Saturday, June 22, 2013

Jim Leyland. Smoke and mirrors

Ever listen to what the Detroit Tigers' manager has to say in his interviews with the press? If so, you may have noticed this man can't seem to put two consecutive sentences together without defying logic. He'll say one thing, then immediately turn around and contradict himself. When the interview is over, one is left to scratch their head and wonder -- what the hell was he talking about? He's a like a politician in the neanderthal days.

Amazingly, the reporters seem to fear him. They appear scared to death of asking a tough question that might make the Skipper mad. I don't know why. It's their job to do such things, yet they seem to cower in his presence.

Sure, Leyland's an old-school type of guy. He's gruff and certainly has shown he has a temper over the years. To which I say -- so what? He's the manager of a major league baseball team and tough questions from the media go with the territory -- or at least should. Yet they continue to walk on eggshells when in his presence, as if he might come roaring out of his chair at any second having morphed into a Terminator.

This is all nonsense, of course. Way back in the 1960s Leyland wanted to be a major league player himself, but he wasn't nearly good enough. A .222 batting average in only the minor leagues pretty well proved that out. Evidently having no other job skills in the real world, somehow Leyland hooked on as a third base coach for Tony LaRussa, then managing the Chicago White during the early 1980s. Incredibly, this also somehow led to Leyland being offered the manager's position of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Fast forward a few teams and a couple decades, over which time his body of work (see win/loss record) have shown him to be decidedly mediocre as a manager, and presto, now he rules the roost in Detroit.

Some have credited him with "developing" such stars as Barry Bonds while still with the Pirates in the pre-steroid era. That would seem to raise an obvious question. What could a putz of a player like himself possibly have to contribute to the emergence of a budding superstar? Some guys got it, and some guys don't. Bonds did. Leyland didn't. Get out of the way and let the talented guys do their thing. Seems simple enough. Next thing you know, with the current pseudo-fascination over Leyland, they'll be saying he taught Miguel Cabrera how to hit or Justin Verlander how to pitch. Maybe he'll even get credited with pitcher Max Scherzer starting this season with a 10-0 record. One word. Please.

In the game against the Red Sox yesterday, a Boston player was called safe on a close play at home plate. Leyland walked out to confront the umpire. Basically, the ump told Leyland the runner beat the tag, and Leyland nodded in agreement and walked back to the dugout. The ump was looking at the play from 3 feet away and Leyland was still down in the dugout when it happened. I'm guessing the umpire had a lot better view of that play than Leyland. So what was the point in Leyland holding up the game to go out there in the first place? Photo-ops?

Leyland's managerial philosophy seems simple enough. If one guy is stinking it up, put another guy in and hope he does better. Hell, you or I could do that. It ain't exactly brain science or rocket surgery, as they say.

For every "brilliant" decision Leyland makes, there will be an equally perceived "bone-headed" move.

Yet in the end, it's alway boiled down to one thing. Players play. The team with the better ones usually win more than they lose.

Guys like Leyland, especially given his long track record, are vastly overrated.

The dude's 68 years old and he growls at questions he doesn't like. Yet reporters come to him on bended knee waiting for a pearl of wisdom. Well, guess what? He doesn't have any. Never did, and never will. He tries to intimidate and the scribes still foolishly buy into it.

In my opinion, Leyland's nothing more than a guy that found a way to not only stay in baseball, but make several million bucks along the way. Nice work if one can get it. He could just as easily have been taking your order at a drive-through window at a fast food place over the last couple decades.

Sometimes fate just works out that way.

But please. Stop being intimidated by this guy. He ain't all that. Never was. If you buy into the image he tries to project -- it's YOUR fault. See it for what it is, and hope someday he'll be able to put a few sentences together that actually make sense.

That doesn't seem like too much to ask of a guy that's making more per year than most of us will in a lifetime.







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