Brad Ausmus was introduced as the new Detroit Tigers manager during a news conference Nov. 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Staring out a window at the falling snow at Comerica Park Saturday afternoon, Brad Ausmus admitted he has fantasized about walking out of the home dugout March 31 against the Kansas City Royals as he makes his debut as manager of the Detroit Tigers.
“I’ve thought about it and every time I think about it, I imagine it being cold, so I immediately go somewhere else,” Ausmus said during at the club’s annual Tigerfest.
You could say after another playoff failure last fall the Tigers have decided to go somewhere else.
Somewhere new. Somewhere different.
Somewhere entirely unproven.
Not only has Ausmus, 42, never managed at any level of baseball it would appear that about the only thing he has in common with his successor, the retired Jim Leyland, is that both were catchers as players.
An Ivy League product from Dartmouth, Ausmus has GQ good looks and a baseball IQ that’s definitely not from the same school of thought as the chain smoking, curmudgeonly Leyland.
Asked to put forth his baseball strategy, without even trying, Ausmus let everyone know that things are clearly going to be going down a different path this summer in Tigertown.
“One general philosophy is put some pressure on the defence from an offensive standpoint, whether it’s on the bases, or at the plate,” Ausmus said. “Force the defence to make the plays.”
Leyland came from the Earl Weaver school of baseball. Station to station on the bases and wait for the three-run homer.
Clearly, Ausmus isn’t that patient and intends to pick up the pace.
“Sometimes it may cost you,” he admitted. “You might try to extend a single into a double, or go first to third when maybe you can’t quite make it, but overall, putting pressure on the defence gives you more opportunities to score runs.”
Now, all of this up-tempo talk would not be possible had the Tigers not convinced the Texas Rangers to take on portly Prince Fielder and the remaining seven years of his US $214-million contract.
Make no mistake the Tigers will miss the pop in Fielder’s bat.
“He didn’t have a good post-season, but he did have two good seasons for us,” Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski said. “He drove in 100 runs both years.”
Regardless, it was a move that had to happen. The Tigers needed to lose the crutch that was Fielder’s contract in order to fix what has prevented them from getting the job done in the playoffs.
By subtracting Fielder, they can move Miguel Cabrera back to first base, which will put less of a pounding on his body as he recovers from off-season hernia surgery. Adding second baseman Ian Kinsler and allowing third baseman Nick Castellanos the opportunity to become a big-league regular at his natural position will solidify the infield defence.
Outfielder Rajah Davis, the former Toronto Blue Jay, brings another much-needed requirement, speed on the base paths, allowing Ausmus to implement the type of game plan he prefers and one that Dombrowski seems generally excited to watch unfold.
“We’re more athletic,” Dombrowski said. “We’ll play better defence. We’ll score more from first base on base hits and extra-base hits more than we have in the past.
“We’re not as one-dimensional as we were in the past.
“We won’t have as much power, but we still have guys who can hit those gaps and we’ll have a lot of guys with double-digit home runs.”
It will be new. It will be different. But on a cold January day, the thought of these changes left the men who will implement them with a spring in their step and spring on their mind.
© Copyright (c) The Windsor Star