By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox have officially said that their “search” for a new manager is underway, but it’s possible that Dave Dombrowski has already made up his mind.
Hopefully, that’s not the case.
If you’re concerned about former Tigers manager Brad Ausmus coming to Boston as the next Red Sox skipper, then Pete Abraham’s Friday column in the Boston Globe should worry you. The story posits that Dombrowski’s publicly expressed desire to find his next manager in a timely fashion suggests that he has already pegged Ausmus as his top choice. Abraham believes that Dombrowski may have pre-picked Ausmus, whom he previously hired to helm the Tigers in 2013, because the Red Sox president of baseball ops “always knows what he wants to do well ahead of time.”
Ausmus had a good relationship with David Price during the lefty’s time in Detroit, which lasted about a calendar year between 2014 and 2015. Price certainly didn’t seem to have a good working relationship with ex-Red Sox manager John Farrell, whose standing with the players probably played at least a minor role in his ouster on Wednesday. Perhaps a happier Price would make for a healthier clubhouse if Ausmus can hold things together.
The real concern with Ausmus, however, is the way he handled public scrutiny. And there’s no way that the Detroit media is as pervasive, aggressive, or cynical as what he would encounter in Boston.
Maybe that’s why he and Price got along so well with the Tigers. That’s cool. Maybe they could be media-bitching buddies here, too. If Ausmus had issues in Detroit, he sure will in Boston.
The manager infamously ranted about the negativity of the local Detroit reporters just last month, days before he lost his job. When asked why he didn’t insert a defensive replacement for right fielder Nick Castellanos, which arguably led to Tigers starter Matthew Boyd losing a no-hitter on a double to right, Ausmus told a reporter to “Stop with the negative.”
“That just shows you the negativity that comes into this room sometimes after games,” he said. “You immediately look to blame or point a finger at someone because it didn’t work out the way you wanted it to work out.” He also called the questions “dumb” and “bad.”
This was far from the first time that Ausmus faced criticism over his in-game management. After five years of Farrell bumbling his way through games (even in the 2013 World Series), Red Sox fans won’t be able to accept more of the same.
Ausmus can feel however he wants about the way the media reacts to games. This isn’t to say the question wasn’t bad, or that he should be nicer to reporters. It’s just a sign that he’s not prioritizing what’s really important and focusing too much on what’s being said on the outside. And he would only get more of that in Boston, and with higher volume and frequency.
Price clearly has trouble handling it, so what would make Dombrowski believe Ausmus could handle it if he couldn’t in Detroit? If Ausmus thought the negativity sucked there, wait until he’s walking through that door here.
That’s partially why USA Today baseball writer Bob Nightengale told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich on Thursday that it would be a “stunner” if Ausmus became the next Red Sox manager. Dombrowski already saw that Ausmus didn’t work out with the Tigers and the manager has already shown that he may not be able to properly run a clubhouse without concern for external noise.
Yes, it’s important for Dombrowski to find someone who can manage the personalities inside Fenway Park. But that kind of leadership is also going to have to come from new faces on the roster. For the manager, Dombrowski should be looking for someone who can go more than one or two games without making decisions that cause beat writers to sharpen their knives. Based on how Ausmus ran games in Detroit, the media here would not be without material.
The fact that Farrell managed his way to a World Series championship in 2013 (and three AL East titles) shows that in-game tactics are overrated. But it’s imperative that Dombrowski finds someone who would represent an improvement in that area – and that may also be important for ownership, who will be aiming for better TV ratings and increased interest in the team. An unlikable manager who can’t get out of his own way during games would not help.
There’s probably no ideal candidate out there for Red Sox manager. But the hope is that Dombrowski is entering his manager search with more of an open mind than some are expecting, because hiring Ausmus certainly wouldn’t seem well-thought out.
And like the Price signing, it would stink of a move that’s destined to backfire.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, CBS, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.