By: Will Burchfield
If Brad Ausmus can follow the managing path of Joe Torre, Tigers fans will like the destination.
In some ways, Ausmus is already on his way.
“He’s one of the guys in the dugout who doesn’t get overly emotional,” Tigers GM Al Avila said on Thursday. “He’s more like a Joe Torre type of guy.”
Ausmus is entering his fourth season as Tigers manager after the team decided last October to exercise his 2017 option. He has a record of 250-234 in Detroit, but has often been criticized by the fans for his perceived sense of apathy.
“He’s very quiet, you don’t see him go ranting and raving — although you did see him last year one time,” Avila said, “and I think everybody enjoyed that.”
In an uncharacteristic outburst during the Tigers’ early-season struggles, Ausmus stormed onto the field and unleashed a profanity-laden tirade on umpire Doug Eddings after Eddings had ejected him for arguing balls and strikes. The skipper then removed his sweatshirt and draped it over home plate before before stalking off the field and hurling his hat to the ground in disgust.
It was a rare glimpse into his competitive spirit, and Avila had a message for Ausmus afterward.
I did tell him, ‘You know, if you do that once a year, I think you’d satisfy everybody,'” Avila laughed. “But you can’t do that too often because it’s going to cost you a lot of money. I think it cost him $5,000 and a (one-game) suspension.
The payoff – for a while, anyway – was that it revealed the fire beneath Ausmus’ cool exterior.
Torre was known for the same measured demeanor during his days as a manager. If he was questioned for it early on, his four World Series titles with the Yankees put the discussion to rest. Therein lies the dilemma for Ausmus. His levelheaded ways are viewed through the lens of his team’s results.
Part of the reason Avila decided to bring Ausmus back for the 2017 season was the way he handled the team through an injury-riddled campaign in 2016.
“I attribute a lot of our success last year to him putting together the pieces he had left in order to move forward and win some games at the end,” Avila said.
More than that, though, Avila’s faith in Ausmus is founded on the skipper’s growth.
“Brad, at this stage of his career, has improved so much from his first year. It’s night and day, and I think he’ll tell you that,” said Avila. “What he’s learned over the years and what he’s gone through, you can’t do anything but learn and get better.
“He’s grown tremendously as a manger, he brings a lot to the table and the players really respect him.”