DETROIT — The last time the Tigers hired a manager, Al Avila and Dave Dombrowski worked together on the search. They will now spend the remainder of October doing their own managerial searches apart.
While the Tigers continue to cast a wide search at a deliberate pace for a field general to lead them through a heavy roster rebuild, the Red Sox joined the list of teams in the market when Dombrowski announced Wednesday that John Farrell will not return. Though Detroit already had competition, Boston presents a different dynamic with Dombrowski leading the search: Two front-office executives who worked together for more than two decades at two different stops, two baseball men who know how each other think and work better than anyone, are now competitors who could be looking for the same person.
The jobs they’re offering carry vastly different expectations. While the Tigers this year closed an era of title contention that flourished under Dombrowski, they’re looking for somebody to lead a roster that’s getting younger. Dombrowski’s managerial opening is more like the Tigers’ last one, an opening to lead a stacked roster looking to win now, with a window of contention for a few years.
Detroit and Boston sit at opposite ends on their developmental cycle. That doesn’t mean they’re looking for different managers. The qualities they’re seeking overlap more than one would think. When Avila announced last month that Brad Ausmus wouldn’t be back, he noted the need for experience in the role.
“I would say the manager doesn’t have to have managerial experience at the Major League level, but he certainly has to have managerial experience in the Minor Leagues or coaching experience at the Major Leagues,” Avila said, “so that the person who comes in is well-prepared in that sense.”
Dombrowski sounded a similar tone when talking about the job requirements in Boston, saying he would like to hire somebody who at least has experience on a Major League coaching staff, if not a former big league manager.
So far, there’s no sign the Red Sox’s opening has impacted what the Tigers are doing. Detroit interviewed Fredi Gonzalez last week in Lakeland, Fla., during organizational meetings, and was expected to do the same this week with Rockies bench coach and former Marlins manager Mike Redmond. With the D-backs eliminated from the postseason earlier this week, Ron Gardenhire — the Arizona bench coach who spent 13 years as Twins manager — is expected to interview in the near future, possibly next week in Detroit. Astros bench coach Alex Cora is also expected to interview at some point once Houston’s season is complete, according to ESPN’s Marly Rivera.
At the same time, Gardenhire and Cora are among the rumored candidates in Boston, where Cora spent four years playing for the Red Sox and Gardenhire has the respect of Dombrowski as longtime American League Central competitors.
The only scenario more intriguing than Dombrowski and Avila competing for managerial candidates would be the two potentially hiring each other’s former managers. While Ausmus had no managerial experience when Dombrowski and Avila hired him for the Detroit post four years ago, he’s a veteran manager now with respect from baseball evaluators who believe his second stop will be better. On the flip side, Farrell complements his managerial resume with a wealth of player development experience before Boston, though there’s no indication he’s a serious consideration for the Tigers at this point.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck’s Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.