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Published: Monday, 11/4/2013

COMMENTARY

Tigers just following recent trend

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

Musings on a Monday morning:

The Detroit Tigers are following baseball’s latest trend of hiring a new face, not recycling one of the same old names, to serve as manager.

Perhaps inspired by the success of the St. Louis Cardinals under Mike Matheny, the Tigers on Sunday named Brad Ausmus, another former catcher who has never managed on either the major or minor league level, to succeed the retired Jim Leyland.

With Ausmus in the Detroit fold and with openings still to be filled by the Mariners and Cubs, at least nine teams will be managed next summer by men who assumed their first managing jobs since the start of the 2012 season.

The one-time Tigers player also becomes the ninth former catcher among current major league skippers, something that is considered a bonus in dealing with pitching staffs.

Ausmus said he realizes a new manager, especially one with no experience, rarely gets dropped into a situation where a mostly veteran team will return intact and with expectations to win and contend for a championship. He feels his inexperience will be mitigated by the presence of bench coach Gene Lamont, who has managed two big league teams and will be retained from Leyland’s staff.

Ausmus is only three years removed from an 18-year playing career and feels he has a still-fresh understanding of “the locker room dynamic.”

And that, said CEO-president Dave Dombrowski, was a major selling point. He feels communicating with the contemporary player and having a finger on the pulse of the clubhouse is probably the modern manager’s No. 1 role.

Dombrowski added there is risk with any managerial hire, but he definitely stepped outside of the box and onto a limb with this one considering the makeup of his team’s roster. Anything short of qualifying for, and advancing into the playoffs, will reflect poorly on the decision.

■ Las Vegas gave the Philadelphia 76ers one of the lowest over-under figures for total wins in NBA history and most experts looked at the roster and felt the team was blatantly tanking to win the Andrew Wiggins draft sweepstakes.

So, of course, the Sixers are 3-0 including wins over the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls. Go figure.

■ Toledo’s football team has taken a couple shots in the Letters to the Editor section for exhibiting a lack of respect toward Navy’s team and tradition after a game at the Glass Bowl on Oct. 19. I wasn’t there, but apparently UT’s players, while some participated, were not unanimous in their attention to Navy’s postgame Alma Mater.

The Rockets, who have played a grand total of two games against service academies in the last dozen seasons, were celebrating a dramatic, two-overtime victory with their own fans and band.

Do some opposing teams honor the tradition that we most associate with the Army-Navy game? Yes. Is it a nice and patriotic gesture? Yes. Does Toledo merit criticism? Under the circumstances, it seems like a nonissue.

■ The University of Michigan was the dominant college football team in its state for so long because it was the toughest team. Wow, has that ever changed.

Michigan State simply dominated the line of scrimmage Saturday in a 29-6 romp that gave Sparty five wins over UM in the last six tries. Big brother is little brother now.

■ The season-ender at Michigan certainly doesn’t appear as if it will be much of a threat for Ohio State, and neither do the Buckeyes’ next two games at Illinois and at home against Indiana. Based on the last few weeks, OSU and the Wolverines certainly seem to be headed in different directions.

■ It seems impossible that Ron English can survive much longer as head coach at Eastern Michigan and after Saturday’s loss at Penn State I’m starting to wonder the same about Illinois’ Tim Beckman.

■ Volunteerism in general, and the Jamie Farr/​Marathon LPGA tournament in particular, was a big part of the late Pat Fitzgerald’s life.

This classy, gentle man — and that can be one word or two — helped oversee the tournament’s media operations for the past decade-plus, and he will be sorely missed by those of us who so appreciated his assistance.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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