DETROIT – Baseball is pretty simple. It’s a numbers game.
Coming into Friday night’s game against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards, the Detroit Tigers had lost nine of their last 10 games.
The Tigers are 15-19, seven games behind in the American League Central.
But the real number is nearly $200 million. That’s the Tigers’ payroll for this season, fifth-highest in MLB.
Did we mention that the Tigers finished in last place last season?
This is why Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus won’t survive past the weekend if his team losses two or all three games left in their four-game series against the O’s.
The Tigers simply can’t afford for the fans to throw in the towel on the season before we hit June, before the kids get out of school and better yet, before it gets hot outside.
Fans will find other things to do rather than spend money at Comerica Park this summer. It’s economics. It’s baseball.
After the Tigers lost six in a row during this swoon, Ausmus was asked about his job status by the media. “I understand you have a payroll like ours, the manager is in the crosshairs,” he said. “That’s fine.
“I knew when I took this job that I’d probably get fired before I walked away from it. Not this job in particular, but just managing in general.”
And before you jump in and say, ‘Brad doesn’t pitch or hit, it’s the players’ fault,’ save it.
If a manger can win Manager of the Year WITHOUT hitting or pitching, he can get canned for his team NOT hitting or pitching. It makes total sense. It’s how it works in baseball.
Let’s face it. The Tigers have been bad under Ausmus for more than a season now.
The Tigers went out and spent big money in the offseason – Jordan Zimmermann, Justin Upton and Mike Pelfrey – and added major pieces to the bullpen.
Ausmus was supposed to have all he needed to win and give the Tigers a shot at winning the division and making the playoffs.
Instead, Ausmus – in the last year of a three-year contract – has turned into a million-dollar funeral director, overseeing a dead ballclub.
You can bet owner Mike Ilitch isn’t happy he bankrolled this team to the hilt.
Simply put, it’s embarrassing how bad this team is.
“It just seems like every day, it’s one part of our game that isn’t clicking and it costs us the game,” Ausmus said. “Today, it was the bullpen. Sometimes it’s been the hitting, sometimes the starting pitching.”
For whatever reason, Ausmus hasn’t been able to get this team righted. That’s what he’s paid for.
The notion that the manager of a baseball team doesn’t deserve any blame is simply dumb.
First, if a manager didn’t matter, no team would have one. Players would just play and that would be it.
Managers matter. That’s why most get fired during the season. Don’t forget former Tigers’ president Dave Dombrowski fired manager Phil Garner after the team started the season 0-6 in 2002.
If the Tigers are honest about the job he’s done – or not done – they have to act to save the season before it gets away from them.
The players, of course, almost always stick up for their manager and accept the blame. It’s admirable, but lame.
“He’s not the one that goes out there and plays,” Tigers’ DH Victor Martinez said. “It’s our fault. It’s easy to blame the manager for this and that. I don’t think it has anything to do with the manager or somebody else. It’s easier to focus on the manager than to focus on the 25 guys that we have here.”
Still, let’s be honest. Many questioned why Ausmus, who had no previous managerial experience, was given a veteran club ready to win as his first gig.
The bottom line remains that the Tigers aren’t playing up to their potential. It’s not just one or two players. It’s across the board. That normally falls on the manager.
Last season, if people wanted to use injuries as an excuse for save Ausmus’ job, OK. This season, the Tigers are healthy. There’s no excuse. Especially when you consider the money already spent and the loot that can potentially be lost.