With Wally Joyner and Omar Vizquel joining the Tigers’ coaching staff, I’m left with nothing but a surging, optimistic excitement. This infusion of new blood is incredible, and Dave Dombrowski and Mike Ilitch should be given all the credit in the world for the moves.
First, to Mr. Ilitch, a commendation must be made: the man is still in “WIN NOW” mode, but he is trusting Dombrowski enough to bring in a rookie manager with no real connection to the franchise (outside of being Randy Smith’s security blanket) or any real managerial experience (outside of Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic, which is a step above a winning season in MLB: the Show) to helm this veteran squad. This took a huge amount of trust on Ilitch’s part.
Second, props to Dave Dombrowski for taking an out-of-the-box route on a new manager and coaching staff. With the Leyland Bunch nestled in since ’06, there hasn’t been that much change to the staff, aside of the switch from Rick Knapp to Jeff Jones as pitching coach in 2011. But now that another Old School guy is riding off into the sunset, Dombrowksi could have hired a retread. He could have given the job to McClendon or Lamont. He could have done a myriad of things far more comforting than bringing in a guy on his first managerial assignment, but he didn’t. Despite the success of Mike Matheny, doing something like hiring a rookie skipper takes a great big pair of brass cajones, and Dombrowski has shown time and again that he possesses that testicular fortitude.
It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: Brad Ausmus is a breath of fresh air. He is intelligent, defensively knowledgeable, and has a reputation as being a great teammate. I couldn’t be more excited about his hiring.
But these new coaches, highlighted by Joyner and Vizquel? This is bordering on damp-trouser territory. Joyner, with a career OBP of .362 and OPS+ of 117, did a commendable with the 07-08 San Diego Padres. Hopefully he can bring a bit more to the position than McClendon did, and as a left-handed hitter who walked frequently he should be able to work well with Prince Fielder.
And Vizquel brings a lot to the table as well: he served as a roving infield instructor with the Angels (which Joyner had been doing with the Padres), and when he wasn’t promoted to Mike Scioscia’s staff the Angels’ management knew it wouldn’t be long before he was snatched up somewhere else. Vizquel was one of the greatest defensive shortstops the game has ever seen, and now he’ll be sharing his knowledge and experience with Jose Iglesias, the best defensive shortstop in the game now. How can anyone who is a Tigers’ fan NOT be insanely excited?
This is all a knee-jerk reaction, of course. I have no idea how this will all shake out, nor do I have any idea how to assign concrete values to any of the new coaches. What I do know, however, is that it was definitely time for a change, and a veteran-laden squad can work so well with these new coaches, and maybe this will be just the right medicine for what ailed the three-time AL Central champs.