In the introductory press conference, it was clear that president and CEO Dave Dombrowski felt he was hiring a manager for a new era. Ausmus, just a few years removed from his playing days, fit that bill, even if he didn’t necessarily have the managerial experience that the Tigers said they desired.
As Dombrowski said, “[Having a] manager with experience is a real nice thing to have, something we looked to have. Having said that, you need to be aware of contemporary times – there have been some managers that have managed in recent times that have been successful without managerial experience.”
That still doesn’t mean it was a slam dunk hire, as the Tigers will be handing the reigns over to someone who has never managed at the minor or major league level (he was the manager of the Israeli national team). As Dombrowski said, it was a consideration, but not the only one. “Every hire has some sort of risk attached to it.”
In a job search in which the Tigers interviewed last season’s hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach, Padres bench coach Rick Renteria in addition to Ausmus, he quickly emerged as the top candidate (Dombrowski said the club also had an interest in speaking with Hall of Fame player and former University of Michigan star Barry Larkin, however, he declined after deciding he wouldn’t be able to dedicate the time for the job).
Dombrowski put it succinctly when he was asked what sold the Tigers on Ausmus. “Frankly, when he interviewed, we were taken aback by how impressive he was. I asked Tony LaRussa to have dinner with him, and he said, ‘Dave I understand what you’re saying.’”
The Tigers interviewed Ausmus on Monday, and kept in touch with him throughout the week while conducting some other interviews. Talks intensified into Friday, and on Saturday, he met with Mike and Marian Ilitch before the Tigers formally offered him the job, which he accepted a couple of hours later after talking it over with his wife.
Ausmus clearly had a focus on working with the players on the team, and didn’t disagree with the characterization that he was likely to be a “player’s manager.”
One of the big questions now-a-days in the baseball world is whether or not someone falls into the stats vs. scouts side of the debate, a representation of the new age metrics-based approach that some organizations have embraced. Ausmus however refused to allow himself to be bucketed into either category. Said Ausmus; “I can tell you players don’t like to be inundated with numbers. I think if you can take some of that statistical information that you can grind down into some usable information, I think that can be important.”
As mentioned immediately in the press conference, long-time Jim Leyland coach (and former manager himself), Gene Lamont will be retained as the club’s bench coach. At this point in time, no other coaches have been retained or not, but Ausmus was specifically asked about pitching coach Jeff Jones, a favorite among the pitching staff, and said he was at the top of his list.
For now, the first, and arguably biggest item to solve for the Tigers this offseason has been done – the team has a manager, and will likely fill out the rest of the coaching staff in the coming days.
Now Dombrowski can turn to the rest of the roster that must be addressed, including key free agents, what to do in left field, and how to remake a bullpen that was shaky all season and a key piece of the team’s demise in the ALCS.