Detroit Tigers Should Fire Brad Ausmus, Hire Rob Thomson as Manager

Apr 12, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus (7) in the dugout during the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 12, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus (7) in the dugout during the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

With rumors of the Detroit Tigers entering rebuilding mode, they should consider Rob Thomson of the Yankees as a replacement for manager Brad Ausmus.

Current State of the Detroit Tigers

At the moment there are two camps of Detroit Tigers fans; those who want a full rebuild, and those who believe the team can still contend. I am in the latter camp. I still believe that this team is a playoff contender, possibly even a world series contender. With a healthy lineup and a better manager, the Tigers can still be a force in the American league.

Earlier in the off-season the Detroit Tigers announced the promotion of Llyod McClendon as the team’s hitting coach. Tiger fans are very familiar with the former Seattle Mariner manager. McClendon acted as the hitting coach for the Tigers from 2007 to 2013. Some Tiger fans see his promotion as a safety net should Brad Ausmus be fired mid-season.

Hiring McClendon as team manager would be a massive mistake. To put it bluntly, McClendon is a career loser. In 6 seasons as a manager for both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Seattle Mariners, McClendon compiled dreadful a 499-607 record.

The Mariners, with much the same roster as 2015 (sans McClendon), went 86-76 this season, barely missing the second wildcard. That is a massive improvement over the 76-86 record McClendon led them to in 2015.

McClendon has his current position with the Tigers purely because of cronyism. He is part of Jim Leyland’s old guard, and he represents everything wrong with the organization right now. If McClendon does indeed take over for Brad Ausmus after the 2017 season, you can guarantee that the Tigers will be trending in the wrong direction, regardless of the makeup of the roster.

So who should be the manager of the Tigers after 2017? In my opinion, there is no man more qualified for the job than Rob Thomson of the New York Yankees.

Ausmus Groomed for Failure

The MLB, and American sports in general for that matter, are completely hung up on giving known mediocre managers and coaches second, third, fourth, and fifth chances. Successful teams do not fall in to this trap. Hiring a manager because they have “experience” is not a good reason for a hire; especially when it is losing experience.  The truly great teams hire proven winners.

In that sense, Al Avila and Dave Dombrowski were somewhat on the right track when they hired Ausmus three years ago. Unlike many Tiger fans, I think the willingness to hire rookie manager was a good thing. The problem is that the Tigers did not fully commit to new blood. Surrounding Ausmus with the old guard like Gene Lamont and Dave Clark only served to hamper his development.

Now Ausmus has developed into a manager that resembles a worse version of Leyland. If the Tigers fire Ausmus and bring in Rob Thomson, they must fully commit to cleaning house. Give Thomson the chance to hire whatever coaches he wants.

Rob Thomson: The Credentials

So who is Rob Thomson? He certainly isn’t a household name, and he isn’t a veteran manager. You aren’t likely to hear his name thrown out by anyone else either, but that is kind of the point.

Thomson was drafted by the Detroit Tigers as a catcher, in the 32nd round of the 1985 draft. Growing up in the Canadian border town of Sarnia Ontario, right across from Port Huron Michigan, Thomson grew up a Tigers fan. Seeing that his chances of joining the big club in Detroit were slim, Thomson made the transition from player to coach for the Tigers organization in 1988.  By 1990 Thomson found himself being offered a contract to be the third base coach for the Yankee’s Class A affiliate.

Thomson has played just about every role in the Yankees organization both in the front office and on the field. He’s served the Yankees in the following roles:

  • Director of Player Development
  • Field Coordinator
  • Vice President of Minor League Development
  • Third base coach (2009-2014)
  • Bench Coach (2006-2008, 2015-current)

Thomson has earned five World Series rings during the course of his 26 year long tenure with the Yankees. That is more championships than the Tigers have had in their entire 115 year history. With his immense on the field and front office knowledge, Thomson is exactly the type of manager the Tigers need right now, regardless of the direction of the team.

Why Thomson is a Good Fit

If the Tigers decide to keep the roster relatively intact and push for one more chance at a World Series title, then Rob Thomson would have the winning experience to guide them. He has seen and experienced enough World Series championships that he knows what it takes for a team to find that extra push late in the year. He has helped lead veteran teams to glory in the past, and perhaps he could do it again with the Tigers. Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, and J.D Martinez still have a lot of good baseball left in the tank. If anyone can squeeze a championship out of that talent, it will be Thomson.

If the Tigers instead decide to go into full rebuild mode, as is rumored, then Thomson might be even better for the job. Thomson has immense experience in player development. He has had a role in the development of Yankees stars such as Derek Jeter and Gary Sanchez. That experience could go a long way in developing the talents of whatever prospects the Tigers acquire through trade.

Next: Kinsler to the Dodgers?

Flexibility and experience makes Thomson one of the most ideal picks for manager after Ausmus’ departure. Hopefully the Tigers do their due diligence and give him an interview after next season.