Posted on October 5, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
Despite falling two games short of the second wild card spot in the American League this year, the Detroit Tigers plan to bring back manager Brad Ausmus in 2017. The team has not confirmed the decision, but The Detroit News is reporting that the Tigers have decided to exercise Ausmus’ option for the 2017 season, bringing him back to manage the club for a fourth season.
In just three years as a major league manager, the 47-year old Ausmus has already had quite a range of highs and lows. In his first season in 2014, he led the Tigers to the AL Central Division title, only to get swept in the ALDS. Detroit then took a big step backwards in 2015, finishing last in the AL Central, leading to speculation that Ausmus could be fired. But Ausmus returned this season and nearly led the Tigers to a wild card spot after a late-season push, only to lose on the final game of the regular season and come up a little short.
At this time last year, there was a faction of Detroit’s fan base that was calling for Ausmus to be fired following a last-place finish. However, Tigers GM Al Avila stood by Ausmus, who had big shoes to fill when he was first named manager. Ausmus took over for the legendary Jim Leyland, who had led the Tigers to three straight division titles to close out his tenure with the team.
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After Sunday’s loss to end the regular season, Ausmus expressed his desire to come back to manage the team next season. “It’s a team that’s got a chance to win. We’ve got good young pitching. We’ve got a bona fide ace at the top (Justin Verlander) and we’ve got good young pitchers that are going to grow and get better.”
As Ausmus mentioned, behind Verlander the Tigers have young and promising pitchers in Matt Boyd, Daniel Norris, and Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Michael Fulmer. The Tigers also signed Jordan Zimmermann to a long-term contract before the season, only to see Zimmermann struggle to stay healthy for much of the year. Much of Detroit’s starting lineup will also remain in tact for 2017, giving the Tigers plenty of continuity and a realistic chance to compete at the top of the AL Central if they can receive a little more luck with regard to injuries.
Ausmus also appears to have the support of his players. “From my point of view, if he’s our manager next year, then he’s our manager — there is no sense in second-guessing it, or in thinking someone else could be better,” said second baseman Ian Kinsler after Sunday’s loss. “We’ve got the guy who’s been here for three years. He was new to the job three years ago. He’s gained experience. He knows this team. He knows the players. It’s not my position to second-guess it.”
After a strong second half to the season, sticking with Ausmus as the manager seems like the right move for the Tigers to make. With the core of the team coming back and a slew of young players who are poised to improve in the years to come, Ausmus and the Tigers have a chance to be one of the best teams in the American League in 2017.