5 positives, 5 negatives about Brad Ausmus’ tenure with Detroit Tigers

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Brad Ausmus reacts to the decision by the Tigers to decline to renew his contract for 2018, agreeing the team needs a ‘different voice.’ Recorded Friday, Sept. 22, 2017.
Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press

Free Press sports writer George Sipple looks at five positive ways he’ll remember Brad Ausmus and five negative ways he’ll remember Ausmus’ tenure as manager of the Detroit Tigers.

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Five positives 

The way Ausmus is going out: I asked him why he’s continuing to manage the remainder of this season and he said it’s because he’s under contract until the end of the season. Tigers general manager Al Avila said they would have done something different had Ausmus not agreed to manage the remainder of the season. He’s going out with class, smiling during the team photo sitting next to owner Chris Ilitch and Avila less than 30 minutes before the announcement was made he would not return for 2018. 

The first season: The Tigers finished 90-72 in 2014 with a manager who had no previous Major League managerial experience. Ausmus’ only previous managerial experience was coaching Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic in 2012. In the playoffs, the Tigers were swept in three games in the American League Division Series by the Baltimore Orioles. 

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Angry Brad: Ausmus was once so angry after his ejection that he took off his sweatshirt and covered home plate with it before leaving the field in a game May 16, 2016. Ausmus didn’t show a lot of anger during his four seasons, but on that night, it was clear he was hot at home plate umpire Doug Eddings, who had just called out Nick Castellanos on strikes in a game against the Minnesota Twins. 

Fulmer wins ROY: Michael Fulmer won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 2016 during Ausmus’ tenure as manager. Fulmer was 11-7 with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.119 WHIP with 132 strikeouts in 159 innings in 2016. He went 10-12 with a 3.83 ERA this season with 114 strikeouts in 164 2/3 innings before having season-ending elbow surgery. 

His humor: Ausmus often joked with me about his dislike for my social media polls and jokingly (I think) called me a glass-half empty kind of guy. When the players decided to have approved nicknames appear on their jerseys during the MLB Players Weekend last month, I mentioned “Fire” for the back of his jersey. Ausmus didn’t take the suggestion personally, and said “that would have been a good one.” He knew fans had often used the hashtag #FireAusmus on social media. 

“If you can’t make fun of yourself, who can you make fun of,” Ausmus said that day. “If I had thought of Fire Ausmus I would have done that.” 

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Five negatives

2014 ALDS: Ausmus, with no previous managerial experience in the majors, was outmanaged in the 2014 playoffs as the Tigers were swept by the Orioles. Ausmus certainly wasn’t helped by his bullpen. Joba Chamberlain gave up five runs (four earned) over one-third of an inning in two games and Joakim Soria gave up five runs over an inning of work in two games. He may always regret taking Anibal Sanchez, who had thrown two scoreless innings of relief, out of Game 2.

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Detroit Tigers General Manager Al Avila announced Brad Ausmus will not return at the team’s manager next season.
Detroit Free Press

Too much faith in veterans: I often thought Ausmus managed like he thought everyone should be treated like the 18-year veteran he was in the major leagues. Ausmus, to a fault, gave too much of a rope to veteran guys, just because they were veterans. Two examples of this? He waited way too long to move Victor Martinez down in the order this season. He allowed K-Rod to continue pitching in high-leverage situations when it was obvious he had nothing left in the tank.  

Falling short of expectations: The Tigers had too much talent to finish 74-87 in 2015 and 86-75 in 2016. It’s easy to second-guess and say the Tigers might have won more with a veteran-laden team if they had hired someone with more managerial experience. We’ll never know because the Tigers are going to be a young team struggling through a rebuild for the next several seasons. 

The long losing skids: The Tigers had long losing streaks in each of the past three seasons. The Tigers went through an eight-game losing streak in late-May and early June 2015. They went through a stretch where they lost seven in a row and 11 of 12 games in May of 2016 and had another eight-game losing streak in June of this season. Ausmus seemed too calm and cool during this stretches and wasn’t able to stop the losing skids sooner.

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Following Jim Leyland: Ausmus seemed to be on the hot seat from Day 1. At times he seemed to revel in it. He was supremely confident he knew more than everyone else. And he probably did, but he didn’t know enough to change his fate. 

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