Tigers Get Their Man: Club Introduces Ausmus As Franchise’s 37th Skipper

New skipper, Brad Ausmus, addresses the media.

New skipper, Brad Ausmus, addresses the media.

After a thorough search that began in the final month of the Tigers’ season, when Jim Leyland informed general manager Dave Dombrowski he would be stepping down at the end of the season, Dombrowski presented his successor to media and fans on Sunday afternoon.

Brad Ausmus, a former Tiger catcher and owner of an 18-year big league career, was formally introduced in a press conference roughly half a day after rumors began swirling about Ausmus’ impending hire late Saturday/early Sunday. Ausmus, who spent parts of 2 1/2 seasons in Detroit as a player, spoke to the media and answered some questions, ranging from his choice of jersey number to his thoughts on sabermetrics to whom he’ll tab to be his bench coach.

More after the jump

Although Ausmus was seen as a somewhat risky choice as the Tigers’ next manager, given his relative youth and lack of managerial experience, Dombrowski stressed repeatedly that Ausmus is an “exceptional” person with strong communication skills, and is extremely intelligent (Ausmus attended Dartmouth and completed his degree in 1991). Dombrowski was also quick to cite the changing landscape of the game; teams, more and more, are turning to relatively young, inexperienced managers to lead their ballclubs. Young guys are seen as less likely to get stuck in a “rut” as older, veteran managers are, and may be better able to relate to today’s clubhouse.

What Ausmus lacks in MLB managerial experience he makes up for with his knowledge of all facets of the game. Ausmus pointed out that he was basically doing his own in-game managing during his playing career as a catcher. He had to be on top of things with the rotation and bullpen, and was also involved in the day to day grind as a position player.

Given how Dombrowski stressed that some managerial experience was preferable—though not necessary—Ausmus had to have wowed the Tigers’ front office. One got the impression from Dombrowski’s comments that while he went into the interview with an open mind, he was blown away by Ausmus. Dombrowski vetted the former Tiger, with whom he wasn’t familiar, through friends and colleagues, past and present, such as Joe Torre, Phil Garner, Todd Jones, and Tony LaRussa, to name a few. LaRussa actually met with Ausmus for dinner in Chicago at Dombrowski’s request, and came away impressed.

Ausmus described himself as “sliding” toward being a player’s manager, and stressed the importance of being honest with the players. Ausmus doesn’t have a lot of familiarity with current Tigers players, though he has somewhat of a history with Prince Fielder. Ausmus’ familiarity with Fielder could turn out to be beneficial to the Tigers. He also said that he’d lean heavily on Alex Avila.

Ausmus joins a growing fraternity of former catchers who have taken managerial jobs in MLB. With the hiring, 9 of the 30 MLB teams are now helmed by a former Major League catcher.

With the manager now in the fold, the Tigers will soon kick off their offseason evaluations and meetings leading up to the Winter Meetings in Buena Vista, FLorida next month.

Video of Ausmus’ press conference can be found here.

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