Ausmus won't return as Tigers manager; 'I'm comfortable with it'

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus talks to the media in the Tigers dugout after the announcement that his contract will not be renewed at the end of the season.

Detroit – Technically, the Detroit Tigers did not offer Brad Ausmus a contract to manage the team in 2018. But this was still an amicable and mutual parting.

General manager Al Avila informed Ausmus on Wednesday that he would not be offered a contract. Ausmus did not contest.

“Quite frankly, I told him I completely understood,” Ausmus said. “I told him if he’d have walked in and offered me a contract I probably wouldn’t have come back. Because the team and this organization is starting over and it needs a new voice.

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“Sometimes you have to be able to evaluate yourself. I looked in the mirror and thought it was probably a good idea that they do (make a change). I am comfortable with it.”

Ausmus, who has posted a 312-325 record in his four seasons and led the Tigers to a Central Division title in 2014, will finish out the season.

“I’m under contract for 2017 and my job is to manage the Tigers,” he said. “So I am going to do that until my contract is over.”

The players were informed by Avila in a group meeting and were not available to the media before the game. Ausmus said he will address the players after the final game in Minnesota Oct. 1.

“I spoke to Brad the day before yesterday and told him we weren’t extending a contract,” Avila said. “He was very professional, he’s always been professional. But he understood the reasoning. We didn’t win.

“And as an organization, we are at a point where we needed a change on the field and we need a change on the roster. Just, let’s take a brand-new road and open up to new things. We felt it’s a new beginning and a fresh start and we’ll have fresh leadership moving forward.”

As for the timing of the announcement, Avila said, “It wouldn’t have done any good to wait until the end of the season. I felt once the decision had been made, the thing to do was tell Brad, make the announcement and move forward.”

Avila said the move had less to do with Ausmus’ managerial acumen and much more to do with having a new voice, a new energy as the club begins a full rebuilding phase.

“Brad understood that very well,” Avila said. “Brad has a bright future and he’s going to move on to other things and probably have a chance to manage someplace else and be very successful. This is not anything about Brad, this is more about our situation.

“And as we move forward, I felt it best we go ahead with brand-new leadership.”

Ausmus said he would like to manage again, but for now, he’s looking forward to getting back to San Diego and spending time with his family.

“I really enjoyed my time here,” he said. “Unfortunately in the dugout as a manager, it’s come to an end. I wish above all else we could’ve won a World Series, and I wish we could’ve done it before Mr. I (late owner Mike Ilitch) passed away.

“But sports aren’t perfect. We are parting ways very amicably and with no hard feelings.”

Ausmus also didn’t pass the buck on the team’s failure this season.

“It wasn’t for a lack of effort, but we just didn’t perform on the field,” he said. “You win and lose as a team and it’s not one person’s fault. This is a team sport and everyone is involved. Players have up and down years, but I’m the manager. I’m in charge of it.

“And I feel like, despite the injuries and players getting traded away, I can look in the mirror and say that I am at fault.”

Ausmus said once Justin Verlander and Justin Upton were traded at the end of August, signaling the full rebuild, he knew he likely wouldn’t be back.

“I felt then it would be prudent for Al to wipe the slate clean and bring in a new voice,” he said. “Like I said, I feel like this is the right move to make and I wasn’t going to come back anyway. There needs to be a different voice. I was very at ease with this.”

What stings, he said, was putting his coaching staff out of work.

“The thing that hurts the most from my angle was leaving the coaches out to dry without a job,” he said. “I wish Al the best. I think he’s got the organization pointed in the right direction. He’s beefed up the analytics department and added scouts. He made some tough calls and traded guys like Verlander to acquire prospects and rebuild the minor-league system.

“It’s going to be a bit of a haul here for the first couple of years. But things are moving in the right direction. I wish Al and the Tigers the best.”

Ausmus, who had no previous managerial experience, replaced the legendary and popular Jim Leyland in 2014 and despite a roller-coaster season, led the team to its fourth straight division title in 2014.

The offense went cold in the playoffs, though, and the Tigers were ousted by the Orioles. The 2015 season was another up-and-down ride, ending essentially at the trade deadline when then-general manager Dave Dombrowski traded away Yoenis Cespedes, David Price and Joakim Soria.

Ausmus arguably did his best managing in the 2016 season, keeping an injury-plagued and under-performing team in the playoff race until the final day of the season.

“I really believed in Brad and I still believe in Brad,” Avila said. “I think the regret is we were not able to make enough adjustments to the club to make it better. That’s where the rebuild comes in.

“Brad is a good leader and an intelligent baseball man. A true professional. I don’t think you will find a guy who understands the game better than he does on a day to day basis.”

Ausmus said he will leave with regrets about the results, but with his head up about the work he and his staff put in.

“People want to point fingers and blame the manager,” Ausmus said. “But other than with the Astros, I’ve spent most of my career in this uniform – seven seasons. I was an All-Star as a Tiger. And I take a lot of pride in the Olde English D.

“I walk away with that pride attached, knowing the organization treated me very well. It just didn’t work out on the field.”

Twitter @cmccosky