October 4, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Detail view of baseballs with the postseason logo before game one of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game between the Oakland Athletics and the Detroit Tigers at O.co Coliseum. The Tigers defeated Athletics 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The hiring of Brad Ausmus as the manager of the Detroit Tigers has led many comparisons to the St. Louis Cardinals’ hiring of Mike Matheny in the 2011-2012 offseason. There are striking similarities between these two men which is encouraging to many Tigers fans are probably had a pretty good influence on The Tigers’ hiring of Ausmus as the skipper. The Tigers’ front office and their fans are hoping that Ausmus can duplicate and better Matheny’s success in St. Louis which would end in a World Series Championship in Detroit. Here are a few of the similarities between the two managers:
Brad Ausmus is currently 44 years of age taking control of a Tigers team that had players that were as young as 21 in Nick Castellanos and as old as 38 in Torii Hunter. Matheny was 42 when he managed his first game in 2012 with the St. Louis Cardinals where he had players as young as 22 in Trevor Rosenthal and as old as 36 in Lance Berkman. The age of these managers lets them relate to their players better because they understand the routines, personalities, and trends of the present day which can be mistaken by an older manager. Ausmus only being 3 years removed from the game as a player allows him to even have played against present players and understand a lot more about how the players of today play on the field and act both inside and outside of the clubhouse.
Brad Ausmus went to school at Dartmouth College, a private Ivy League research university in New Hampshire. Mike Matheny went to school at the University of Michigan. Emotional feelings of the University of Michigan put aside, both of these schools are respectable academic institutions. Both of these managers are smart. Ausmus is a sponge for information and he absorbs everything that goes on during the game on the field and all of the statistics and data that is compiled. Ausmus knows how to use this data, even some sabermetrics which is foreign to Tigers fans. When asked about sabermetrics, Ausmus replied “I think there’s some value to some of that. I can tell you that players don’t like to be inundated with numbers.” He knows that sabermetrics can be used to a team’s advantage, but that they are not the end all be all of baseball. He will use the sabermetrics when he thinks the need to be used, and stay away from them at other times.
None and none. The Cardinals found that a manager does not need managerial experience to still be successful. Matheny has taken the Cardinals to the postseason each of the two season in which he has managed and to the World Series in 2013. The Tigers are in “win now” mode and they are using the same though as the Cardinals. When Dave Dombrowski was asked about experience and a manager, Dombrowski said, “Managing at the Double- or Triple-A level doesn’t really prepare you for managing up here like it used to.” Dombrowski went on to say that there is risk in bringing in any manager and the risk that they took on Ausmus would be the same risk that they would have had to have taken on any other manager.
The St. Louis Cardinals of 2012 and the Detroit Tigers of 2014 are very similar teams. The Cardinals won the World Series in 2011 just before Tony La Russa’s departure. The Tigers have been to the ALCS each of the past 3 seasons and gone to the World Series in once in that time. Ausmus is inheriting a team that has the capability of winning the World Series in 2014. He will have to put together a staff with experienced coaches that will help him manage this team. Gene Lamont will serve as Ausmus’s bench coach which provides stability to the team. Jeff Jones is probably the leading candidate to return as the pitching coach with how well that staff performed last season. I doubt Lloyd McClendon will return as the hitting coach. Ausmus will have the pieces to win the World Series, it is now his job along with Dombrowski’s to fill this coaching staff that will get the most out of this team.
Both of these managers were catchers in their playing careers. They are part of a list that includes 9 active managers that played in the Major Leagues as catcher that include Joe Girardi (New York Yankees), Clint Hurdle (Pittsburgh Pirates), Bruce Bochy (San Francisco Giants), Mike Scioscia (Los Angeles Angels), Bob Melvin (Oakland A’s), Eric Wedge (Seattle Mariners), and Mike Redmond (Miami Marlins). Eric Wedge also would be on that list, but was released by the Mariners and is currently a candidate for the Chicago Cubs. As a catcher, Ausmus understood the game better than anyone else on the field. Ausmus knew the weaknesses of the hitters that stepped to the plate. He understood his pitchers and what pitches to call in what situations. His pitchers trusted him with every pitch that was called. His pitchers liked him as their catcher. This translates well into managing. The players need to trust their manager and play for their manager. Ausmus brings all of this to the table, but the only way that we will know if this is a good hire or not will be seen at the end of next season.