Baseball is a game full of conventional wisdom.
There’s no crying in baseball.
Every team is going to win 60 games and lose 60 games, it’s what happens during the other 42 that makes all the difference.
Don’t let World Series games end on obstruction calls or pick-offs at first base.
Catchers make the best managers.
It’s that last bit of knowledge that is particularly relevant because over the weekend, Brad Ausmus–a former catcher, recent coach of the Israeli national team in the World Baseball Classic, and all-around smart guy–was named the new manager of the Detroit Tigers. Ausmus is, by my count, the sixth-ever Jewish big league baseball manager, and will be taking over for the retiring Jim Leyland, who is something of a coaching legend.
Ausmus, who worked in the San Diego Padres’ front office as a special assistant to the general manager, emerged as Detroit’s pick less than two weeks after Leyland stepped down. He takes over a team that has reached the AL championship series three straight years and should be well positioned for another big season in 2014.
If you read up on Ausmus, you’ll pick up on a sense of inevitability regarding his selection as a professional coach. In addition to being a catcher, he also went to Dartmouth, and talks often about how he enjoys the “visceral” aspect of the game. I checked in with Houston Astros pitcher Josh Zeid (whom I profiled for Tablet last month) about Ausmus, who coached Zeid during the Israeli national team’s run in the World Baseball Classic last year.
“I think he’s going to be great for the Tigers,” Zeid wrote. “He was a very successful catcher in the big leagues for a long time, which means he did a great job managing games for some very good teams. He will expect the most out of his players and will get it because he ‘gets it.’ He knows what it takes to be a successful major leaguer.”
Another person whom we know will be thrilled about Ausmus is Steve Calechman, whose father taught him to be a Tigers fan after rooting for Hank Greenberg. Calechman now lives in Boston with the world champion Red Sox, but back in August he wrote about loving the Tigers as a family tradition.
I’m also another person who is very excited to see Ausmus take the next step. Ausmus played the bulk of his career for my hometown team, the Houston Astros, during the franchise’s only march to a World Series back in 2005.
During that stretch he caught pitches from players like Roy Oswalt, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Brad Lidge. Accordingly, Ausmus remains one of my baseball heroes and so I’ve (naturally) decided to channel Homer and pen this (slightly creepy) tribute to Ausmus in rhyming sonnet form.
Though winter mayeth upon the diamond have descended
the baseball hot stove must still be tended.
Hear now of Ausmus of the fair Nutmeg State, both wise and adroit
for the Lion of Judah is now a Tiger of Detroit.
Like Aeneas, the Trojan who survived Troy to build Rome
Ausmus sailed from Dartmouth to Texas and into San Diego’s loam.
For wits, his father Harold is a legend, who lectured and taught
and scribed a tome called A Schopenhauerian Critique of Nietsche’s Thought.
And now Brad, who once took shield with the leather catcher’s mitt
will now tend the sentries who shall hail him as Skip.
Like Bob Melvin and Lipman Pike before (and even Lou Boudrou)
he shall be one of the rare warriors to be both a manager and Jew.
To defeat Sox and Yanks, Brad and his men shall toil
to deliver to the Motor City its glorious spoils.
You’re welcome. (And congrats Brad!)