Tigers interview Ausmus to fill skipper role
Padres special assistant who played for 18 years would be first-year manager
DETROIT -- Brad Ausmus has neither managed nor coached in the big leagues during the three seasons since his 18-year playing career ended. On Monday, he was at Comerica Park, talking about why his first shot should be at the helm of the Tigers, who have won three straight American League Central titles and have had to debate whether falling two wins shy of this year's World Series constituted a disappointing season.
The fact that the Tigers were listening says a lot about how highly Ausmus is regarded among managerial candidates.
The Tigers made Ausmus the third person to interview for their managerial opening on Monday, resuming their search for Jim Leyland's successor with a new style of candidate. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski interviewed Ausmus after receiving permission from the San Diego Padres, with whom Ausmus works as a special assistant in baseball operations.
"I enjoyed meeting and discussing the Tigers with Dave and his staff," Ausmus replied in a text message. "I felt like it went well."
Ausmus' only managerial experience at the pro level was for Israel's team in the qualifying round of this year's World Baseball Classic. But his career behind the plate, including three seasons in Detroit, and his Dartmouth education are seen as a foundation. Those who know Ausmus from his playing and post-playing days rave about his interpersonal skills.
"Great mind for the game," one AL official said, "and an ability to communicate in layman, PhD, management terms. … Low-energy look, but a fierce competitor, humorous but tough, all lends to an ability to find everyone's button that needs to be pushed."
Former Tigers great Travis Fryman, who played with Ausmus during his first Tigers stop in 1997, described Ausmus as a "very bright guy. "I've certainly heard his name the last couple years in manager discussions. Certainly, catching prepares you, to a large extent, so I think Brad would do an excellent job for anybody interested in him.
"We seem to see a trend in baseball toward younger managers. A lot of it, I think, is your presence, how you impact people around you. A lot of the decision making today is a little more predictable with sabermetrics. … Certainly, Brad is a very intelligent guy. He's a Dartmouth graduate. I think Brad would be a strong manager."
The consideration of Ausmus, who will turn 45 in April, contradicts Dombrowski's remarks last week about previous managerial experience being a plus, but others have suggested an experienced bench coach could help Ausmus make up for that deficiency. Among the candidates for that role could be current Tigers bench coach Gene Lamont, who got to know Ausmus while coaching with the Houston Astros for three seasons under then-manager Jimy Williams.
"There's been a new sort of trend in recent years where there have been some guys that have not managed that have come in and managed," Dombrowski said last week. "So I can't say that I would eliminate that, because I think it's very important that you look at each and every case and get the best person possible. Is it likely the person has managerial experience to some extent? Yes. Is it for sure? I don't know that."
Ausmus interviewed for the manager's job with the Nationals, who are reportedly poised to announce the hiring of D-backs third-base coach Matt Williams as their managerial choice after the World Series. Still, Ausmus would be coming into a win-now job where an adjustment year is not really an option.
The Tigers are expected to interview another Padres product, Rick Renteria, in the coming days. CBSSports.com and MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported that Renteria should interview at some point this week.
Renteria, who will turn 52 in December, has been on the Padres' coaching staff for the past six seasons, the last three of which he's served as manager Bud Black's bench coach. Renteria, too, managed in the World Baseball Classic, leading Mexico's club. He also managed for five years in the Padres farm system and four in the Marlins organization while Dombrowski was the GM there. Renteria has drawn a lot of buzz for the Cubs' managerial opening since interviewing in Chicago, and he interviewed for the Mariners' job last week.
Add Ausmus and Renteria to a list consisting of Lloyd McClendon and Tim Wallach, both of whom interviewed last week, and the Tigers are up to four candidates for Leyland's old gig. Of those four, McClendon is the only one who has managed in the Majors before.
The Tigers have plenty of time for more interviews before making their decision. So far, however, this is a different interview field than many would have expected when Leyland announced his retirement a week ago.