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Brad Ausmus did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night. He didn’t have to.

Feb 28, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

Brad Ausmus Getty Images

LAKELAND, FLORIDA — Brad Ausmus opened his office to the media at 8:45. It was impeccably neat and organized and during his meeting he spoke accurately and incisively about various medical subjects. Based on the comments of regular Tigers writers, this is juuuuuust a bit different than the Jim Leyland years.

The medical talk came in response to questions about shortstop Jose Iglesias, who will be held out of action for the next week due to a recurrence of some issues with his shin. Ausmus referred to it as a “stress reaction” that, rather than being attributable to some incident on the field, “may be attributable to a genetic issue.” When asked where Iglesias felt pain, Ausmus said he “felt it in his tibia.” When he said “tibia” he gave a shrug and sheepish kind of look as if he had guessed the proper name of the bone, and that caused the assembled reporters to laugh, but you could tell Ausmus knew the right name of the bone. The shrug reminded me of when the smartest guy in the room is trying not to come off as the smartest guy in the room. And Ausmus is very clearly the smartest guy in most rooms he enters.

After the anatomical term came up a reporter jokingly asked Dr. Ausmus if Iglesias’ “superior vena cava” is doing OK.

“Well, I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night  . . .” More laughs. But it seemed to me more of the fine balance a cerebral and athletic-minded person has likely had to manage his whole life. It’s fascinating to see.

The cerebral side came out after some discussion of Bruce Rondon, the Tigers reliever who can throw 100 miles per hour. Ausmus was asked if it’s strange to him that so many pitchers routinely hit the high 90s and even higher on the radar gun these days, and why he thinks that is. If you have that conversation in a bar people will talk about steroids. If you have that conversation with sports fans or even some people in the game, you’ll hear generalizations about kids just being bigger and stronger now. Ausmus, even though he was clearly being asked to offer some pithy generalization about hard-throwers, offered a much longer, thoughtful take.

“The money changed,” Ausmus said. Larger signing bonuses and arbitration awards for hard-throwers with high strikeout totals, even if it doesn’t always translate to great pitching results. The money leads to “greater specialization at younger an younger ages,” with kids focusing on just pitching when they’re younger. And prospects playing in more competitive, sophisticated youth and travel leagues. “And there is just natural evolution at play,” Ausmus added. Noting that baseball is no different than a lot of sports where the records and metrics are better and more impressive now than they used to be.

Ausmus’ manner is free and easy and he’s quick with a joke, but he’s not hilarious the way Jim Leyland often is. And he doesn’t give a flip answer to anything. Even if it seems like he’s talking off the top of his head, you get the impression that he has already considered everything you might ask. Any subject that might come up. It’s an organized brain. It’s evident in his speaking and manner.

It’s even evident by looking at his desk. Every notepad, pen, stapler, and electronic device was neatly and squarely placed on his desk. More neatly than I’ve ever seen on anyone’s desk. It’s like those guys who arrange the place settings with rulers for royal dinners arranged his desk. And you can tell he likes it that way. During his interview, he sat in a side chair and let one of the veteran Tigers reporters sit in his desk chair, partially as a joke, partially out of actual respect. At one point the reporter knocked over his empty McDonald’s coffee cup on Ausmus’ desk calendar. It made no mess, not even a drop, and the reporter quickly picked it up and resumed his question.

Unless, as I was, you were looking right at Ausmus to see his reaction, you may not have noticed that, just for a moment, he dropped his free-and-easy demeanor. That something was interrupted in the intellectual order of his universe for a second. He focused on the cup and the calendar and was briefly concerned that chaos had entered his office. As soon as it was clear that there was no disaster, he snapped back to attention to matters at hand. Control and order had once again been restored.

If you can’t tell, I am fascinated by this guy. There aren’t many beasts like him in managerial ranks. I’m going to be watching him closely.

  1. nymets4ever - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    Uuh…Craig? This is creepy as hell.

    • Francisco (FC) - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:54 AM

      That’s what SHE said!

      • nymets4ever - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:58 AM

        There’s not woman on the planet who gushes over Brad Ausmus even half as much as Craig does.

    • jeffbbf - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:03 AM

      I think it was a great read. “Fascinated” is the perfect word. Not just some ex-ballplayer with a mouthful of standard responses he’s learned over 25 years in the game. If Ausmus continues to be this interesting, we might all just learn a little more about the game and the decision making process that managers go through during a game. Hopefully, he doesn’t devolve into the standard responses that require no thought, provide no insight.

      • nymets4ever - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:08 AM

        Still an extremely creepy tone to the article. And Ausmus’ eloquence won’t stop the Tigers from taking a step back this year after losing Peralta, Fielder, and Fister, the last of whom was lost in what will go down as one of the 5 worst trades in the history of Major League Baseball.

      • florida76 - Feb 28, 2014 at 12:17 PM

        The new skipper of the Tigers doesn’t have to be interesting, or smart. His only requirement is to win, and there are plenty of smart managers who failed, and were canned. Brad Ausmus has a long way to go to be mentioned in the same breath as Jim Leyland.

        This fascination with being smart is a weird, recent trend among baseball fans. The guy who thinks he’s the smartest one in the room usually isn’t.

      • weaselpuppy - Mar 1, 2014 at 12:04 AM

        Hmmmm, Mets fan that knows nothing about the history of baseball AND is hyberbolic?

        Shocking.

        enjoy those 95 losses.

      • dinofrank60 - Mar 1, 2014 at 1:13 AM

        Let us hope that Ausmus continues to speak like a young, smart guy instead of a old, cliched fart like a lot of younger coaches/managers tend to do.

        The reason that some fans have a fascination with smart guys is that they identify with them. It’s no longer a need to have played the game at any level; in some respects, some people think that’s a detriment. Smart guys have a place at the table and they want to let everyone know it.

      • christensen1431 - Mar 1, 2014 at 10:15 PM

        Ah yes. A Mets fan discussing bad trades. Nolan Ryan anyone?

    • themanytoolsofignorance - Feb 28, 2014 at 12:00 PM

      Good lord. What do you know of descriptive writing anyways? You don’t read. Anyone that describes a 300 page book as a “tome” isn’t a reader. Craig’s description of Ausmus is no more or less than what I’ve seen others write of Barry Bonds, Derek Jeter any other relatively famous person. In fact, Klapsch’s Derek Jeter piece the other day is no more or less as detailed about Jeter as Craig’s is about Ausmus.

    • aintthenazz - Feb 28, 2014 at 4:32 PM

      Weirdest article I’ve seen in a long time.

  2. pauleee - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    Best not be spitting those sunflower seed shells on the dugout floor, guys.

  3. doctorofsmuganomics - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    Brad may need a lawyer to start working on a restraining order.

    I recommend my cousin, the lawyer of smuganomics

  4. alkaline19 - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    Some nice insight about Ausmus. Better than anything I’ve read from the Detroit beat writers so far this year.

  5. butchhuskey - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    “I’m going to be watching him closely”

    Geez Craig, I know he was number one on your “most handsome managers” list but give the guy some privacy.

  6. stex52 - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:23 AM

    Ausmus had that same general effect on the crowd in Houston. He’s an impressive guy and he was one of the best defensive catchers I ever watched. Really knew how to manage a pitching staff, rookie or veteran.

    But when the situation called for tough guy he was pretty good at that too. Nothing stopped a batter from going after the pitcher as fast as Ausmus stepping in front of him.

  7. Jason @ IIATMS - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    Craig, you order one of these for you and Brad?

    • historiophiliac - Feb 28, 2014 at 1:16 PM

      It needs an OE D on it.

  8. happytwinsfan - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    if he’s open minded and pragmatic when it comes to analytical metrics he might be the model that leads us away from from the quotable curmudgeon manager who isn’t about to let his team be run by some dadgume computer

  9. historiophiliac - Feb 28, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    Oh. My. God. Pretty and smart. AND he loves baseball! Which Holiday Inn did you say that was, Craig? Can we call our fan club “The Ausomers”?

    • themanytoolsofignorance - Feb 28, 2014 at 12:15 PM

      now this is proper stalking

    • happytwinsfan - Feb 28, 2014 at 12:25 PM

      theo epstein is getting jealous

  10. sabatimus - Feb 28, 2014 at 1:20 PM

    How much was that Holiday Inn endorsement check?

  11. mikhelb - Feb 28, 2014 at 1:55 PM

    Thats interesting! Please tell me more!!!

  12. keltictim - Feb 28, 2014 at 3:24 PM

    Man crush much? It’s cool I crush on Luke skywalker, but he’s a deadly Jedi knight. No comparison beyond the rugged good looks and being quick witted

  13. mentalotherhalf - Feb 28, 2014 at 3:36 PM

    UPDATE (3:35pm Eastern):

    “Ausmus never uses his real pics on Craigslist, and he peppers his posts with uncharacteristic abbreviations for the sake of plausible deniability thereafter.”

  14. jss1330 - Feb 28, 2014 at 6:11 PM

    Wait! Cody Decker didn’t write this piece?

  15. Minoring In Baseball - Mar 1, 2014 at 1:12 AM

    I think Ausmus will do a fine job managing Detroit this season. Yes, they lost Prince and Peralta, but even with those two in the lineup the team still struggled to score runs. This season’s lineup is more suited for Comerica Park, and his way of managing can change the dynamic of the game.

    http://minoringinbaseball.com/

    • prep7 - Mar 1, 2014 at 10:33 AM

      “…but even with those two in the lineup the team still struggled to score runs.”

      What the what? They were second in MLB in runs scored for 2013.

  16. fymyawf - Mar 1, 2014 at 2:08 AM

    Craig, I’ve honestly never been a big fan of your writing, but this is one of the most insightful, well-written posts I’ve seen in a while. I knew bubkus about Ausmus before this article, and now I feel like I know a lot about him. Well done.

  17. toledotigerfan - Mar 1, 2014 at 5:21 AM

    Ausmus’ brother doing an article about Brad Ausmus, apparently.

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