Fair or foul: Kirk Gibson's firing not a surprise

Tom Gage and Lynn Henning; The Detroit News

Manager Brad Ausmus didn't want to put the cart before the horse in terms of looking at the postseason — and that's understandable.

One step at a time, right, Brad?

But Tom Gage and Lynn Henning don't have to adhere to such caution. They're already looking ahead.

But before we get to that, two guys we spent decades covering, as players and as coaches, got axed Friday — Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell.

Was that all but final the day Tony La Russa took over the Diamondbacks?

Gage: No, but it was clear he was a goner when Kevin Towers got fired three weeks ago as Arizona's general manager. The D-Backs this year never fully recovered from their terrible start.

Henning: It was a little like the Tigers' situation in 2001, after Dave Dombrowski was brought aboard. Five months later, Randy Smith and Phil Garner departed. Four months and a week after La Russa took charge, Towers and Gibson have left the building. You're not going to hire a new team architect and retain the club's two, highest-profile lieutenants. This was in the cards the day Tony was brought aboard.

Gage: Anyway, back to looking ahead. With the division series not beginning until Thursday, Ausmus can arrange his rotation almost any way he wants — except for starting David Price in the opener if Price starts on Sunday as he's scheduled to do.

I think Ausmus will go with Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Price and Rick Porcello in that order. Do you agree?

Henning: That works, unless things have wrapped up and Ausmus decides Sunday to skip Price and let Price pitch Thursday at Baltimore. Otherwise, it seems Verlander could go in any order with Scherzer and Price. Agree that Porcello would start Game 4.

Gage: Some people will think Verlander won't like not starting the opener, but I disagree. He'll fully understand.

After all, Scherzer is 39-8 the last two years. It's not as if he hasn't earned No. 1 status, right?

Henning: Verlander simply wants to be part of that initial trio. He understands they're all good enough to pitch in Game 1, so no one's going to feel slighted by a later start. The Tigers have been waiting to go with their top guns in a playoff series. Not sure the top guns care about anything other than winning games.

Gage: What was the biggest development of the regular season's final month in your opinion, Lynn? I imagine Torii Hunter looking like a player that should return next year is right up there.

Actually, he's had a terrific second-half of the season — and he certainly has a backer in Ausmus — so what do you now think of Hunter's chances to return?

Henning: Very good, and that would not have been the view a month ago. But he is finishing beautifully, both ways. And he'll live with a one-year offer from the Tigers. Had a conversation with Hunter on Thursday and was surprised at the details he offered on how broadly he had been hurt last October on that Fenway Park bullpen tumble. He healed in June and has been the old — so to speak — Hunter ever since. I think he returns in 2015.

Gage: Who else — among the positions players — has made an impression on you as going into the postseason on a roll?

It's easy to go strictly by the numbers in answering a question like that, but sometimes numbers don't account for everyone.

Anybody not getting the credit they deserve?

Henning: Miguel Cabrera. How's that for an answer? I'm seeing swings from him we hadn't earlier seen in 2014. The ankle problems seem to be neutralized. His abdominal recovery, if there were lingering effects, looks as if its history. He's attacking and ripping pitches he wasn't earlier mashing. Not a bad weapon to take into October.

Gage: Wasn't the Tigers' clubhouse on Thursday night remarkable? They'd just taken a big step toward clinching their fourth consecutive American League Central title and all of them were watching Derek Jeter's farewell at Yankee Stadium instead.

Riveting moment, wasn't it?

Henning: One of the most indelible scenes I've ever witnessed in a big-league locker room. To see players — accomplished players, Hall of Fame-bound players — riveted to that TV and scene in New York was profound. They were identifying a moment that only their profession — and the bond they share — can deliver. It was both an illustration of respect and honor for Jeter, but also a kind of vicarious experience for those Tigers players. They were peers, fans, and in a beautiful way, kids bound by their common big-league blood.

Gage: Sorry not to have this discussion as early on Friday as we usually do, but I have a confession to make: I got caught up in the Ryder Cup.

I don't play as much golf as I used to, but I watch it a lot more than I ever did, and this is simply one of the sports' great events, in my opinion.

In your opinion, too, I imagine.

Henning: Yes, a favorite event, and has been since it caught fire in 1989. I covered the famous War on the Shore in 1991 and was near the green at 18 at Kiawah Island when Bernhard Langer missed his 5-footer to give the U.S. the Cup. It was an eternal moment in sports competition. I also saw something that day I couldn't believe: Hale Irwin, who had won three U.S. Opens, admittedly lost his nerves and his touch on the 18th. Hale Irwin! Never have I seen pressure (Mark Calcavecchia later broke down because of his nightmare at 17) to match that day and event.

The golfers feel as if a country's honor, and their team's well-being, is at stake on every swing and putt. Glad it's a biennial event. The off-year makes it even more special.