When managers attack: Part II

by billfer on April 13, 2008 · 39 comments

in 2008 Season,Managing & Strategy

With the Tigers struggling the first two weeks, there has been a lot of grumbling that manager Jim Leyland needs to light into the team. Well, Mount Leyland erupted following today’s game.

Leyland had previously downplayed such a tactic saying that it can’t be a show. It has to be something that is real and genuine. As I watched today’s debacle, specifically the Zach Miner sequence that involved an intentional walk, followed by a wild pitch, followed by an unintentional walk, followed by a grand slam I wondered to myself how could Leyland not muster up the necessary vitriol. Not that Zach Miner deserved to be the sole recipient, it’s not like the team was even in the game up to that point. It was just a glaring manifestation of the poor play that has overtaken this team.

Details of the rant are scant but it sounds like Leyland and the players have been doing some soul searching.

“We look bad,” he admitted Sunday. “You always feel from a manager’s standpoint that you’re not pushing the right buttons. Are you saying the right things? You beat yourself up harder than anyone else. You ask yourself whether you’re doing something different from what you did the last two years.”

We all remember in 2006 when Leyland went off on the team following a lackluster effort on get-away day against the Indians. It was credited with propelling the team forward. My own take is that the rant probably played a small role, but a come from behind win against the A’s a couple days later was the bigger factor. Still, with the last two games coming on top of a 7 game skid to start the season, something or anything is needed. And let’s pray it works. It’s the kind of tactic that you can’t go to over and over again.

 
 

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Stephen April 13, 2008 at 8:57 pm

[i'm guessing the thread is going to move to this section so forgive me for re-posting what i just posted on the game thread]

Topic: Saving the season
This is what I would do and I’ll preface that I didn’t see this coming so I’m not acting like a genius here. Also, I would make these moves to help the team NOW and not take into account the long term contracts Guillen and Cabrera just signed and whatever position promises were made.

1.Move Cabrera to first base. I’m now convinced he can’t play third consistently.
2.Have Inge play third and bat him ninth. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the team needs some defensive athleticism.
3. Have Guillen and Sheffield split DH. They each can play in the field once or twice a week. Rest them the other days. (Believe me, I know that makes them the most expensive 450 ab guys in the history of baseball, but we’re trying to win games here).
4. Have Raburn play center.
5. Fine Rogers whatever you have to so he gets it through his head that running 13 miles, even on the day after your start, is just idiotic and not acceptable.
6. The bullpen. Uh, pass! As Scotty would say to Captain Kirk, ‘Cap’n i’m not a miracle worker.’

Brad April 13, 2008 at 9:14 pm

I agree with billfer. I don’t see how this eruption is going to cure Cabrera’s quad, or force batters to stop swinging at ball fours in the dirt.

But what do I know. I just comment on blogs.

T Smith April 13, 2008 at 9:21 pm

*Fine Rogers whatever you have to so he gets it through his head that running 13 miles, even on the day after your start, is just idiotic and not acceptable*

As long as your laying down the law and being strict with your players, you might as well ban Guitar Hero and prohibit players from moving heavy objects during the offseason. Punching locker doors should also be prohibited.

Stephen April 13, 2008 at 9:54 pm

Yes.

Vince in MN April 13, 2008 at 10:07 pm

I guess the counter-argument to Leyland going off on the team is that if he upsets the pampered poodles they might actually play worse.

Jim April 13, 2008 at 10:46 pm

Why doesn’t get Cabrera get a day off? I’m sure he could use it physically and mentally

Ryan in Brooklyn April 13, 2008 at 10:58 pm

Leyland is often fond of saying that it’s the manager’s responsibility to get the team prepared to play. I’m starting to get a sense that this is the greatest failing of this season thus far. For whatever reason, this team has started the season looking ill-prepared for a 162 game marathon. I know the coaching staff can’t pitch, hit or field for the players, but they are charged with setting the tone. If Leyland wants to go on a tirade, he might try directing it at his coaching staff and himself.

Jimmy April 13, 2008 at 11:09 pm

Vince in MN: What exactly would “playing worse” actually look like?

Mike R April 13, 2008 at 11:31 pm

Maybe Jim Leyland should quit playing the clubs $153 million investment at 3rd base and 1st base on terrible, rainy, freezing cold nights when he’s got a bum leg. What does a dude have to do to get a freaking day off from Jim? It’s frustrating.

Lets fix the problem: Fire Jim Leyland. Maybe we can find someone who can handle the lineup, the bullpen, and properly stretch out his starting pitchers in spring training so they all don’t hit walls after 80 pitches in each of their first 2 starts.

Kevin in Austin April 13, 2008 at 11:35 pm

I’d rather trade Guillen, move Pudge to 1st, and move Robertson to the bullpen. I know that people think trading Guillen is nuts, but I think he’s our most valuable commodity. Or maybe trade Maggs. Let’s face it, Maggs plateaued last year. We can win with our Maggs or Guillen. We can’t win with this current pitching staff.

(Note, I don’t want to trade any of those guys, well, maybe Pudge, but I think the hurt of losing one of them would be much shorter than the incredible suffering that I’m going through now. I haven’t even turned on ESPN in a week b/c I’m afraid I’ll catch a 5 min railing of the organization.)

Chris April 13, 2008 at 11:45 pm

Trade Guillen? I understand the idea, and I think it would be good to do so for a good arm (hello San Diego Padres), but Guillen is the only one in the hart of the batting order living up to expectations right now.

Kathy April 13, 2008 at 11:51 pm

“The Toothless Tigers,” Kevin. That’s what they are calling us.

Chris April 14, 2008 at 12:15 am

I got it, let’s trade this piece of garbage Cabrera while his value & reputation is still intact. I’m sure we could get a bag of balls in return.

Seriously, the guy has been poison to this lineup. His lack of production plus the teams high expectations of his addition has ruined the mental focus of the team. My guess it that in the early going everybody in the lineup thought the scores would run up like is was football– no problem. And then once the struggles were apparent, everybody on the team lost confidence along with our fat worthless dogpile playing 3rd.

I am now convinced that moving Cabrera either down batting order or –better yet — on the bench, is the only way to get this team to start working offensively.

I hate to say it, but Cabrera was a complete bust. He will be out of baseball in two years.

JML April 14, 2008 at 12:41 am

I just want to be rid of Jones. Both of them. :-P

Dylan April 14, 2008 at 12:45 am

Worst MLB start since 03 Tigers.

Talk about disappointing…

Steve in Kzoo April 14, 2008 at 12:54 am

Chris wow talk about over reacting thats over reacting. If we are going to go on a fire sale then we need to rebuild around Cabrera, JV and Granderson. Secondly, we just paid Cabrera 153$ 8 years, no one will pick that up right now except the Yanks, and they have a 3B and even if they did they have no young arms I would want. All of their young pitching are busts as well. Anyways Im going to wait another 2 week before making huge acusations.

Chris April 14, 2008 at 1:00 am

“I just want to be rid of Jones. Both of them”

What? Come on! Neither one amount to even 1% of Tiger’s problems. Tigers suck and will lose 100 games because of the pitching and Cabrera…

greg April 14, 2008 at 1:32 am

There’s no guarantee that these types of things will have ANY effect, but as certain as the sky is blue, these things CAN turn a season around, IF the players respond. Even if it only forces people to hustle. Simply running hard on a ‘routine’ ground ball instead of dogging it, that can turn a 70-90 team into a 90-70, and that’s being VERY conservative.

Take today as one example. Orlando Cabrera hustled on what should have been a ground out, forced Renteria to Rush his throw(an obvious error somehow ruled a hit), leading to more pressure on Kenny as he faced Thome, leading to a wild pitch moving the runners up, now with 1B open Rogers, for all intents and purposes, intentionally walks him, and viola, grand slam, game is broken wide open, and eventually, the Tigers players throw in the towel as the game got out of hand.

Let’s say Cabrera doesn’t hustle, gets thrown out, the entire complexion of the inningand the game drastically changes, Rogers might have escaped with the score still 1-0, we might be talking about the Tigers winning their first series of the year.

This type of radical effect of hustling vs. loafing, or simply not hustling(putting things on cruise control), or not focusing on the fundamentals has far reaching ripple effects that most never think about, but every day, without exception, there is an MLB game, or 2, or 3 or more, that would have had a different outcome if players did these basic things EVERY PLAY of the game. IF they played the game the ‘right’ way, just watch the Diamondbacks sometime. Watch guys run down the line as if their life depended on beating the throw, instead of running like they’re bored while running wind sprints in practice. That’s the reason they blew up the Pythagoreon theorem last year.

Hustle is just one thing, how about causing/motivating players to change their approach, study film, look at scouting reports more thoroughly, spend extra time in the cage, finally be willing to hit the other way instead of trying to pull everything….etc…etc….the list goes on and on.

If Leyland didn’t lay down the law in 2006, set the tone, cause a change in attitude, no way this team would have remotely sniffed a playoff spot, let alone make it to the World Series. No way.

Let’s hope Leyland hasn’t ‘lost’ this team, let’s hope they haven’t ‘tuned him out’.

Mike R April 14, 2008 at 3:00 am

I can’t decide if Chris is actually being serious about the Miguel Cabrera being a bust thing but even if he wasn’t, it was much needed comic relief. Thank you for that, Chris.

Cameron in Singapore April 14, 2008 at 4:31 am

Season’s over boys…pack it up.

Birdy April 14, 2008 at 5:10 am

This doesn’t seem to be a team now. I’m waiting for something to bring them together. A terrible record apparently isn’t enough. I’m hoping somebody slides hard into Polanco, or someone gets thrown at – something that can give the Tigers a common cause to rally behind. I want a brawl. I want to see Cabrera get suspended for 10 games for punching someone’s lights out.
I thought Verlander was the one player that battled hard out of the last two games. When he came out of the game in the 8th, I would have expected his teammates be on the top step greeting him, telling him they appreciated his battling. I didn’t see anyone.
I see good players but no leaders. With that much talent, I’m not surprised no one wants to stand up and say they’re a leader. But someone needs to. If they don’t step up on their own, Leyland needs to make sure they step up whether they like it or not.
While I’m not sure Granderson is a “leader”, I think his attitude is really missed as much as his play. I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again. This is setting up Granderson for the MVP. When the Tigers go 2-20 without him and 90-50 with him, the voters won’t be able to ignore him.

Mith April 14, 2008 at 6:28 am

I hate to say it, but Cabrera was a complete bust. He will be out of baseball in two years.

Wow. I don’t think you have a clue as to what you’re talking about.

Apparently the other 600 or so games the guy played where he destroyed the baseball were an aberration and the 12 games he’s played here are the “true” Cabrera?

Kyle J April 14, 2008 at 8:36 am

Based on the 12-game sample we have of Cabrera as a Tiger, the only conclusion we can reach is that he’s willing to continue playing with a significant injury that’s obviously hindering him. I’d rather see Leyland sit him, but give credit to Cabrera for not asking out of the lineup.

Based on the 5-season sample of data we have of Cabrera before he was a Tiger, the conclusion we can draw is this: the man is a 90% shot to make the Hall of Fame.

Of all the things to panic about right now–and there are a ton of them–this is not the one.

Jeff April 14, 2008 at 9:01 am

I hate to say it, but Cabrera was a complete bust. He will be out of baseball in two years.

What’s your username on MLive?

Kyle J April 14, 2008 at 9:18 am

Getting back to Leyland’s outburst. I’m skeptical it will have an impact, although it probably can’t hurt. I don’t think this team’s problem is not playing hard enough. If anything, they look like they’re trying too hard–trying to hit the ball hard every at bat, trying to take an extra base when it’s not a wise risk, etc.

I think a lot of Leyland’s strategic decisions are questionable, but the one thing I like about him is a trait he shares with Coach Izzo–he keeps the team on an even keel by building them up when everyone’s down on them and talking them down when everyone’s high on them. Hopefully, he can find a way to restore the team’s confidence with the weight of fan expectations now weighing down on them like a ton of bricks.

One way to do this might be to rest the guys who are banged up. Give the young guys a chance to provide a spark (as they have so far). And reduce the sense of panic that Cabrera/Sheffield/etc. have to play through significant injuries, even though they’re not hitting well.

Dave BW April 14, 2008 at 9:22 am

Thanks, Chris, that was hilarious.

Ryan April 14, 2008 at 10:36 am

I think firing Leyland now would be a huge mistake. Obviously I’m speaking as an outsider, but it’s always seemed that he’s the guy you want to have when your team is threatening to turn into 25 basketcases. As horrible an in game manager as he can be, he’s always seemed to be good at the psychology and behind the scenes stuff. He’s a guy you fire when things are generally fine, but the team is slightly underperforming (*cough* last August *cough*)

And I totally agree with what Kyle said. We seem to have five or six guys who are going through Bonderman syndrome right now; trying to ‘play through it’ when they are hurt enough to hurt the team. I am impressed that Sheffield is playing everyday with what he’s going through, but it doesn’t help. Leyland (or DD) needs to make it clear that he will call up and play the entire Erie infield for two weeks if it means everyone getting healthy. I really want Cabrera to sit for two weeks, and then have 135 games of real Cabrera. Same for Polanco, and Guillen and Sheffield. And what better time than after back to back shutouts for an en masse trip to the DL. The Erie Seawolves will not score less than zero runs.

Summary: If you’re banged up, I appreciate the effort, but SIT DOWN! I’ll take a 4-20 start if everyone comes back healthy.

ron April 14, 2008 at 11:03 am

Birdy, could not agree more.

Blake April 14, 2008 at 11:31 am

Yeah, that’s the thing with a blow up like this. It needs to work. If it doesn’t work it’s not like Leyland can use it once a week and all of the sudden have it click. If the guys don’t whip it into shape now you have to wonder how much longer Leyland will be around. I have to think that since the guys appear to trust and respect him they will respond with all they have after being chewed out.

cib April 14, 2008 at 11:49 am

I posted it the minute it happened and I still believe it. When Granderson was hit by that pitch, horrible things were set in motion. Bad Omen.

Slashpyne April 14, 2008 at 1:52 pm

I’m with Stephan on this one…except I’d sit Cabrera and Polonco until healthy, playing Rayburn at 2B until Poloncos back.
Platoon Thomas and Thames in LF, J. Jones to be used as a backup. When Granderson comes back, move Inge to 3B, Cabrera to LF, with occasional turns at 1B, DH and 3B. I think Guillen footwork at 1B will improve unless he gets himself killed by straying into the baseline.

The only possible help for the bullpen would be for Grilli to convert to the LDS church and go on a two year mission to Africa… maybe C. Iorg can have a chat with him.

Christie April 14, 2008 at 2:36 pm

Get rid of Jones in LF (actually put him in Toledo) and put Cabrera there (since he originally played that); put Inge back at third. Getting rid of Guillen would be the silliest thing ever. If we were able to get better pitchers, I say cut Miner and Grille.

Andy in Kalamazoo April 14, 2008 at 2:54 pm

One thing I have not seen this year is the Leland temper tantrums, and the frequent “coaching” trips to the mound to regain the pitchers focus. I think the pitchers depended on that and he is taking a “mature team” approach this year it seems.
He needs to get into the typical Jim Leland style of “hands on” approach, and get these guys fired up. They need to see the salty little manager he can be, coming uncorked over a bad call etc, and getting ejected a few times. Something has to get these sleeping giants fired up. Somebody send this team a couple cases of Red Bull.
Hopefully the Minnesota series will start things brewing for us. it’s suppose to be a bit warmer so maybe these South Americans will loosen up a bit. Nothing like getting this far behind this early, hopefully they can recover.

Chris in Dallas April 14, 2008 at 3:31 pm

Yikes. I’m going to have to change my name or something, because apparently if you’re named Chris you come off like an idiot on these comments. Anyway, yes the 2-10 abortion that we’ve seen so far is disappointing but take heart in the fact that CC Sabathia and Paul Byrd have ERA’s over 11 right now, and Rafaels Betancourt and Perez have been getting torched. The Tigs aren’t the only ones not performing like the script called for…

Ryan in Brooklyn April 14, 2008 at 3:52 pm

I think Andy makes an interesting point. Everything I read this spring made it sound like Leyland was acting really laid back about the start of the season. He was probably trying to diffuse some of the high expectations for this team. But I wonder if this approach has backfired, in that the team started the year looking out of sync. I don’t know how much effect he can have on this, but I think he’s got to change his approach. I still think this team will be fine over the long haul, but we need to change the storyline soon.

Andrew April 14, 2008 at 4:16 pm

Anyone know what the worst April record is for a team that still made it into the playoffs? I know it’s WAY too premature to think playoffs (quote Jim Mora – “Playoffs?! Playoffs?!?) when we can’t even score runs in back to back games and are 8 games under .500.

I was just wondering.

Chris in Dallas April 14, 2008 at 4:30 pm

I don’t know the exact answer to that. Off of the top of my head, I remember the Phillies starting 4-11 last year and the ’06 Twins having something like a 9-16 April. Last year’s Yankees were under .500 until after the 4th of July. All I know is it’s *way* too early to be all Chicken Little and everything.

cib April 14, 2008 at 4:41 pm

Just something baseball-related that put a smile on my face, which is not so easy these days! Enjoy.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-old-cubs-fansapr14,1,2326154.story

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