Five Wishes for the Detroit Tigers in 2014
5. Detroit Tigers Fans Give Brad Ausmus A Chance
If you’ve followed the Detroit Tigers with even mild interest for the last year or two — and chances are if you’re reading this blog, you have — then you’re aware that it was impossible to go five minutes without someone, somewhere advocating for the team to fire Jim Leyland. Despite three straight appearances in the ALCS (and one World Series appearance), the aging skipper had lost the trust of much of the fan base.
Some of the criticism was justified and some of it wasn’t, but Tigers fans were (very nearly) as partisan as the United States Senate. There was the anti-Leyland crowd: when the team lost it was his fault and when they won it was always despite the manager. And there was the pro-Leyland crowd: he’d brought darn near as much success in eight years as the team had seen in the 45 years previous. It had become a stalemate, and neither side was going to win much more ground.
But then Jim Leyland announced his retirement following the season, and both sides were mostly satisfied. One side that the successful manager was able to leave on his own terms, and one side that the old voice was finally yielding to a newer one.
Brad Ausmus was hired to take over: a young-gun hopefully capable at looking at the post with fresh eyes, but also a former player, a gritty catcher who will respect the game. Hopefully the partisanship can end here. The Tigers are still built to win — and they’ll surely be the favorites again in the central — but Ausmus needs to be afforded the luxury of making a few mistakes along the way. The Ausmus hire was a hire for now — Mike Ilitch and Dave Dombrowski won’t be giving up on a chance for a ring — but it’s also a hire for the future. For an organization who will have to figure out how to contend while transitioning from a Miguel Cabrera–Justin Verlander led team to one led by (perhaps) players currently unknown.
The expectations for the new manager will be high, but they also must be realistic. Ausmus will be expected to win with the club right away, but he can’t be expected to be perfect. In order for Ausmus to lead the Tigers to long-term success, he must be afforded the luxury of short-term failure.
But this leads us to wish #4…