Monday, October 8, 2012

Jim Leyland

Way back on June 11th, yours truly wrote an article suggesting the Detroit Tigers fire Jim Leyland. I caught a lot of flak over that. Much has happened in the 4 months since then. The Tigers have been up and down, but eventually prevailed to win the American League central division, and currently hold a 2-0 lead over the Oakland Athletics in the first round of the playoffs. How far the Tigers go in the postseason is anybody's guess, and ultimately winning the World Series certainly isn't out of the question.

Common sense would seem to dictate that I eat crow over that article, but there's just one problem with that. If you've read some my other rants, you already know I don't have any common sense. Ever wonder why the price of the Oakland Press keeps going up? It might be because the paper is paying me Prince Fielder type money to rant like a lunatic. Or maybe I exaggerated that just a little bit. Only Caputo gets that kind of dough. Whatever.

Nevertheless, I'll stick by that June rant and here's why ---

Jim Leyland doesn't know anything hitting or pitching. Like most other major league managers, he has specialized coaches that tutor the players in such things. Though he has sometimes said so, from the dugout he can't tell whether a pitch was an inch outside or not. If one of his pitchers serves up a monster home run to an opposing batter, Leyland will say he made a bad pitch. Yet, if on the same pitch, the opposing batter had struck out -- he'll say it was a good pitch. This is all baloney. Sometimes they hit them, and sometimes they don't.

Leyland's job as a manager is to put the right players in the right positions to give the Tigers the best chance of winning any particular game. He makes out the "line-up" card before the game, decides on a starting pitcher, brings in pinch-hitters and relievers from the bullpen as he sees fit, and can signal in such plays as a hit-and run or sacrifice bunt, given any particular situation.

And in that regard, many knowledgeable baseball people, that are impartial to the Tigers, have found Leyland to be sorely lacking in his judgment.  Many times, he's had players playing positions they're not familiar with, and bungled his pitchers.

Leyland, and I dare say many Tiger fans, have become fond of him spouting his post-game pseudo-platitudes to the press, which seems to be intimidated by him for some unknown reason.

Yet, I would still maintain the Tigers continue to win DESPITE Leyland, foibles, gruff attitude, and all.

His contract expires after this year, so the Tigers don't even need to fire him. Just don't renew his contract and let him go back home to Pennsylvania and live happily ever after with his millions in the bank. It's time to move on.

Of course, in the unlikely event the Tigers indeed go on to win the World Series, Leyland will be a hero in the eyes of many, and they'll clamor for a long-term extension to his contract. In my opinion, they would be mistaken, and I hope Tigers' owner Mike Ilitch has the wisdom to see through all that.

Just because Leyland has been around the major leagues for a long time, enjoying the "good ole boy" rotation system that seems to be prevalent amongst head coaches and managers in various pro sports, doesn't necessarily mean he's any good.

And who knows? If the Tigers become world champs, maybe Leyland will take a cue from another manager that was always light years ahead of him in baseball strategy. Tony LaRussa of the St. Louis Cardinals, also a long-shot to win the World Series last year, did so and promptly announced his retirement. He went out on top.

That would be a win-win. Perfect.


  1. Sorry John, but Leyland has forgotten more about baseball than you will ever know. Leyland has frustrated us all over the years (yes, even me), and he did yesterday too, until the game was over and they won. So his decisions worked out ok.

    A manager can only manage the players his GM gives him. There are 25 players on the team and like most managers, Leyland uses them all. It is his job to put them all in the best position to succeed. When they are in it is up to them to do the job. Many of the players did not do a very good job this year. But the manager can't hit for them and he can't pitch for them. If a manager really was able to control performances, nobody would ever have a slump or a bad year. All he can do is make sure they are trying their best in preparation and in the games.
    It might even be his best job of managing since the following players had so-so or sub-par years:
    Avila, Peralta, Boesch, Benoit, Valverde, Raburn, Inge. The equivalent of 4 regulars, a setup man and a closer. How did the Tigers do as well as they did? Maybe a steady hand on the rudder.

    It is also the manager's job - maybe the most important job - to keep control of the clubhouse. How many times have you seen a team torn apart because of the inmates trying to run the asylum? Think Allen Trammell. Think Phil Garner. Think Francona in Boston. There has never even been a hint of any problems in the Tiger clubhouse since Leyland arrived.

    The Tigers had high expectations this year. While they have not looked pretty, they have succeeded in their goal of making the playoffs. That is really the only thing that one can reasonably expect from a team, over 162 games talent will usually prevail. Once in the playoffs it is a crapshoot, anything can happen. Ask St. Louis last year and even in 2006.

    Firing Leyland or hoping he retires is being shortsighted. Who do you propose would replace him and be better? Francona? Just hired by Cleveland, and he lost his clubhouse in Boston? Valentine? He never had his clubhouse anywhere he has been.

    I hope the Tigers win the World Series this year, they have as good a chance as any team. I also hope Leyland comes back. He managed to lead the Tigers to the playoffs again this year and will have another big bullet for the gun next year when Victor Martinez comes back. There will be some more new players and I can't wait for the ride. It should be even more fun than this year.

    Sorry for the rambling.

    1. No need to apologize, Al. Unlike some of my colleagues, I make no pretense about being a baseball guru, or an authority on any other sport, for that matter. I've gone to hundreds of games over the years, watched thousands more, and now I kick back and offer up various rants through this medium. Some make sense. Some don't. Some will agree. Some won't. While I agree with some of what you said -- here's a few counterpoints. As for injuries and/or sub-par years from certain players? Every team goes through that. Keeping the inmates from running the asylum? That's nothing special. If a manager can't do at least that, he should be fired within a week, not have upper management wait until the season is over as the Bosox did with Francona and Valentine. Given Leyland's expiring contract, there's no need to fire him. Just don't renew it and move on. Shortsighted? In my opinion, it's quite the opposite. The man's almost 68 years old, his lengthy record proves he's never been more than a journeyman manager, and just how long would you propose keeping him on? As long as certain US Senators or Supreme Court justices that have lingered way beyond their usefulness in the past, just because of name recognition and/or life-time appointments? During my lifetime, I've only seen two baseball managers that were truly difference makers wherever they went. One was the late Billy Martin. Like him or not, he was a winner. The other was Tony LaRussa. At that, in an interview in this week's edition of Sports Illustrated, LaRussa himself said, "It's a players game. There's little difference between any of the managers". A humble statement coming from one of the best. He had the class and wisdom to go out on top after last year. Here's hoping the Tigers win the World Series this year and Leyland does the same. Oh BTW, I sure hope you never meet the "Princess". If you two ever got together and ganged up on me, yours truly would have to find something safer to do in his spare time. Like wrestling grizzly bears in the wild, kissing piranhas in the Amazon, or God forbid, dancing with Bristol Palin.

  2. Well, Al, I got your back on this one. John has not even been watching any baseball, especially since Football started. He obviously gets his inside info on what decisions that Leyland makes, from the bat boy/girl. As John approches the same age, we should remind him to let the younger ones do the ranting. There you go John, you got your wish. Bristol Palin here he comes.

    The Princess

    1. Wow. I didn't know royalty had been lurking about the premises spying on my every move, but you're right, Princess. I'm a football guy at heart. Just one flaw with your logic, though. I've been retired for some time, remember? Which is exactly what I advocate for Leyland. Not sure about the batgirl angle for information. Do they have any over 40 these days? Bristol I can probably deal with -- as long as she doesn't take me home to meet her mom. That would probably get ugly.

  3. Jim Leyland, if he had any honor, would go home and commit hari kari (sp?). I blogged on Yahoo Fantasy football site, on some side article, after the A's blown game (the game before Verlander pitched his complete game 4 hitter, 11 strike outs)that he was blatantly guilty of overmanaging, and I got about a DOZEN likes almost immediately.

    The only complaint (and even HE agreed with my points) was in regards to my language (a cpl "Farking"s, and one GD, written just with those two initials, invoking God).

    Whatever happened to MEN, pitchers in relief, EXPECTING a man on base? WHY not leave the relief pitcher who had thrown a 94 mile an hour strike, gave up nothing, in the 8th, and IN A GROOVE, IN FOR THE START OF THE 9TH?

    IF he gives up a hit, a walk...THEN you can bring in Valverde. He blows that one for us, and we were GD lucky we had the scheduling, VERLANDER, who would have told Leyland go back, sit the hell down, and have a smoke, I GOT THIS.

    NOW...I am sitting here, after cursing LEYLAND earlier for a human turd, Valverde for the same, but hey, HE didn't leave him in, much less bring him in, to give up 4 FREAKING RUNS, up 4-0, in the 9th. That was the Cancer man. Even the announcers were like (after he gave up 2), "I don't even know what to make of this", i.e. STILL leaving the obviously shook up Valverde in.

    Leyland is GOD AWFUL. IF we lose this game, IF we don't make the World Series, and they RENEW THIS HUMAN TURD'S CONTRACT?

    Well...I dare not say what I wish to hell would happen. There just MIGHT be a God, and I might be forced, for such a hateful thought, about a baseball game, to come back to this world and reincarnate as Jim Leyland's handkerchief as payback.

    He sucks. He is stubborn. He is Stupid. FARK JIM LEYLAND ALL TO HEDOUBLETOOTHPICKS.

    AND I AM SURE I SPEAK FOR ALL OF DETROIT TONIGHT, in that sentiment...even from California, which I THANK GOD I will have decent weather now tomorrow, to alleviate my angry breast. CHRIS TASSE.

    1. Geez, CT, no need to hold back. If you've got something to say, speak your GD FARKING mind. Just messing with ya, but yeah, I think Leyland is WAY overrated, and always has been. Thanks for commenting.