illustrations by Samara Pearlstein
It’s been quite a while, but Brad Ausmus is coming back to the Tigers, now one more step up the baseball evolutionary ladder. Time, environment, and mutation have helped him make the natural– but by no means inevitable– evolution from catcher to manager. The Tigers’ previous manager of course has just decided to step gracefully off of the phylogenetic tree main branch to a spindly side branch of vaguely affiliated front office types. Nature, as you know, abhors a vacuum, and the ecological niche thus vacated looks to be filled now by Ausmus.
He will be new to the role, with no big league managerial experience. If you are experiencing sweaty, shaking flashbacks to Alan Trammell, that’s okay. Breathe deep. It is a perfectly understandable reaction. Remember that you control the memories, and the memories do not control you.
Ausmus is also awfully young to be handed the reins of a big league team– he is only 44 years old. Detroit just went from years under the control of Jim Leyland, a 68-year-old man who seems 85. How will the Tigers react to a relative whippersnapper, a guy definitely still hot enough to raise the eyebrows of their girlfriends, a dude only 6 years older than Torii Hunter? We’ll have to wait until Spring Training at least to see.
(Fun fact: Torii Hunter is significantly closer in age to his new manager than he is to Rick Porcello. He’s 6 years younger than Ausmus, but 13 years older than FredFred. This tells you more about the remarkableness of Torii Hunter than anything else.)
The official RotT line on this one is trepidation, mixed in with a lot of hopefulness. It is hard to imagine that someone so inexperienced will be able to handle personality conflicts or issues, should they arise, with the irritable aplomb that Leyland brought to the table. But Ausmus is a smart cat, and I so want him to do well, having loved him from his playing days. This will make it all the more awful should he fail. But I am willing to hope that he can swing it.
And how exciting is it to have the Tigers managed by A NICE JEWISH BOY? For RotT, it is incredibly exciting, because this is how we do it around here, ok. He instantly becomes the only current Jewish manager in the majors (as the Jerusalem Post has already noted), and rabbis everywhere are running around in small circles out of sheer excitement. Detroit Tigers yarmulkes for everyone!