By: Will Burchfield
The Tigers have identified their next manager.
Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the team intends to hire Ron Gardenhire, “pending the completion of a contract.”
Gardenhire, 59, spent the 2017 season as the Diamondbacks bench coach. His last tour as an MLB skipper came with the Twins from 2002 to 2014.
Over that span, Gardenhire won one AL Manager of the Year Award (2010) and fives times finished second. He routinely coaxed winning records out of undermanned teams.
According to The Athletic, Tigers general manager Al Avila preferred Gardenhire because of his experience. The team’s previous skipper, Brad Ausmus, was hired in 2014 having never managed a game at any level.
At the outset of the Tigers’ search for Ausmus’ replacement, Avila said, “He certainly has to have managerial experience, in my opinion, in the minor leagues or coaching experience in the major leagues.”
Avila added he wanted a manager with the enthusiasm to take on a potentially arduous rebuild. The Tigers lost 98 games last year, and things are likely get worse before they get better.
“I know one thing,” Avila said. “I would like to get a guy that has the energy to get through the process because it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be a long process, a hard process, a trying, grinding process, and you want somebody that has the kind of energy that can get through that.”
Gardenhire is a curious choice for the Tigers, if only because he’s considered a skeptic of analytics. The Tigers already lag behind most teams in this department, and they’ve made a concerted effort in the past year to close the gap.
It should be noted that former Twins GM Terry Ryan is on record defending Gardenhire’s fluency in analytics. Of course, Ryan is the same GM who later fired Gardenhire after the 2014 season.
Avila promised an “extensive search” for the Tigers’ next manager, and The Athletic reported the team began with a list of 50 candidates before whittling it down to 10.
Interviewees included Astros bench coach Alex Cora, Rockies bench coach Mike Redmond and Marlins third base coach Fredi Gonzalez, as well as in-house candidates Dave Clark and Omar Vizquel.
The Tigers opted to part ways with Ausmus in order to lend the organization a new voice as it changes course.
“The conclusion is, let’s just take a brand-new road and open up to new things. We felt that it’s a new beginning, a fresh start and we’ll have fresh leadership as we move forward,” Avila said.