By Eric Thomas
Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus was asked by the media how he deals with losing when he goes home.
He said, joking, “I beat my wife.”
Things were bad for the Tigers, they’ve lost three straight to the Royals when they needed wins to save their grip on the top spot of the American League Central, and that need has translated into three straight losses. Game after game Ausmus has sat in front of the microphones and reporters have asked for an explanation. Ausmus hasn’t managed on any level, and he was handed a team favored to win the World Series as his first job.
The results haven’t been impressive.
Now, he’s stepped into a heap of controversy. You can’t make domestic violence jokes at a press conference. He realized his error and apologized immediately, but this is just the latest stain on Ausmus’ already greasy record as a first year manager of the Tigers.
It’s become clear as of late that Ausmus is in over his head. Game after game he says that they will work on the Tigers’ copious problems. Nothing has worked; the problems have become more widespread. Local and national media is struck dumb by the Tigers’ recent woes. SABR-metric nerds scratch their heads just as much as the beer-swilling set in the bleachers. There’s no rhyme nor reason to the severity and length of this nadir.
Teams in a nosedive usually correct their course, and usually its something small. You’ll hear a batter or pitcher say, “we found something” or some other variation on the phrase, and they’re right back into their winning ways. That hasn’t happened.
Managers get more credit and too much blame, so the axiom goes, and some baseball purists play down the significance of the manager at all. It’s an individual game masquerading as a team sport; a duel between a pitcher and a batter and little else really matters, some say. Fine, but if that’s true, why have a manager at all?
Reckless speculation might lead you to ask if the players respect Ausmus. He’s made some odd decisions, like pitching Danny Worth for a second straight time in a game that had gotten out of hand. Questions about Justin Verlander’s social life have now manifested as pictures on Twitter; Ashley Dunkak’s story on our website yesterday where Ausmus now says he’s more willing to pull JV when the going gets tough—does that mean he was apprehensive before?! One might speculate that the players see him as a young manager that’s learning on the job, and their doubts on his credibility could have bled into their game.
Now there’s this. The domestic violence joke. There were enough problems, and he really didn’t need this. My take: his comment shouldn’t sink him. He has no history of actual violence, and that should matter above any comments he makes. He might get suspended, I think that’s likely, and that should be the end of it. The questions swirling around Ausmus need to be about his ability to manage a team in the hunt for the World Series.
As we sit here, in the Ides of June, the Tigers season might have fallen off the cliff. While they have the talent and the ability, they may not have the right skipper. A lot of the blame falls on Dombrowski, who handed the Ferrari keys to a guy who’d never driven before. Why wouldn’t the Tigers pursue someone who’d had success in some other organization? Honestly, would Ozzie Guillen really have been much worse, baseball-wise?
Brad Ausmus is a nice, smart man who knows a whole lot about baseball. But as we’ve seen in the last month, those characteristics do NOT necessarily mean you’re a good manager. Ausmus has time to turn it around, but now he must overcome the copious mistakes made by his team AND himself.