Ausmus could be a 'great' manager, but can he be great right away?
The Tigers are hiring Brad Ausmus to succeed Jim Leyland as manager. Many who know Ausmus believe he'll be outstanding, but the Tigers need him to be outstanding from the start.
Everyone who knows Brad Ausmus believes he'll be an outstanding manager.
But is he ready to be outstanding right from the start?
He'd better be. Ausmus will be the next Tigers manager, sources confirmed to CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman late Saturday night. And the Tigers, who have been to the ALCS each of the last three years and will be among the favorites to go at least that far again, don't have time for someone to learn on the job.
Hiring Ausmus, who has never managed professionally (but did manage Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers), is a big gamble for a Tigers team that has been and will continue to be in win-now mode. Four or five years ago, I'd have called it a crazy gamble.
But is Ausmus any less prepared to manage a win-now team than Mike Matheny was when he took over a Cardinals team that had just won the World Series?
Matheny had no managerial experience. Like Ausmus, he was highly respected as a player, but had never even coached before taking over as manager. Then he took the Cardinals to Game 7 of the NLCS in his first year, and to Game 6 of the World Series in his second.
Prior experience hasn't kept him from succeeding, and those who know Ausmus the best believe that the same can happen with him.
"I have no doubt he'll be great," Randy Smith said, before he found out that Ausmus had the job in Detroit. "I'm as confident in him as I was when I hired [Bruce] Bochy."
Smith is a little biased, having long been an Ausmus fan. He traded for him three times as a player, once with the Padres and twice with the Tigers. More recently, he has worked with him in the Padres' front office.
But Smith isn't alone. Ausmus is so well regarded that he also interviewed with the Nationals and Cubs this year, and with the Red Sox last year.
Even before Jim Leyland announced his retirement at the end of the ALCS, people in Detroit were calling Ausmus one of the favorites to replace him. That very day, we listed him as one of the top candidates for the job.
Now he'll get the chance.
Some of Ausmus' friends in the game were hoping that he would land with the Cubs, figuring there would be less immediate pressure with a team that isn't supposed to win next year, anyway. But when the opportunity with the Tigers was there, Ausmus didn't want to wait to see what would happen with the Cubs.
Perhaps he preferred the Tigers' situation, anyway. I covered Ausmus as a player with the Tigers, and I know that beyond being well respected as a leader, he was always very competitive.
He wants to win, and the talent on the Tigers roster (along with owner Mike Ilitch's checkbook) will give him that chance.
The Tigers are taking a gamble, there's no doubt about that. But if you're going to gamble, why not gamble on someone who has a chance to be great?