DETROIT — The repeated loss of Brad Ausmus’ cell reception during the Tigers’ conference call may have been an inconvenience but exercising his 2017 option was no hassle for general manager Al Avila. Ausmus, having been secured for the next season, has talked to his coaching staff, but Avila has not, and retention decisions have yet to be made.
During Wednesday’s conference, Avila addressed various sticking points of the season, why he opted to keep Ausmus, and the importance of fixing the baserunning and defensive issues that continue to plague the team.
“Just cutting ties because you didn't get into the postseason doesn't make the team better, and doesn’t mean that’s the right decision,” Avila said, addressing why he retained Ausmus, with the blessing of owner Mike Ilitch. “... You see how your manager handles them on a day-to-day basis, and he takes you through all the tough times and you’re still there at the end with a chance to get in.
“It’s not as simple as ‘Hey, you didn’t get in? You oughta whack the guy and move forward.’ It’s not as simple as that. If you feel that you can continue to get better, then you stay the course.”
Going with a one-year option rather than an extension also gives the Tigers and Avila flexibility, and the bigger focus for the team going forward is prepping for coaching, payroll, and other offseason decisions. Ausmus noted that he agreed with the decision to bring him back in part because of how well he and Avila work together, and their professional and personal relationship.
Had it not been for the relationship he and Avila share, and the trust they’ve developed, Ausmus added he wouldn’t have agreed to come back for 2017. Both agreed that the baserunning and defensive issues continue to be an issue for the club, and they’re going to have to figure out the best course of action.
Here are a few other thoughts from the conference:
Why not offer Ausmus a multi-year extension?
Avila: Well, in my opinion, I don't think that's necessary. I personally like the year-to-year at this time. The club itself can change from year to year, and things can change from year to year, so I think for our organization, having those options are good for us. And actually, I think it even works for Brad.
There's some managers, even in today's game, that work year-to-year, and there's managers in the past that have worked year-to-year. So, for me, what I'm comfortable with, I've spoken with Brad about it and he's comfortable with it. At this point there's really no reason for me or for Brad to think anything different.
What was involved in the conversation with Ausmus to retain him?
Avila: In talking to Brad, I did mention to him some of the things that I'd like to improve on. It just so happens that he and I were on the same page. And when I say improve, I mean things on the field. Obviously things that you guys have maybe noticed, as far as — we have to improve our defense in certain areas, we have to improve certain things with our baserunning. And it wasn't for a lack of practice or instruction. But as far as ideas of maybe doing things differently, which could even lead to change in personnel, because we also need to talk about our players moving forward and what we envision and what we need to do.
Why does Ausmus (or does he) feel like he’s the best option for the team?
Ausmus: Well, first of all, that's Al's decision. He has to look at the club, and look at what I've done, and then decide whether he thinks I'm the person to lead this team. I obviously feel like I can. We fell short of the playoffs this year, but it was a team that a lot of people had left for dead. They continued to fight and play all the way to the last game of the season. I think I know the personnel now, I know the personnel much better than I did in my first year. I've gained experience over the three years I've been here, and I just think as a player improves over time, a manager improves over time with experience. I don't necessarily think that there's a better fit, that's Al's decision.
What’s your brief assessment of Rich Dubee after one season?
Ausmus: Well, I thought Dubes (Dubee) did an excellent job. He had to come in and learn a bunch of pitchers very quickly. He’s got a good rapport, I think because of experience with both veteran guys and young guys. I think, really, the proof is in the pudding.
What level of blame do you (Avila) assess to yourself for poor offseason signings and not making the postseason?
Avila: Of course, I take all the blame. Because at the end of the day, I make those decisions and you gotta put a lot of the blame on myself. So, the guy that we brought in and they didn’t perform or for whatever reason, that’s on me. Those are things that I gotta take blame for. But at the same time, you go and you see what the manager did with those guys and how he used them and how he got through the season with them. That’s even more reason to add on to say he did a good job and got through those tough situations.
The front office and Ausmus will iron out coaching, payroll, and other offseason directions in the coming weeks. Avila has yet to sit down with the coaching staff, and neither has Ausmus with the players to inform them of decisions. The end-of-season conference will take place in the near future to lay out the offseason ahead, but for now there is still plenty to finalize.