We've known for more than a week that former Tigers coach Lloyd McClendon would be returning from a two-year sojourn in Seattle to rejoin his former organization -- this time as manager of the Toledo Mud Hens rather than a member of current manager Brad Ausmus' MLB staff. The team made its minor league coaching staffs official on Wednesday.
You can admit the first thought in your head was probably, The Tigers are keeping him nearby just in case they have to fire Ausmus midway through the season.
It was the first thought in mine.
Tigers GM Al Avila says you're wrong. And he's right.
"Hiring McClendon has nothing to do with Ausmus, to tell you the truth," Avila said during an appearance on MLB Network Tuesday. "I mean ... it's kinda ridiculous, but I guess people can speculate all they want."
The reason Legendary Lloyd is back in the Tigers organization is actually a pretty simple one: It made the most sense for everybody involved.
McClendon wanted to stay in the game
Sure, McClendon could have sat around collecting a paycheck after being fired by the Mariners before his contract expired. He cold have sipped sangria and enjoyed the easy life. He could have tried to transition into television. Or he could mope around his house annoying his family and yelling at the TV set from his recliner during every pitching change like the rest of us. Who would blame him?
Instead, he chose to be a little more productive with his time and to remain in the game he enjoys, while (he hopes) showing why he deserves another crack at being a big league skipper. And since the Tigers had an opening in the high minors, it made smart career sense for him to take it.
The Tigers wanted a familiar face
It was a smart move for Detroit, too. As Avila points out, bringing McClendon back makes sense because 1) They get a guy with a familiar name to fans who might sell some tickets -- hey, he literally steals bases. And 2) They bring in someone who served under manager Jim Leyland (an advisor to the franchise) and who knows the organization (both staff and quite a few players).
Why wouldn't the Tigers want to bring back someone so familiar with what they do like that? Would bringing someone from outside the organization or promoting a manager from lower down make more sense? No.
And hey, someone else is paying the bill!
This isn't about lighting a fire under Ausmus
It's easy to think that McClendon is just biding his time in Toledo until Avila decides he's had enough of Ausmus. But the fact of the matter is, if Avila truly felt like he didn't have confidence in Ausmus, he'd have gone in a different direction already. You don't put a $190 million payroll together and then bring back an unpopular manager (possibly against the owner's wishes) without feeling pretty darn confident he can do the job.
If Avila didn't have faith in Ausmus, he could have hired any number of available experienced managers after the season was over. So he didn't bring in McClendon to sit around as an insurance policy.
Avila was being truthful when he said finding a spot for McClendon in the organization has nothing to do with Ausmus and just made the most sense for the Tigers.
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