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A’s to hire Brad Ausmus as bench coach

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Joining the staff of new manager Mark Kotsay

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Oakland Athletics Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s got a new manager this winter, and now they’re setting to work retooling their coaching staff.

The A’s are expected to hire Brad Ausmus as their new bench coach, reports insider Jon Heyman. The move has not yet been officially announced by the team.

Ausmus brings a wealth of experience both on and off the field. As a player he spent 18 seasons in the majors as a catcher, earning three Gold Gloves, an All-Star berth, and five trips to the postseason. Later he became a manager for the Tigers (2014-17) and then the Angels (2019), and he also managed the Israel National Team during 2012 World Baseball Classic qualifiers.

The 52-year-old now joins an Oakland staff led by new skipper Mark Kotsay, who was hired in December. The rest of Kotsay’s staff is yet to be determined, but he spoke highly of the remaining five coaches from last summer in a recent interview with Chris Townsend. That group includes Mike Aldrete (1B), Darren Bush (hitting), Scott Emerson (pitching), Marcus Jensen (bullpen), and Eric Martins (asst hitting).

How did we get here? At the beginning of the offseason, longtime manager Bob Melvin and bench coach Ryan Christenson both left the team to take jobs with the San Diego Padres, creating a pair of openings in Oakland’s dugout. The A’s promoted their 3B coach Kotsay to replace Melvin, and now he’s chosen his top assistant, with Ausmus taking the role previously held by Christenson. They’ll need to add at least one more new name to round out the staff (since Kotsay vacated the 3B coach job), or more if any of the incumbents aren’t retained.

Although the league is in a lockout right now, barring transactions involving MLB players, clubs can still hire coaches during this time since they aren’t part of the Players Association.

Analysis

It’s tough to analyze a bench coach, but Ausmus checks some boxes. He’s a notable former player, plus he was a catcher, one who was considered a smart and elite defender. He has plenty of coaching background with five years as a manager, though interestingly he’s never been the lieutenant before, always the boss.

That’s as good a resumé as any, and broadcaster Dallas Braden points out how Ausmus’ managerial experience can be particularly useful for an Oakland club that’s breaking in a rookie skipper:

“The Value of having a former Manager on your coaching staff is massive for many reasons. He can clearly help Kotsay settle in to the mechanics of a manager & his presence as a former catcher will allow him to serve as a sounding board for young arms as well as the position guys.”

As for Ausmus’ own record as a manager, in Detroit he inherited an aging roster teetering toward the end of its competitive window, winning 90 games and the division in his debut season but then fading toward a rebuild. In Anaheim he had a team full of Angels players, so obviously it went poorly, but perhaps it’s notable that he was dismissed after just one summer. He has a career .478 win percentage to date.

In 2017, Patrick Whelan of Bless You Boys suggested Ausmus’ struggles with the Tigers stemmed from being the wrong fit for the club at that particular moment, in addition to his fair share of rookie mistakes along the way.

“But the team never seemed to embrace his personality. His cool, dry humor and often disjointed responses to criticism rubbed people the wrong way. The fans bristled at his choices, and the media poked and prodded from day one. ... In the end, it was the players, not the manager who closed the window on the Tigers’ success.”

While there were questions about some of his strategic decisions, that stuff presumably might be mitigated in a complementary role as the bench coach. He also won’t need to interact with the media as much as a manager does.

What we can say for sure is the A’s now have an experienced coach to take the bench alongside their new first-year manager. Welcome to Oakland! Check out the video below to see him get 80-grade creative in an argument with the ump, using a sweatshirt as a prop.