Detroit tabbed former catcher Brad Ausmus to lead next year's club. The 44-year-old was a 48th round pick by the Yankees in '87 who was grabbed by the Rockies in the 1992 expansion draft and flipped to the Padres the following year. After about three and a half seasons he was sent to the Tigers, but he played just 75 games for them before being included in a deal with Jose Lima to the Astros for future closer Todd Jones and others. Detroit got him back before the '99 campaign (in which he made his only All-Star appearance) and kept him through the 2000 season before sending him back to Houston AGAIN.
Brad finally found some stability there, staying with the club from 2001-2008. He was part of playoff teams in '01, '04, and '05, the latter being the World Series showdown with the White Sox that Chicago won easily. Ausmus then signed with the Dodgers and appeared in 57 more games over the 2009-10 seasons before hanging 'em up for good.
During his 18-year career he was a very well-respected backstop with a reputation as a defense-first catcher who was brilliant with his team's pitching staff. He earned rave reviews for both his glove and his leadership (though not his rather anemic bat) and is yet another example of a well-respected catcher being promoted to a manager position despite a lack of any previous experience. Detroit had plenty of candidates with lots of years in the game, so they obviously saw something they liked in the former Tiger above all else. Perhaps after the recent success overseen by former manager Leyland, GM Dave Dombrowski went for a likable field general to build on that work instead of a grizzled veteran or rah-rah teacher type.
In any event, I'm excited, not only because the guy's a former Tiger (and not Dusty Baker!), but because I like the shift to a younger guy to put a very talented team over the top. Will he be able to solve some of Detroit's most glaring issues from last season, such as the bullpen and an inconsistent offense? Time will tell. For now, all I can say is welcome back to Detroit, Brad!
By the way, the card you see above is the only Ausmus Tigers issue I had handy, but it's an especially good one as it hails from the 2000 Stadium Club set. Stadium Club, if you began collecting after 2008, was a premium set Topps introduced in the early 90s that featured A-plus photography and a very pleasing full-bleed design. It was so well liked that Topps axed it after 2008, because screw you, collectors! Anyway, this is a perfect example of the greatness of Stadium Club, and perhaps best of all, this one happens to feature a play at the plate!