For the past eight years, the Detroit Tigers employed one of the most quotable, loquacious managers in baseball with the always crusty Jim Leyland. Since Brad Ausmus took over in November, it's been hard to get a read on his personality considering baseball's dead period fueled his lack of media involvement.
With one quick quote on Tuesday, though, Ausmus proved why he could become the next Leyland or perhaps even Sparky Anderson in terms of humor, wittiness and media presence. Figuring a guy like Ausmus starting his first season in a pressure-packed job would be nervous, the media questioned him on his feelings prior to spring training.
"It makes me nervous that I'm not nervous," Ausmus said. "I don't know why. Just driving here. I've spent more than half my spring trainings in this area. It was very familiar. Driving down I-4. I'm staying in a place I stayed in when I played."
It makes Ausmus nervous that he's not nervous? Try wrapping the brain around that quote. Hello Sparky, meet yourself reincarnated in the form of a catcher with a razor sharp wit and sense of humor. If pressed, Ausmus would probably agree with Anderson when he admitted he "couldn't believe they pay us to play baseball—something we did for free as kids!" Or, that "a baseball manager is a necessary evil." The game has been screaming for an updated version of Yogi Berra for some time, and Ausmus looks to be a fit for the role.
Fact is, Ausmus is off to a good start before spring training has even begun with his relaxed nature and ability to crack a joke. The most successful managers in Tigers' history have a common thread: each were great communicators who could keep the pressure of the job in perspective by mixing in some humor. Managers such as Anderson, Leyland and even Mayo Smith, who had his run ins with players and fans, but always had a creative way of communicating his feelings. Once, Smith didn't want to get into a "spitting contest with a skunk," and though his Tigers eventually won the World Series, Smith left town with the notion that "Detroit baseball fans couldn't tell the difference between baseball players and Japanese aviators." Ouch.
Managing this particular Detroit team, which came within an eyelash of a second straight World Series appearance and is being counted on to do big things again, will not be for the jumpy or intense. Ausmus's humor and calm, witty nature will benefit him as much in September as it will in February. Keeping things in perspective will be key, and the Tigers need someone who can laugh at the somewhat unbelievable things that happen in a 162-game grind. Ausmus, more than likely, will have to continue to poke fun at himself along the way, too.
Give Ausmus a few more months on the job in front of the scribes and television cameras. He might agree with Anderson that the Tigers are the best team in baseball, but of course, not by much. In Leyland parlance, he might even be glad he took the job, while hoping he still felt that way come August, of course.
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