Tigers new skipper Ausmus getting ready for replay
First-year manager following tough act with Leyland's legendary arguments
DETROIT -- Manager Brad Ausmus has enough history to follow in the Tigers dugout. He'll become part of club history the first time he leaves it.
While fans and critics debate Jim Leyland's legacy as a manager, his arguments are a huge part of his legend. His back-and-forth with Barry Bonds two decades ago with the Pirates remains a staple among his video highlights. His many, many disputes with umpires provided a highlight reel.
Never, though, did Leyland have the option to challenge a call on replay. By rule, managers couldn't ask for a review of a home run; only umpires could decide whether to check the monitor on those. Starting this season, managers are expected to have several potential calls they can challenge, from tag plays to fair-or-foul calls.
It would have been a huge adjustment for Leyland if he was still managing. Ausmus will know no other way.
"I like instant replay," the new skipper said. "I don't think it's going to significantly slow down the game. I think it's important to get the calls right. There's a few questions I have about it that I will raise when MLB [officials come] to Lakeland [Fla.].
"I actually think it's probably going to eliminate some ejections, because the umpire's going to have that caveat: Are you challenging or not? It's going to kind of stop the argument."
That last part could be a benefit. In some cases, though, it could become a challenge.
Though Leyland's arguments became legendary, he always said he never did it for the sake of arguing. If he felt a call was right, he wouldn't charge out of the dugout simply for the sake of supporting a player. That wasn't Leyland's style.
As a first-time manager, Ausmus doesn't have a style yet. With replay in place, he might have to think long and hard before forming one.
"It might actually add a little bit more difficulty for a manager, because now he's going to have to pick his spots when he argues," Ausmus said. "Because the umpire may call him on it and say, 'Hey, are you going to challenge this or not? Because if you're not, I don't want to hear it.' And it may be a situation where the player was wrong.
"You still want to support your player, but it may significantly shorten the argument if the umpire calls you on it and you know that the umpire got the call right, and you're trying to support your player. He says, 'Hey, are you challenging or not?' You're like, 'No, never mind.'"
A player's opinion will only be part of the input on whether to challenge a call. Video access will be another facet. One of Ausmus' staff hires was Matt Martin as a defensive coordinator, but the title doesn't fully encompass Martin's responsibilities to take in video footage for scouting purposes.
Martin's work, Ausmus said, will include looking at replays and having input on whether to challenge a call. He won't be in the dugout, but he'll be able to place a call there from his post. Ausmus and the Tigers are still working out their plans on that, but it'll be a point of discussion in Spring Training.
"I think the most common [plays to challenge] are going to be the plays at first, tag plays -- whether it's a pickoff or a steal at second -- and not as significant, but I think the hit-by-pitch," Ausmus said. "Does it hit the hand? Does it hit the bat? I don't know how much they can slow it down or how hi-def the video will be. I'm not as certain on that one, but there's been many times when the [batter] has acted like he got it and you look at the replay and it's hit their hand. That's my guess going in, but that's all subject to change."
The positive, Ausmus said, is that every manager -- veteran and rookie alike -- is having this same discussion. On this topic, he has just as much experience as his counterparts.
"It's new for everyone. That's the one upside for me," he said. "I'm a first-year manager, but this rule is first-year for everyone. There's no experience involved going in."