As a first time manager, in his first official meeting with the media, it was clear from Brad Ausmus‘ body language that he wanted to make a point: this isn’t the same dog and pony show we’ve become used to in recent history. Instead of taking a laid back approach, with his feet up behind his desk, nearly lying down, Ausmus engaged the eager media from a perch on the edge of his desk; casual, yet intense. A pair of descriptors that contradict each other on the surface, but when mentioned together with Ausmus, somehow just seem to make sense. He’s quick with his wit, doesn’t shy away from making those with whom he’s speaking laugh, and yet there is no mistaking him for a clown. He’s dead-nuts serious about the opportunity he has with the Detroit Tigers this season, and it’s obvious to all even when he’s smiling wryly at his own one liners.
Chris Iott with MLive tweeted that he talked with Joba Chamberlain about the walk he issued to Ausmus during his playing days. When Iott spoke to Ausmus about Chamberlain’s dismay at giving away the base, Ausmus didn’t miss a beat, “Yeah, well, throw strikes. ” That tiny little sound bite is Ausmus in a nutshell. Direct and to the point, but in a way that doesn’t come off as over-bearing or mean. He tells it like it is, and you find yourself liking him more as you grin at his directness. This directness is key in Ausmus’ quest to find his place as the manager of club.
I can’t imagine how daunting it would be to address a group of your peers, who are sitting at a place where, not so long ago, you yourself sat, listening to a man who’s position you now find yourself in. To lead and inspire as a manager takes a different skill set than the one required as player leading teammates. But Ausmus is smart, not just book smart, but baseball smart, smart about dealing with people, and smart enough to take the pieces of the puzzle he’s been gifted and make a championship team.
And he’s long started building the puzzle the way it should be done, from the outside in. The team of coaches he assembled lends credit to his strong mind and innovative outlook. There is a balance of personalities, of old school and new school thinkers, of former star players and those with long time coaching experience, and those who aren’t afraid to speak their minds for the betterment of the team.
Ausmus didn’t take the easy way out, hiring all safe, veteran coaches for the same old look. In fact, he went completely out of the box in hiring Matt Martin for the unheard of position of Defensive Coordinator, who is tasked with keeping a keen eye on the Tigers’ defense as a whole. Pair that with the hiring of hitting coach Wally Joyner, Omar Vizquel to focus on the infield and base-running, Dave Clark to work with the outfield, and the decision to keep on Jeff Jones and Gene Lamont, and the outer edges of the puzzle are complete. The inner pieces needed to make a beautiful, championship photograph are all there, they just need to be pieced together properly.
Ausmus has surrounded himself with baseball minds that will aide him in assembling the (super talented)pieces in the right order, and he’s got the smarts to use them correctly. Ausmus may be a rookie manager, but my money is on him making us all forget that very soon.