Tal Smith: 'Ausmus will be an outstanding major league manager'

Tal Smith: 'Ausmus will be an outstanding major league manager'
October 18, 2012, 12:15 am
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BOSTON The Red Sox continued the search to fill their managerial vacancy Wednesday, interviewing Brad Ausmus, the former catcher who is now a special assistant with the Padres. Of the four current candidates, Ausmus, who retired after the 2010 season after playing 18 seasons with the Astros, Padres, Tigers, and Dodgers, is the only one with no coaching or managing experience.Some who knew Ausmus early in his career believed it would be just a matter of time before he became a manager.I felt that probably the first time half a dozen years ago or more, said Tal Smith, the former president of the Astros, and owner of Tal Smith Enterprises, a baseball consulting firm. And as a matter of fact, I even submitted him as sort of a dark horse candidate for I guess it was the search that led up to the appointment of Brad Mills three years ago. I even thought with Brad Ausmus, we havent had player-managers recently but at one time they were able to handle that quite well, whether it was Joe Cronin for the Red Sox or any number of people.The 43-year-old played two stints for the Astros totaling 10 seasons, the most time he spent with any team. The Connecticut native, who went to Dartmouth and owns a house on Cape Cod, was a 48th-round pick of the Yankees in 1987 and made his big league debut in 1993 for the Padres. He was traded to the Tigers during the 1996 season and to the Astros after the season. He was traded back to the Tigers before the 1999 season and back to the Astros before the 2001 season. He ended his career with two seasons in Los Angeles.I think Brad Ausmus will be an outstanding major league manager whenever he has the opportunity and whenever he feels that he is ready, Smith said. By that, I dont mean ready from a standpoint of preparation, but Brad has two daughters and lives in California. In fact, I dont know what his thoughts are. For years, when he was playing for us, he was like having a manager on the field. I think his baseball acumen is superb.He can really run a game, but thats only a part of it. I think his personality and his ability to communicate are exceptional. I just thought he meant so much to a club, not just for his receiving and his throwing but for what he brought from a standpoint of leadership. I think hes an exceptional candidate.Ausmus potential as a future big league manager stood out during his playing days for those who were there to watch up close.Yeah, it really did, said another front office executive who was with Ausmus for several seasons. Being around him on a daily basis you saw the level of intelligence and the leadership qualities in the clubhouse.This goes way back, said Smith. Brad had two tours with the Astros and early in his second tour when we brought him back, about the time that we were doing very well in 2004 and 2005, his leadership and his baseball knowledge and his personality and everything, I just think hes a natural leader and really understands the game very well, as a great many people do. There are a lot of people that understand the game but I just think hes got the leadership capabilities and the ability to communicate and obviously having been a catcher, having to work with pitchers, having to direct the club on the field, I just think hes and ideal candidate. And especially back in New England where theres special attraction for him.Of the Sox current candidates Tim Wallach, Tony Pena, and DeMarlo Hale, along with Ausmus Ausmus is the only one with no prior coaching or managing experience. Hale and Wallach have managed in the minor leagues and have major league coaching experience. Hale, currently the Orioles third base coach, is familiar with the Sox from his six seasons as a bench coach and third base coach on former manager Terry Franconas staff, before being let go last year. Wallach is currently the Dodgers third base coach. Pena was the manager of the Royals from 2002-05 and the American League manager of the year in 2003 and is currently the Yankees bench coach. The status of John Farrell, who appears to still be on the Sox wish list, is still uncertain.Everybody talks about the need for managerial experience, said the executive, but there are quite a few guys out there right now that are sort of dispelling that myth, so to speak, that youve really got to have that time under your belt.It doesnt surprise me that he would be considered and it wont surprise me when he gets an opportunity and becomes successful.He communicates very well, Smith said. Hes got a very dry wit, a very likable sense of humor. Not everybody gets it initially, but I think hes really clever. I think hed do well with the media and with players. I think hed be firm but fair.He was very popular, at least from everything I know, in the clubhouse, whether it was with the Bagwells and the Biggios, I just think hes an outstanding guy and outstanding baseball person. I think the two of them added together, I think hed be an outstanding manager. But I think its just a question of timing, the right club, and when Brad is ready and interested in doing it.While the lack of experience could be a drawback when compared with other candidates, if Ausmus were to get the job, he would not be outside the norm of recent managerial hirings. Last year, Dale Sveum (Cubs), Robin Ventura (White Sox), and Mike Matheny (Cardinals) were all hired with no previous major league managerial experience. Mathenys team is currently playing the Giants in the NLCS. And, the Sox were ready to name Sveum before going with Bobby Valentine.I think its a consideration. Its a concern, Smith said. But some have been able to do it quite well. I think the Cardinals, obviously thats working out well with Matheny. We hired Larry Dierker as a first-time manager in 1997. That was my nominee back then and that sort of surprised or shocked people and we obviously did very well with it finishing first five out of six seasons, with Dierker the National League manager of the year in 1998. Theres a whole long list of people that did not have any prior managerial experience. I used to have answer this for clubs when I was either in a consulting role or with the Astros when we were putting together a list of candidates and somebody would say, Well, he hasnt managed. And at that time I had a list handy of people who had managed successfully in the major leagues without prior managerial experience.Rather than making a blanket statement, the candidate should be considered based on his merits.I think Id have to handle it on a case-by-case basis, said the executive. I do value the experience that guys are able to get at the minor league level. There are issues, and as good as things are initially you still have to prepare for whatever hurdles youll have to clear down the road. I think a lot of things that happen at the minor league level when youre a manager also tend to manifest themselves at the big league level. And if youve got the experience of handling those types of things a lot of times its not on-field issues, its not, Should I hit and run? and things of that nature. Its more of handling players who are no longer your teammates and recognizing that there is an adjustment there that you have to make.But that said, in Ausmus case hes now several years removed from his playing career and I think hes exceptional from the standpoint of his intellect and perception and the other strengths that hes got. Im not going to walk past the fact that I do think experience is very important but its not an overriding factor if youve got the right guy.Now its up to the Sox to decide who that is.