Year after extending contract, Tigers fire Triple-A Toledo manager Doug Mientkiewicz

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Doug Mientkiewicz

A year after the Tigers honored him with a two-year contract extension, Doug Mientkiewicz is out as Toledo Mud Hens manager.

Mientkiewicz said he was given the word Wednesday by Dave Littlefield, Tigers vice president of player development.

“They called me yesterday and said, ‘We’re done with you, we don’t want you in any capacity,’” Mientkiewicz said Thursday, speaking from his Florida home.

Littlefield confirmed Thursday that Mientkiewicz would not be back but would not offer reasons for the move.

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“We just decided to move in a different direction,” said Littlefield, who also shot down notions that Double-A Erie manager Mike Rabelo might be moving to Triple-A Toledo.

Littlefield said the Tigers will inspect the market, wait for a series of big-league openings to be decided, and make a decision on Toledo’s manager once other jobs are resolved.

He said also the Tigers had not formally decided if all managers throughout their farm system would be back in 2020.    

Mientkiewicz, 45, had been told last month he would not return as skipper in 2020. The word came, Mientkiewicz said, from Tigers general manager Al Avila. Mientkiewicz said “discipline” was cited as the reason — an explanation Mientkiewicz, who is known for his verbal fire, believed was preposterous.

But the Tigers appeared to waffle until Wednesday.

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Mientkiewicz said he had been offered last month a chance to go to Double-A Erie as a hitting coach. Littlefield disputed that account and said no such offer had been made.

Mientkiewicz managed the Mud Hens for two seasons, with Toledo finishing first a year ago in the International League West and this year tying for second. His combined record with the Mud Hens was 139-140.

Mientkiewicz played 12 seasons in the major leagues, seven with the Minnesota Twins including a few of those years under now-Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, primarily as a first baseman.

He began coaching in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system in 2012, then moved to the Twins as a minor-league manager at three different stops ahead of the Tigers hiring him in 2017 to run Toledo.

Mientkiewicz said he was most surprised by the timing of his firing. The Tigers, he said, had determined a year ago that he was worth a two-year extension, then decided, abruptly, that he no longer fit.

Given the continuous player shuffles at Toledo, he said, the team had held together admirably and that players had made the most of a daily challenge.

Mientkiewicz said he was unsure what he might do next but that conversations already had begun.

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“I’m not too upset about it,” Mientkiewicz said of the Tigers’ move. “I don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t want me.

“The only thing is, you (Tigers) hired me because you said I had the potential to be a big-league manager. You give me a two-year deal, and the next year you fire me.

“You can’t be this reactionary during a rebuild,” he said of the Tigers’ big-league reconstruction, which depends primarily on talent rising from the farm system.

“How can it be this? That you go from being this great one year (ahead of his extension) and then so bad?”

Mientkiewicz is known for his candor, which, he conceded, perhaps isn’t always appreciated by bosses.

“Did they think I was too negative?” he asked. “I don’t know. I was just being honest.

“Trust me, I did everything I was supposed to do.”

Freelancer Lynn Henning is a former Detroit News sports reporter.