoffs: “Sometimes it’s not just clear-cut wins and losses, [or] did you get into the postseason or not. There’s a lot of circumstances that you’ve got to take into account along the way. You’ve got to look at the big picture. It might be easy to say, ‘Let’s cut ties right now,’ just because we didn’t get into the postseason, and it creates bigger and worse problems down the road. Just cutting ties because you didn’t get into the postseason doesn’t make the team better, and it doesn’t mean that that’s the right decision. Sometimes you’ve got to continue and stay with the continuity that you have as long as you know that you’re making progress and you’re working to get better.
- Avila on injuries: “Daniel Norris, who was supposed to be our fifth starter, broke his back basically in Spring Training, and we started our season without our fifth starter. Cameron Maybin, first day of Spring Training, he gets hit with a first at-bat and broke his hand, and we started without our center fielder. Right off the bat, we had two injuries that really we had no control over. If we have Cameron Maybin from Day 1, and Daniel Norris pitching in the rotation as expected, some things change. You can’t put that on anybody. However, in saying that, because of all these things that happened, you see how your manager handles them on a day-to-day basis, and he takes you through all the rough times and you’re still there at the end with a chance to get in. You’ve got to give him a lot of credit for that.”
- Avila on free-agent signings that didn’t work out: “I take all the blame. Because at the end of the day, I make those decisions, and you’ve got to put a lot of the blame on myself. So the guys that we brought in, let’s say they didn’t perform for whatever reason, that’s on me. Those are things that I’ve got to take the blame for. At the same time, you see what the manager did with those guys and how he used them, and he got through the season with them. That’s even more reason to say he did a good job in getting through those tough situations.”
- Ausmus on what he has learned as a manager: “I’ve gotten that question the last few years. The one thing you start to realize is … a lot of players, especially players that have played a long time, think they have a good grasp on the game. I was probably one of those players at the end of my career that had a good grasp. But after you manage for a few years, you start to understand that there are a lot of other factors that are not necessarily happening on the field, but are happening in the clubhouse or happen when you’re traveling, just minutiae that you have to deal with. And you start to understand and become a lot more comfortable with handling and making decisions on involving those things. That’s just basically what experience does, makes you more comfortable in those situations.”
- Avila on continuity: “That is a big factor because he does know our players. We did discuss what things we may need to do this offseason. He fully understands that. That is a big factor in moving forward. Sometimes it seems like bringing in somebody else would be better just for the sake of change, but that’s not always the case. Continuity is part of it and familiarity with the players and the players with him is important.”
- Avila on what might be done this offseason: “At this point, I’m not ready to discuss that. We have our year-end meetings with our Major League scouts and advisers next week. We’ll be meeting from Monday through Friday next week in Lakeland. When we come out of that, I’ll have more of an idea of where we’re going to be headed, and what we’ll be doing — or what we’ll be trying to do. I will say we’ll be open-minded to anything and everything out there. But right now, I’m not in a position to discuss payroll or anything of that nature at this point.”
- Avila owner Mike Ilitch’s approval: “Yes, I did discuss it with Mr. Ilitch, and he gave me the ok to pick up the option. I explained to him my reasoning and he agreed and he said go ahead.”
- Avila on Ilitch’s view on season: “Well, just like all of us, he wanted to get to the playoffs, to get to the World Series, and the goal is to do that. So he felt like all of us. Obviously, that’s what we wanted to do, and we didn’t do it. Now we’re regrouping.
We feel we have a good core of young players. Really, we talked more about moving forward than the past. … Let me put it to you this way: You don’t just go there and hash over all the bad, all the games that you lost. What happened, happened. Nobody liked it. We didn’t achieve what we wanted to achieve. So now we got to regroup, move forward and see where we go from here.”
Ausmus on baserunning: “Baserunning’s a funny thing, because you can work on it all you want. We worked on it quite a bit in spring training, brought Kirk Gibson, and he helped us. You can work on it all you want, but ultimately the players have to react, use their instincts on the bases. It’s a split-second play, whether it’s a line drive, or it’s reading a ball to an outfielder. A split-second decision has to be made by that baserunner. You hope that all the work that you put in, all the practice you put in, bears fruit. But ultimately, it’s up to the baserunner. There are players that are very instinctive baserunners. They don’t need to practice it. They can read balls, and read players, and understand situations better than others. And sometimes guys aren’t very good instinctive baserunners. You can hope to try to make them better, but you’re not necessarily going to make them into the greatest baserunner on the planet. I don’t know that there’s a ton we can do differently, other than stress the things that we have stressed, and hope that they get better by practicing it.”
- Ausmus on working relationship with Avila: “Al and I work very well together. We get along great. From what I hear, that isn’t always the case. So it’s nice to know I have someone I can talk to, not only on a business platform, but if I just want to talk about anything on a personal level, I can talk to Al. That’s a big part of it for me. If it was someone I couldn’t work with, I’d probably say don’t bring me back just for one year. But because of our relationship, that is a big part of it. The second part of it is because of the group of guys we have. Al is right. The veteran leadership is huge in a clubhouse. I’ve been there as a player. I’ve been the young guy that’s had veteran leadership and I’ve been in clubhouses without veteran leadership. And I’ve been a veteran leader. A clubhouse runs much smoother with good veteran leadership. It’s a big asset to any manager. Those two things, and we still are in a position to put a winning product on the field, is why I said I’d be happy to come back and manage this team.”