If you ask the Detroit Tigers if they see any future managers in their clubhouse, you will get two common answers.
First, everyone thinks Alex Avila will be good. Second, while they all have suggestions about which teammates would be great skippers, very few of them want to do the job themselves.
The conversation started during a pregame discussion with Brad Ausmus.
"I can’t say that I spend a lot of time in our clubhouse thinking about who might be a manager, but the first name that comes to mind is Alex," he said. "That’s probably because I’m biased toward catchers, but I really do think that being one prepares you for the job.
"Other than him? Kins could do it, but I don’t think he’d want to. Victor, if he wanted to. Torii could, but I think he will end up in a broadcast booth, and Donnie would be good."
Avila was almost a unanimous selection, although Miguel Cabrera did jokingly point out that he’s had a lot of concussions.
"Not only is Alex smart enough to do it, but he’s the one guy in this room who is always on an even keel," said Phil Coke. "The guy’s emotions are a flat line, to an alarming degree at times, but that’s something you want in a manager. You don’t want a guy who is getting incredibly excited and incredibly angry all of the time."
Coke wasn’t surprised to hear that no one had named him as a managerial candidate.
"Oh, there’s a shock," he joked. "I’m with everyone else on this. I don’t really have the personality or the desire to manage other people. That’s just not me."
As Ausmus predicted, Kinsler wasn’t interested, but he had his two favorite candidates.
"Me? No, not me. That’s just not something I ever see myself doing," said the second baseman, who would definitely fall into the lead-by-example category, rather than someone who would fire up the team with words. "Alex would be good, but I think Victor would be the best. You’d be great, Victor."
Martinez, sitting one locker over, shook his head.
"That takes too much time out of your life," he said. "I’ve already been away from my family too much. My plan is to play four more years, and then go be with my family. Maybe I’ll change my mind when I’m older, but not now."
Martinez, though, did add his name to the chorus putting Avila forward as a future manager. It’s an obvious choice, even beyond the fact that he’d be following in the footsteps of fellow catchers Jim Leyland and Ausmus, as well as several other successes going from Connie Mack a century ago to Joe Torre, Mike Scioscia and Bob Melvin.
Avila also has a long family history in the game, dating back to his grandfather Ralph, one of the pioneers of Caribbean scouting. His father Al, of course, is Dave Dombrowski’s right-hand man in the Tigers front office, and Alex’s godfather is former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda.
Not only is Alex smart enough to do it, but he’s the one guy in this room who is always on an even keel.
"I haven’t really thought much about managing, but I’ve always thought I would stay in the game when I was done playing," Avila said. "I just love coming to the park, love watching baseball and love talking baseball. It isn’t the first time someone has said I could manage — I guess it is my temperament. It could be a possibility, and maybe in a few years I’ll think about it more. I’m pretty sure I’ll stay in baseball."
Avila agreed with Ausmus that being a catcher is good training to be a manager.
"That’s been the trend, just because of the amount of responsibility we have," he said. "We have a good, general idea of all aspects of the game. We know what it takes for a pitcher to perform and what it takes for an everyday player to perform, both offensively and defensively. Working with the pitchers and the pitching coach, you even pick up things mechanically that pitchers need to be successful. So you have general knowledge about everything."
The more Avila talked, the more he sounded like a manager, and he eventually admitted that he has one staff member already in mind.
"I’ve said from the get-go that Don Kelly could do it — he has that kind of temperament," Avila said. "I’ve already said when someone asked me, if I become a manager, Donnie is going to be my bench coach."