You know how when you’re in a relationship and it’s just not going anywhere? There’s not hatred or anger, really; it’s just run it’s course. Nothing new or exciting is happening, neither of you really care to share regular, everyday stories with each other anymore. By no fault of either person, the relationship is just over. The Tigers and Manager Brad Ausmus, it appears, have reached that point.
(Weiss/ Detroit Free Press)
It’s been an up and down 2-plus years with Ausmus at the helm. A 90-win inaugural managerial year in 2013 was marred by a sweep in the ALDS at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles. The postseason defeat was rather uneventful and even expected by many fans. The elimination brought to light bigger problems that critics, still today, hound Ausmus for – such as his in-game decision making and the use of his bullpen. That lackluster finish spilled over into the 2015 campaign as the team trudged through the year – an embarrassing year at times – to finish in the basement of the AL Central Division with just 74 wins.
This year has not started any better and the future doesn’t look all that bright – the defending champion Royals are in the division and the White Sox and playing well. Even the Cleveland Indians have been dominating the Tigers so far this season (6-0). My point is the team just might not be good enough to compete for this division and may not even be good enough to compete for a wildcard spot. If that’s the case, what’s the sense in continuing down this road? There are no signs of a turnaround within the clubhouse or on the field; and with every defeat, Ausmus’s seat only burns hotter. He’s admitted he’s “in the crosshairs”, and knows every press conference he holds after a game is the media’s chance to second-guess every decision he makes. And I’d argue that feeling has to impact his performance.
So the argument becomes is it worth it to fire the manager mid-season. Nine times managers have been fired within the first 81 games in the past 10 years and only once did that new manager lead that team to the playoffs during that season – Jim Tracy with the Colorado Rockies in 2009. And since 2000, a managerial change at any point during the season has an average impact of +0.021 as far as team winning percentage. The results beyond that season have varying degrees of success for the team and the new manager. For instance, when the Oakland A’s fired Bob Geren in June 2011, new manger Bob Melvin had similar results, as the A’s struggled all year. However, Melvin’s A’s made the postseason in each of the next 3 seasons.
So you fire the manager and what happens? In all likelihood, nothing – at least nothing immediately. So why all the talk? Why all the speculation? Why all the clamoring for Ausmus’s job? It’s these types of situations where it has nothing to do with statistics or possible outcomes or past history of what could or might work out. It boils down to the simple fact that a change is needed. I’m not big on making changes for the sake of making changes. And the thing is – Ausmus by all accounts is a very bright guy, has a sharp baseball mind, understands the game, is cordial with the media, and his players respect him. I’ve been a Brad Ausmus supporter since he was hired, and I continued to support him even when the team underachieved and struggled. I was in the minority last off-season when I opposed him being fired. But now it feels like it’s time. He hears the noise (it’s not whispers anymore) about his future. The media (aside from Fox Sports Detroit) is becoming more brazen in the questions they ask him during his postgame pressers. The players hear it all, too. And while they publicly supported their skipper all throughout the 2015 season, you wonder how long they will continue answering questions about his future this season. At some point, it has to become tiresome to them. It’s already become tiresome to fans.
We can debate all day and night over who should replace Ausmus – Omar Vizquel or Lloyd McClendon or Gene Lamont? But that’s not what this is about, even though it is a fair and reasonable question. This is about knowing when something is over, when it’s run it’s course and there is no more good that can come of the situation. That’s where the Tigers are at with Ausmus. It’s just time.