So the Tigers are supposed to win. This much hasn’t changed.

The players begin to gather among the palm trees and the expectation blows in with them. World Series or else, a familiar edict around these parts, though whose I’m not quite certain. For that matter, would someone tell me what “or else” actually means?

That we will turn off our televisions? Boycott the ballpark? Hang a poster of Prince Fielder and throw darts at it?

Wait, Fielder’s gone? Really? So who is gonna be this year’s whipping boy? Jim Leyland?

He’s gone, too? Damn. Where’s the fun in that? And who will get the blame when the Tigers lose a third of their games?

Surely not Brad Ausmus.

I mean, he graduated from Dartmouth, looks like a movie star and grew up in a house of intellectual pursuit. His father taught European history and penned a book that breaks down Nietzsche’s philosophy, an insightful probe into metaphysics, nihilism and when a runner should be waved home from second.

Ausmus is said to be quite fond of his father’s book. He should be. His father wrote it. And if my father had published an analysis of the famed German philosopher I’d dig metaphysics, too.

As it is, I grew up in the house of a military officer and salesman, so if you ever need a translator for disaster-preparedness manuals or help negotiating a car lot, I’m your man.

It’s possible that Ausmus is your man, too.

He arrives in Lakeland as a rookie skipper on a crest of backstage baseball buzz. By all accounts, Ausmus became a hot managerial prospect the minute he retired as a catcher in 2010.

Just this weekend baseball analyst and former Reds and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden declared Ausmus the most promising managerial hire of the winter. Hey, when you can decipher pitching signals and contemplate the meaning of life how difficult can running a clubhouse be?

I’m glad you asked, because oiling the inner-workings of a major league baseball team requires a delicate touch. Few were better at it than Leyland. There was method in his chain-smoking madness.

Could he have waited a few more minutes after a game to shovel food into his mouth? Absolutely. Could he have growled a little less when he heard a question he didn’t like? Of course.

Leyland never cared to apply the daily polish modern media relations demands. He said what he thought. He mumbled and grumbled. All of it, however, was designed to insulate and motivate his players.

Cunning wasn’t a word often associated with Leyland’s maneuvering. It should have been. He always had a plan.

Ausmus will, too. No baseball executive as meticulous as Dave Dombrowski would hire a manager without one. Nor would Dombrowski have hired one without a keen ability to navigate a clubhouse. He said as much last fall when he introduced Ausmus. Handling players was the priority.