My breadth of knowledge on Brad Ausmus is limited. Surely the Ausmus Family rests content because of that.
The essentials: Light-hitting, defensive catcher who went to Dartmouth and played for over 15 years in Major League Baseball with the Astros, Tigers, Padres, and Dodgers. Known for being a baseball mind in the sense that the lower one’s career batting average, the higher accumulated baseball knowledge they posses.
The non-essentials: I saw him at a wedding this summer, but avoided conversation with him because the Vodka-and-Tonic Monster made an aggressive move on me. All I really wanted to know was whether Jeff Bagwell’s batting stance imitated his bathroom stance.
Major League Managerial Experience: No games.
Okay, Ausmus managed the Israeli national baseball team in the World Baseball Classic, but not a sniff of managing in the majors. No coaching experience in a growing trend for first-time major league managers.
I didn’t think about Ausmus as a potential manager going into the off-season until the Cubs decided to bring him in for an interview. You know that time Cubs fans? The one post-season move that provides the most sustained excitement for any stretch of time since their last playoff appearance in 2008. Even then, it was a series of “He’s not Girardi,” that marked each candidate’s most knowing trait.
Before the Cubs could make a move, whittle down the number of candidates, the Detroit Tigers did that for them. Ausmus was named to replace Jim Leyland. That’s when things changed.
Indifference became envy. “I hope he does well” became “How did the Cubs miss out on him?”
There’s no evidence to suggest Ausmus would be able to develop Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. No guarantee Jeff Samardzija becomes a consistent number two pitcher and not the one sheep drifting closer and closer to drinking out of the nuclear plant’s retention pond. Who can say with certainty that Ausmus could steady the roster when the annual late June/early July veteran sweepstakes ensues and players are shuttled out of town?
It just would have been nice. Nice since Detroit, with you know, post season success, believes he can seamlessly sustain the results left over from one of the best managers in the game. Nice that they believe Ausmus can handle stars like Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, and Prince Fielder. Nice that he can be thrown into a clubhouse oversaturated with veterans and chase the World Series that has eluded the Tigers.
Dave Dombrowski must have known something, something more than that Joe Torre once called Ausmus a “Smart Cookie,” or that the retired catcher went to Dartmouth, which one baseball writer claimed would beef-up his understanding of numbers. Not exactly a gamble of a statement since most of his contemporaries scratch themselves on demand and suffer through working outdoors in the summer.
There’s no saying the Cubs would have named Ausmus manager if he stayed on the market and someone else ended up with the Detroit gig. But (this theory sustains only in baseball and Motown revues) if he’s good enough for Detroit, he would have been good enough for Chicago.
Now there’s a sense of a yawn and a whimper with Rick Renteria. I fully know a manager’s impact on the game is primarily psychological and that Ausmus wasn’t the only one to lift the Cubs from the ruins of irrelevancy, but his hire had more appeal, and only after he left the market.
I didn’t want Brad Ausmus because he would have been a good fit for the Cubs. I wanted him because he was a good enough fit for a team that’s made two World Series and four American League Championship appearances since 2006.