Tigers GM: Ausmus to return next season
DETROIT -- Brad Ausmus is staying on as Tigers manager. General manager Al Avila announced Saturday that Ausmus and his entire coaching staff will remain in charge for next season, ending speculation surrounding the second-year manager's future.
"After almost two months of watching this team play, evaluating our staff and the manager, a lot of discussion with my staff -- David Chadd, John Westhoff, Scott Bream, Jim Leyland, Al Kaline, amongst others -- I've decided that Brad Ausmus should be our manager going into 2016," Avila said in a Saturday afternoon press briefing in the Tigers' dugout at Comerica Park.
Ausmus, hired in November 2013 by then-president and GM Dave Dombrowski, will be entering the final season of his three-year contract. No talks have taken place beyond that, but after a two-month evaluation by Avila, he has the front office's backing to get a chance to lead next season.
The decision came from Avila, he said, with support from owner Mike Ilitch, who named Avila as his GM in August.
"I know where the criticism is. My thing is I believe that Brad has the talent, the knowhow to lead and mentor the young players that are on this team," Avila said. "They've shown great improvement. Guys like James McCann, Nick Castellanos, Anthony Gose -- these guys have improved under Brad and his staff. We have a lot of young pitchers also that have improved. He also has the respect and the backing of the veteran players on this team. So that combination, to me, tells me that Brad is the right man to lead this team into next year."
McCann, in particular, has been a focus of Ausmus' teaching as the season has gone on. Ausmus has had him take on responsibility with scouting reports for pitchers going into series and game plans going into each contest.
The Tigers saw their four-year reign atop the American League Central end this season at the hands of the Royals. Their next loss will seal their first losing season since 2008 and officially eliminate them from AL Wild Card contention. It was a disappointing result for a team that had postseason expectations going into the year, even with the Royals' resurgence.
The struggles cost Dombrowski his job a month and a half ago. The challenge Avila faced was evaluating the struggles in light of the team Ausmus had to work with. Among the factors Avila cited were injuries to Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Joe Nathan, Bruce Rondon and Anibal Sanchez, along with the decision to trade away David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria at the end of July.
"I think if you see all the injuries that we've had, from Day 1, we didn't have a chance," Avila said. "This has been a flawed team coming out of Spring Training because of all the injuries."
Several veteran players said the same in defense of Ausmus' work over the past six weeks, including Cabrera, Castellanos, Alex Avila and Ian Kinsler.
That said, the way the Tigers have played down the stretch -- their postseason chances essentially over -- played a factor, Avila said. Despite an injury-riddled pitching staff, Detroit entered Saturday with a 12-11 record in September and a chance for its first winning month since April. Moreover, the Tigers are 8-5 since reports of Ausmus' impending dismissal came out two weeks ago.
"This team, as you've noticed, has not given up," Avila said. "They've played hard. They're continuing to try to win every game they can. They've never given up. … I know we've made some mistakes on the field, but some of those mistakes come when you have young players. Every team has that. The thing is, what do you do about that? I know from the inside, day in and day out, how those things are addressed. I know that we work on these things. I know we work on baserunning; I know that we work on every aspect of the game. I know how this organization, how these guys prepare, before every game.
"We have a system of preparing for every game. And it's a good system. And it gets followed through. I have every confidence that it will continue and this team will improve. If I didn't believe that, obviously, I wouldn't be making this decision. This decision was made based on what I think is best for this organization moving forward."