It’s hard to tell whether former Tigers general manager Randy Smith liked catcher Brad Ausmus or had it in for him. After all, Smith dealt for or dealt away Ausmus five times in seven years.
The first time was in 1993 when Smith was an assistant GM with the Rockies. Ausmus went to the Padres with Doug Bochtler and Andy Ashby for Bruce Hurst and Greg Harris.
The next time Ausmus was traded, on June 18, 1996, Smith was the Vice President, Baseball Operations and General Manager for the Padres. Smith sent Ausmus, Andujar Cedeno and minor leaguer Russ Spear to the Tigers for John Flaherty and Chris Gomez.
Six months later, Dec. 10, 1996, Smith cobbled together another one of his beloved multi-player trades, this time with his hometown Houston Astros — a team his father, Tal, helped shape over two decades. The Tigers traded Ausmus, Jose Lima, Trever Miller, C.J. Nitkowski, and Daryle Ward to the Astros for Doug Brocail, Brian Hunter, Todd Jones, Orlando Miller and cash.
Then, nine years ago today, Jan. 14, 1999, the Tigers re-acquired Ausmus and Nitkowski from the Astros for Paul Bako, Dean Crow, Brian Powell and minor leaguers Carlos Villalobos and Mark Persails.
Head spinning? Just hang on.
Less than 11 months later, Ausmus was on the move again — back to the Astros, of course, this time with Brocail and Nelson Cruz for Roger Cedeno, Chris Holt and Mitch Meluskey. I was living in Houston at the time and frankly couldn’t believe it.
After shuttling between Detroit and Houston, Ausmus settled down to become a fixture on some talented Astros teams, including the 2005 World Series team. And to this day people in Houston flat-out love Ausmus.
Detroiters would have too, if he’d stuck around long enough.