I want to say right off the bat that I’m not going to die on my sword for Tigers’ Manager Brad Ausmus. No playoff wins in 3 full years, only one playoff appearance during that time, and a tumultuous roller coaster of ups and downs that have virtually culminated in, well, nothing. I suppose “nothing” is too harsh. How about “mediocrity”? And if something doesn’t happen soon, this team will be mediocre at best for the foreseeable future. I would argue that firing Ausmus may not be the answer.
Yes, all Tiger fans have the right to be angry, disappointed, sad, furious. But let’s get a few things straight — don’t be mad about the events that are transpiring now surrounding this team. The sweep at the hands of the Mariners, the hapless starting pitching, the horrific bullpen, the lack of offense? That’s right — you can’t be mad about those things. That’s baseball. Miguel Cabrera can’t get around on a fastball, Victor Martinez can’t run or hit anymore. We all saw this coming a year ago, and that’s why so many screamed and hollered for GM Al Avila to sell at the trade deadline last season. The writing was on the wall. The future didn’t look good so sell off parts that will get the rebuild going as quickly as possible. If that happened last July, we wouldn’t be having this discussion now. (And maybe you’d even be in position to keep J.D Martinez.)
If you want to be mad about something, be mad that Brad Ausmus has been given all of 3 (give or take) legitimate options to go to in his bullpen; be mad that it took an irregular heartbeat to get Victor Martinez out of the 4-hole; be mad that the team is still handcuffed with contracts to veterans who are too slow, too old, or too inconsistent; be mad that we as fans were told the team was going to dump payroll over the winter only to come into Spring Training with the same players — only now they’re a year older, a year slower, and a few years past their championship window.
If you want to place blame, send all hate mail to Al Avila.
I get it — fans want blood, they need a face to hate and be angry with. Ausmus is the easy target — not that he doesn’t deserve a fair amount of blame. So go ahead and put his head on a stick and hold it up in the air so fans can feel what ever feelings his firing will invoke in them. It’s irrational mostly — but, like I said, I’m not here to defend Brad Ausmus.
I will make this point, however: firing Brad Ausmus doesn’t change anything. Stick the interim tag on Omar Vizquel or Lloyd McLendon and see if that “lights a fire” under this team. Fine — good luck. Whether it’s Ausmus or anyone else at the helm, they aren’t going to change the roster that they are saddled with. So firing Ausmus now or in 3 months really is inconsequential in my opinion.
If you want to make a real move — a serious move that goes beyond just giving the fans something to hoot and holler about with an Ausmus beheading, then fire Avila. Now. You say how’s that any different than firing Ausmus? You ask can’t the same arguments used for keeping the manger around until October also be used for keeping Avila around for the remainder of the season? I say no.
Avila has had the chance to get this roster straight. He had all winter to find and sweet-talk other GMs into taking Justin Verlander’s contract or Cabrera’s. He could have gotten a deal done to get the contract of Ian Kinsler off the books. He could have set the roster up to either pay J.D. what he’s going to command as a free agent or Avila could have decided to trade him and get prospects that could help solidify the farm system. He had plenty of time, but he failed to do anything that even partially helped this team out. And now Brad Ausmus, the players, and we, the fans, are the ones paying for it.
Give the interim title to assistant GM David Chadd or Scott Bream, who heads up player personnel. Maybe neither get the power to make any significant changes to the roster this season (that’s for Chris Ilitch to decide), but neither could do any worse than Avila.
Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed, @brian22goodwin.