A manager in baseball can only do so much. He's in charge of the lineup, pitching management and setting the overall tone in the clubhouse.
Are the Detroit Tigers mired in their miserable slump because of anything first year leader Brad Ausmus is doing? Many will argue that's the case, while the string of miserable pitching performances combined with inconsistent performances at the plate disagrees. Sometimes, a manager can't control everything, especially when he's not the one hitting
Many will contend that Ausmus should do something dramatic within the confines of the clubhouse to shake up the team. His predecessor Jim Leyland would often pull such a stunt within the media, routinely knowing the benefit of a well-placed tirade in perhaps getting the attention of a lackadaisical roster.
Yet, the calmer and more stoic Ausmus isn't that type of personality and never will be. In the midst of his frustration following the Tigers' 2-1 Wednesday defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Royals, Ausmus made his first rookie mistake in the press, perhaps trying to deflect questions about the team. When asked how he deals with the losing, Ausmus's attempt at a joking reply wasn't so funny.
"I beat my wife," he deadpanned to some nervous laughter. Big mistake. To his credit, Ausmus immediately realized his error and quickly apologized. Thursday morning, he wasn't feeling any less remorseful. "I wasn't trying to offend anyone, and if I did, I really am honestly sorry," he said before the game.
While that comment received all of the attention after the game in today's tabloid-driven world, both deserved and undeserved, after the game, it was another comment Ausmus made that should have resonated with the more serious baseball minds in Detroit.
"There's a lot of baseball left, ton of baseball left. Shoot, not only are we not out of it, we're in the thick of it," he said, referencing the idea that his Tigers, who have quickly fallen apart at the seams, might be playing their way out of contention early on. A day before, he admitted to being sick of the losing. Still, other than his misplaced attempt at humor, nothing Ausmus has said as it related to the team has been too high or low.
Yes, the Tigers have been bounced from first place in June, and yes, their performance since the middle of May has been awful in between the lines and out. However, as Ausmus himself pointed out, it's still plenty early. Additionally, Detroit's division will likely prevent them from truly falling out of contention. The Royals are riding high, but who's to say their luck doesn't even out? Between Chicago, Minnesota and Cleveland, there's enough highs and lows to make a junkie blush.
Even with a horrible 9-20 stretch, the Tigers are only 1.5 games out of first place in the Central Division. In other divisions, that nasty streak would have been good enough to bury the team nearly 8-10 games back. Despite everything, the Central Division is still a virtual toss-up. That's not an accomplishment considering what Detroit was expected to do after 27-12, but most fail to realize the Tigers likely were likely never as elite as that record showed. Like the Royals, they had simply gotten hot at the right time.
Ausmus knows this, which is why there's been no need for a tirade, meltdown or otherwise angry explosion. Simply, there's nothing he could do or say that could change any of the results on the field. Meltdowns play well for the fans, but can't help the players with hitting or pitching.
Simply, the Tigers will have to find a way to hit and pitch their way out of their current jam one game at a time, and make Ausmus's calmer approach pay off.
It won't be easy, of course, but as they say, in baseball, momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.
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