Rookie Manager Brad Ausmus On Hot Seat Tigers Passed on Vets Guillen and Baker

DETROIT – It's easy to manage when your team is winning.

Ask Detroit Tigers' rookie manager Brad Ausmus.

When the Tigers were 27-12 to start the season, many were ready to give Ausmus the American League Manager of the Year award. President/GM Dave Dombrowski was called a genius and the Tigers looked to be heading towards a big season.

Not so fast.

With less than 50 games to go in the season, many are now wondering if Ausmus was the right man for the job.

For sure, some fans must also be wondering what Ozzie Guillen or Dusty Baker are doing right now.

On Monday night, Ausmus' team, drowning in a sea of losses (15 in the first 25 games after the All-Star break), dropped to second place in the American League Central. Kansas City took over the division lead.

Ausmus' gig is just beginning. What happens from here on out will determine if the Tigers made a huge mistake hiring him or not.

There was a scene in Monday night's loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates that made you wonder who is in control of this veteran squad that has won the Central three straight years.

From the TV camera shot, it looked pretty obvious that Max Scherzer was going to pinch hit for Justin Verlander in the top of the second after JV gave up five runs in the first inning.

Then another pitcher, Rick Porcello, put on a batting helmet and grabbed a bat. So it appeared he was going to bat instead.

But Verlander wound up batting and then he was removed from the game with a right shoulder issue.

You can believe that if the Tigers had a veteran manager on the bench that you would never have witnessed such a Keystone Kops moment in the dugout.

Dombrowski rolled the dice, to say the least. At the time of Ausmus' hiring, this columnist wasn't onboard with a rookie managing a championship-caliber team.

It just made no sense.

Ausmus had never been a manager or a coach, for that matter, in the big leagues. Even worse, Ausmus, a former Tigers catcher, had never even held either of those jobs in the minor leagues.

Detroiters had seen this movie before. Both Buddy Bell and Alan Trammell were hired with no experience and both were disasters.

Dombrowski put his reputation on the line with this out-of-left field hiring. If this turns out to be a disaster – and it's a real possibly – Dombrowski will have to be held accountable for going with an inexperienced manager in a spot that demanded a proven skipper.

The Tigers, with the fifth-highest payroll in MLB, are ready to win.

Hence, the Tigers needed a replacement for Jim Leyland that would bring championship know-how and credibility to the clubhouse.

The Tigers had many choices to get that veteran skipper you need when the going gets tough.

Guillen, the former Chicago White Sox skipper, was out there. Former Philadelphia Phillies' manager Charlie Manuel, who won a title, was looking for work. Baker, who went to World Series with the San Francisco Giants, was available. All three were better choices than Ausmus.

Lloyd McClendon, the Tigers' former batting coach and former manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, was also interviewed. McClendon, who was hired by the Seattle Mariners this season, has done a good job thus far and has his team is in the playoff hunt.

The best man for the job, though, was Guillen. He would have given Detroit the strong leadership it needed, and would have been a seamless integration based upon the make-up of the Tigers’ clubhouse.

First, Guillen had a relationship with Miguel Cabrera, both of whom are Venezuelan. Second, the Tigers' roster is loaded with Hispanic players. Finally, and best of all, Guillen isn't afraid to call players out if they don't pull their weight.

In addition, Guillen won the World Series with the White Sox in 2005, ending the franchise's 88-year championship drought.

Guillen's resume is pretty impressive, but you can't say the same for Ausmus, 44, when it comes to managing. He played for four teams in the MLB, including two stints with the Tigers in 1996 and 1999-2000.

The Tigers' window to win a championship is closing. It seemed as if this team could win in 2014 with the right manager to lead the way. Now it's up in the air because no one knows what to expect out of Ausmus with the pressure resting squarely on him.

If Ausmus fails, it will be the worst decision Dombrowksi has made in his tenure with the Tigers since he gave Dontrell Willis that $29 million extension.

Detroit, and the rest of the league, will be watching.

Stay tuned.

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