Last season, we attempted to monitor the consensus of the fanbase -- or at least the portion that frequents this site -- towards second-year manager Brad Ausmus with a simple question: do you approve of the job he is doing? The results started out favorably enough, with his approval rating peaking at 92 percent after an 8-1 start to the season.
Opinions changed quickly, however, as the Tigers followed up the 8-1 start with an 18-19 record leading up to our next poll, in which Ausmus received only 38 percent approval. As the season wore on and the Tigers sunk to last place, Ausmus’ approval rating sunk with them, bottoming out at a mere 15 percent as the calendar turned to September.
Near the end of the regular season, stories broke that the Tigers would be fire Ausmus and replace him during the offseason. The team refuted the claim, and soon officially announced that Ausmus would return in 2016. We asked whether you thought retaining him was a good idea, and 62 percent disapproved.
However, these polls occurred during a miserable season that spawned a level of frustration and discontent from which most fans have since moved on. Spring is traditionally a time of unwavering, irrational optimism for baseball fans, and we’re in a completely different collective mindset than we were seven months ago.
So we want to get a baseline approval rating for the upcoming season. We ask you to reassess your opinions of Brad Ausmus, now that we’re more removed from the disappointments of 2015. Do you still disapprove of the job he has done?
We don’t have much new information on Ausmus since our last poll. He has stated that Francisco Rodriguez will serve as the team's closer (obviously), and Mark Lowe and Justin Wilson will share setup duties, depending on matchups. This might indicate that Ausmus is still over-reliant on strictly defined bullpen roles, and that past mistakes haven't taught him to be more flexible. Or it might just indicate a rough outline of how he plans to deploy the bullpen, in a very general sense. We really don't know.
He also asked Anthony Gose to attempt to bunt for a hit in every spring training game, which was met with some ire from the sabermetric-leaning side of the aisle. But it was really just a way of getting Gose to practice laying one down, a skill that may or may not come in handy, but certainly won't hurt to have. If he can actually bunt for hits during the season, rather than just sacrificing himself, no one can argue.
The regular lineup will likely feature Ian Kinsler and Justin Upton at the top of the lineup, followed by the predictable cast of mashers. Justin Verlander will start Opening Day in Miami on Tuesday while Jordan Zimmermann will get the home opener three days later. These developments are fairly minor, and it’s more important to remember his actions from the last two seasons -- both the good and the bad.
Like how a bad bullpen was made worse through mismanagement, or how the team continued to play hard during the months of meaningless baseball after the playoffs were out of reach. The actions of the past two seasons remain, but the emotions attached to them have dulled. While we’re looking forward to the upcoming season, let’s take a moment to look back with a new perspective. Have you changed your mind?