October 21, manager Jim Leyland retired from the Detroit Tigers. General manager Dave Dombrowski was at his side, at the press conference. The GM had explained that the next manager of the Tigers would most likely be well seasoned (to better handle the veteran, championship level team). Dombrowski received a question about the possibility of considering an inexperienced manager. As a total afterthought, he said: "You always have to leave the door open". But it hardly seemed likely.
Provocative odds making
The following day, October 22, online sports book Bovada - Las Vegas had already set odds on the next Tiger skipper. It took a mere 24 hours to establish that Brad Ausmus was 4 to 1, Lloyd McClendon 9 to 2, Tom Brookens 5 to 1, Torey Lovullo 5 to 1, Gene Lamont 11 to 2. (Among others)
Dave Dombrowski moved on to the interview process. Neither of his first two candidates was named Brad Ausmus - was he going to get to him, or was Bovada - Las Vegas wrong? Dombrowski had never really met Brad Ausmus previously - unlike at least three of his other candidates. He had known them very, very well, in fact. They were non mysteries.
Alas, voila, he soon did interview Ausmus, and a few days later he hired him. How did Dombrowski do a 180; an about face, and hire someone with zero managerial experience? How did Bovada - Las Vegas know he was more likely to do this, than anything else? How are odds makers consistently more accurate than sports reporters, TV media or fans?
In the case of hiring this particular manager, there are a few clues. It is clear now, after the fact, that Tiger bench coach Gene Lamont has had a strong bond with Ausmus since probably 2002 - and has been beating the drums for him. A fact not commonly known, but Vegas assuredly knew it.
To know him is to love him
Dombrowski is also quited as saying "I'd been hearing about Ausmus every day. After interviewing him, the GM said: "We were taken aback by just how impressive he was...it became clear to us that he would do an outstanding job". Newspaper reporters characterized Dombrowski as "beaming".
Since the hiring of Brad Ausmus, there has been a flurry of little stories by former and current players attesting to his significant virtues. The persistent and perplexing question remained: "How did Vegas know he was the most likely choice, in terms of odds?
A road map to how Las Vegas does this
An odds maker's very job and livelihood depends on being ahead of the curve. Their methodologies are quite secretive in most regards. The following is conjecture, but can we maybe call it "educated conjecture"? This is a probable scenario and puzzle piece in how they do business.
Vegas odds makers have astute baseball researchers, who will draft a list of "managerial suspects". In turn, they'll create a "tree of human connections", all the people - past or present - that lead to Brad Ausmus, Lloyd McClendon, Tim Wallach or whoever is on the projected managerial possibility list.
The researchers, quickly, but exhaustively study all these connections, their public comments, and total correlations to a given candidate. They could even telephone them to collect private information. The candidate with the most "air tight case" would then receive the best odds in Vegas.
Dombrowski had no way out - He had to interview Ausmus
This lightning-like odds maker research was completed one day after leyland retired. They knew Dombrowski might want a very experienced manager - but he ain't gonna get that - He ultimately will have to interview Brad Ausmus. Why? The power and credibility of those breathing, walking, talking connections to Ausmus.
If Dombrowski does not interview Ausmus and Mr. Ausmus is hired elsewhere (extremely likely!) and becomes "a manager for the ages", then this general manager has to hear reverberations from sports writers and local media for how long? (particularly if his "non Ausmus" hiring is unsuccessful)
Las Vegas research also knew this: Once Ausmus is inevitably sitting across the desk from Dombrowski & company, in that interview setting - it will be a slam dunk. Everything the odds makers accumulated - all the pertinent info about personality, diligence, intelligence, health and the unique ability to lead - will be smacking Dave Dombrowski in the face - from the lips and aura of the real life Brad Ausmus, in real time.
Dave won't merely like it - he'll be loving it. And they knew it.
Deja vu in favor of Detroit sports fans this time?
50 years ago Don Shula left the Detroit Lions to become coach of the Baltimore Colts. He was a 33 year old, three year defensive backfield coach. What on earth did Baltimore owner Carroll Rosenbloom see in this young man? You talk about flying under the radar - it wasn't even turned on!
There should be a trophy for perceptiveness. He saw something and it was some thing! Shula served him well, then went on to bigger fame with the Miami Dolphins - a coach for 36 years. One of the all time greatest. The only one in history with a perfect undefeated season.
On wonders if Dave Dombrowski has ever read that story. He's a voracious student, and also possesses a near photographic memory, but it's quite a stretch...do you think?...do you think?