Detroit — They can play baseball this week and not feel as if they’re among the supporting cast in a network soap opera.
The Tigers are glad it’s over. The Brad Ausmus vigil, that is.
Their manager is officially back for 2016. What wasn’t clear became clear Saturday when Tigers general manager Al Avila ended all doubt and said Ausmus would return as skipper when the team convenes for spring training in February.
“There was really no reason to look for another manager,” said Ian Kinsler, the Tigers second baseman who had a pair of hits in Saturday night’s 6-2 Tigers loss to the Twins at Comerica Park.
“It could have been a wild goose chase,” he said, speaking of October and a potential managerial search that now is moot. “You don’t know what’s gonna happen.
Kinsler’s 2015 season has been a beauty: .301 batting average and a brand of steady play that stands in contrast to a last-place Tigers team. But the team’s tumble, following four consecutive division titles, in Kinsler’s view isn’t anything that should be taped to Ausmus.
“He’s extremely knowledgeable and knows what he’s doing,” Kinsler said. “I was happy. We know what we’re getting with Brad.”
Across the clubhouse, Anthony Gose was about to depart following the final night game of the season at Comerica Park. Today’s 1:08 p.m. rematch with the Twins will be the Tigers’ 2015 home finale.
Gose thought Avila’s decision was strong — and fair.
“It was out of our control,” the Tigers center fielder said. “But you definitely can’t put this season on Brad.”
James McCann agreed. A rookie catcher repeated Avila’s theme Saturday that Ausmus, in fact, is a teacher.
“I’ve learned countless things,” said McCann, who has absorbed much from a manager who worked 18 seasons as a big-league catcher. “Game-calling, set-up, how to talk to pitchers.
“I’m excited. I think Brad’s very good. You can’t put our troubles this year on him.”
That was the prevailing view Saturday, one shared by reliever Blaine Hardy, who has been one of the few reliable options in a generally battered Tigers bullpen.
“Absolutely,” Hardy said, counting down reasons why he enjoyed Saturday’s news.
“This manager gave me my first opportunity in the big leagues,” Hardy said. “And there’s the fact that we all (players and staff) get along very well.
“He’s done as good a job he could have with the injuries and performance issues. I’m excited to see what he can do next year with a healthy batch of players.”
Those with a thumbs-up to Ausmus’ endorsement included the GM’s son, Alex Avila.
Avila is a few weeks from free agency and isn’t sure he’ll be back for 2016. But he’s sure about Ausmus. Even if social-media’s galaxy Saturday was ablaze with Ausmus indictments.
“Sometimes the right decisions are the unpopular ones,” said Alex Avila, who likewise cited a string of disabilities as being the main reason a team failed in 2015.
“I think he’s done a good job. This team could have been 20 or 25 games under .500, and we’re not.”
Alex Avila said he wasn’t surprised his dad made Saturday’s announcement. It required time a GM considered essential and a son regarded as typical of his dad.
“He has a hard time picking out a pair of shoes sometimes,” said Alex, who knew a quip might have been as important Saturday as the news a skipper was coming back.