Posted on September 22, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
Baseball has its first managerial casualty of the 2017 season, and it’s Detroit Tigers skipper Brad Ausmus. Tigers GM Al Avila announced Friday that Ausmus would not return for the 2018 season. He was not under contract for next season. Ausmus and the rest of the coaching staff will be allowed to finish out the rest of the season.
“As we transition the ballclub in a new direction, I feel it’s best we have a new approach and a fresh start with the manager position,” Avila said. “Brad has done an admirable job under, at times, difficult circumstances — especially this season — and we appreciate his professionalism and dedication to the Tigers the past four years.”
Ausmus had two separate stints with the Tigers during his 18-year career as a player. He replaced the legendary Jim Leyland as Detroit’s manager following the 2013 season. However, he was hired by former GM Dave Dombrowski, not Avila. At the time, Ausmus had no experience as a major league manager.
In his first season at the helm in 2015, Ausmus led the Tigers to an AL Central title. However, the club went from first to worst in the AL Central the following season. Last season, the Tigers finished second in the division and a few games out of a wild-card spot, which was enough for the club to pick up the 2017 option on Ausmus’ contract. However, the Tigers have not been relevant in the playoff race this year and are in danger of finishing last in the division.
While the Tigers began the 2017 season with playoff hopes, the team’s struggles during the second half of the season can hardly be blamed on Ausmus. Avila has already started what appears to be a massive rebuilding project in Detroit. Earlier this summer, the Tigers traded away Justin Upton, J.D. Martinez, Justin Wilson, and long-time ace Justin Verlander.
Ausmus not being retained for 2018 is less an indictment of the job he did and more of a judgment from Avila that he is not the right manager to lead the Tigers through the long rebuilding process. Despite losing more than 90 games this season, things could get worse before they get better for the Tigers.
Avila says that the search for a new manager is already underway. However, this will be the first time Avila hires a manager as the GM of a team, so what he values in a manager is unclear.
“We plan to keep an open mind in considering current members of the coaching staff for positions in 2018, but that will be in conjunction with the manager we hire,” Avila said in his statement.
Of the current coaching staff, hitting coach Lloyd McClendon and bench coach Gene Lamont both have previous managerial experience in the big leagues. First base coach Omar Vizquel is also an intriguing name, although he has never served as a manager before.
As for Ausmus, it’s unclear whether he’ll be considered for another managerial job in the near future. As a former major league catcher, he certainly fits the profile. However, he currently holds a .490 winning percentage as a manager. Some will say that the Tigers were too talented to have only made the playoffs once in his four years at the helm. His baseball future may be bright, but at the moment, there is great uncertainty.