By: Will Burchfield
Toward the end of last season, with his future in Detroit uncertain, Brad Ausmus wasn’t afraid to say he hoped to return.
He believed the Tigers had the makeup of a contender and wanted another chance to guide them to the playoffs.
Things are much different a year later.
Ausmus, whose contract expires at the end of this season, all but refuses to talk about his future. He won’t even say whether he’d like to come back.
“I’ve been asked that before,” the Tigers’ manager said on Wednesday morning. “I’m not getting into it.”
The outlook has shifted dramatically. Ausmus wouldn’t be returning to preside over a team with playoff aspirations. He’d be assuming control of a rebuild that’s only just begun.
As to whether or not he’d welcome that opportunity, Ausmus has only said, “I think there’s a lot of upside to young players. Experience is great, but there’s a lot of upside to young players because of the enthusiasm and energy and the will to learn.”
That Ausmus, 48, declines to reveal his desires isn’t necessarily evidence that he doesn’t want to return. In fact, he agreed with the idea that he’s better suited to manage the young team before him than the veteran one he inherited in 2014, when he had no managerial experience
“I think you could make that argument, yeah,” Ausmus said.
But it feels like a decision has already been made. Ausmus may be aware of it himself. He was open about his desire to return last year, when it seemed pretty clear the Tigers were going to pick up his option. Now, with another tour of duty unlikely, he won’t even entertain the idea.
Ausmus himself believes his fate has been sealed.
“I would imagine,” he said. “I mean, Al’s known me for four years.”
Could Avila’s decision be swayed by anything that happens in the final two weeks of the season?
“Nah, I wouldn’t think so,” said Ausmus.
Avila told The Athletic on Wednesday he has not made a decision on Ausmus’ future. But in all likelihood, Ausmus is at the end of the road. He issued a veiled farewell to Tigers’ fans last week and seems accepting of the fact he won’t be back. Discussing the team’s future batting order on Wednesday, for 2018 and beyond, Ausmus said, “The manager will have to figure out where they all hit.”
He grinned as he made this comment, knowing its implications. He also pointed out he made similar remarks last year. But his approach to the matter is otherwise vastly different.
It’s no longer another shot he’s hoping for, just a peaceful departure.