A Public Apology to Jim Leyland

I was wrong (again…so I think). On September 27th, prior to game 156, I posted that this would likely be Leyland’s last regular season game in Detroit. Now I’m certain he’ll be here next April.

As intolerable as Leyland’s idiosyncrasies, tendancies and hunches are, it is these same foibles that have him in his 2nd WS as a Tiger in 6 years. Take that in for a minute.

If you take a close look, it’s really the positives that emerge from his faults (as we see them) that have the Tigers playing for their 5th World Series title.

He’s loyal to his players, almost to a fault. Every single one of us has either written, said, or thought “why is ______ still playing?” Likely all 3, and likely multiple times. So how do guys like Peralta and DY, who had career low years, respond? By leading the offense and winning ALCS MVP, respectively, of course. Heck, Phil Coke seemed destined for the island of misfit toys next to Charlie-In-The-Box and the spotted elephant when he couldn’t get lefties out in the 6th inning. Now he’s striking out Raul Ibanez with the deadliest slider you’ll ever see on a 3-2 count.

His lineups are crazy…but he gets everyone involved, and keeps players fresh. In the playoffs, we had key contributions from guys like Garcia, Kelly and Worth. Kelly scored a key run, Garcia set Tigers pinch-hitter records, and think about that play Worth made in game 2 of the Oakland series. Santiago doesn’t make that play; Peralta certainly doesn’t. Thank goodness Worth was ready to play.

His bullpen management could politely be called stubbon and is a constant source of derision on the DTW. But let’s credit him for loosening up in the NYY Series, even if it was a game too late. He could have easily, and likely justifiably, used Valverde in game 4, but he stuck with Coke, in a move that I think foreshadows the World Series – go with Coke, or the hot hand (if it’s someone else).

He’s an emotional guy, which likely explains his seemingly non-rational decisions. But that emotion forges a bond with his players, and as hard as Mitch Albom tries to fabricate it, you won’t see a better moment than the one we witnessed when he pulled Cabby in the season-ender after Cabrera had clinched the triple crown.

About a month ago, I posed a question on here and asked how far would JL have to advance for you to want to bring him back next year. I said 1 series, which he’s eclipsed. Several of you commented that no matter what you wanted him gone next year. Has anyone else changed their mind? A recent Freep poll concluded that 70% of respondents want JL back. Where do you stand now?

One final thought:

“Sometimes I look around the stadium and I get a tear in my eye,” Leyland said. “I wish I didn’t show it. But to see those people waving those towels? To see them so happy? I truly believe the game impacts their lives.”

He’s talking about us.

23 Comments

  1. Tom in Lakeland

    October 23, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Very gracious, Kevin. Thanks for the post.

    • Bill

      October 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm

      Tom in Lakeland: Great to see you posting! My name is Joe Guerrero, I grew up 2 blocks from Holy Roasry Church. I remember you well, although you may not remember me. Jim has done a great job!! I’ve always been a big fan, even though in this day + age of internet + talk shows it is very difficult. I’ve been involved in sports all my life, even played some minor league ball. I know how difficult it is to manage a team. Jim is a for sure Hall of Famer! You must be very proud!! Good Luck Tigers!! In honor of the Tigers making it to the World Series, I hope we can be civil to all + be fans for just this one series! Let’s bring back the World Series trophy to the “D”!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. KW

    October 23, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Kevin, your post is a bit over the top. The Tigers wouldn’t be in the playoffs if the White Sox didn’t implode, and everyone would still be calling for Leyland’s head for mismanaging the entire season. That the Tigers are now in the World Series says less about Leyland and more about the luck it took to get to the playoffs, and the luck it takes to get to the World Series. Yes, the Tigers have overperformed in the playoffs, but that’s due to the starting pitching—the hitters still aren’t doing enough.

    Bottom line is this: Even if the Tigers win the World Series, which I want them to do (duh), I still want to see Leyland gone. Since that’s likely not going to happen now, I’d be satisfied seeing Lamont and McClendon get the boot during the offseason.

    • Kevin in Dallas

      October 23, 2012 at 11:02 am

      Here’s where we disagree – I don’t think you can luck your way into the World Series. In fact, I find it impossible to believe. To think that fortune will beat the best team in the 2nd half of the season, and a 94 win NYY team is silly to me.

      The credit has to go somewhere, and if I’m going to spend a good part of the season questioning Leyland, I’m now going to give credit where it’s due.

      Finally, I believe that the hitters are underperforming – the Tigers are leading the playoffs in BA, SLG and OPS. Sure, the numbers are low, but they are low across the board. That’s because pitching wins playoff games.

    • Vince in MN

      October 23, 2012 at 12:17 pm

      I basically agree with KW, except I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on the luck part, although there is a certain amount of luck, e.g. bad umpire calls which can dramatically impact a game now and then. The Tigers played well down the stretch and CHI didn’t so they were able to overtake them and take the division. I will acknowledge that Leyland’s managing during this stretch has been even somewhat better than usual. However, the games in the early part of the season count as much as the games at the end, and we must admit that for most of the season Leyland’s “crazy lineups” and his “stubborn” bullpen management cost the Tigers. And more than just a few games IMO. With some more reasonable handling of the roster, the Tigers shouldn’t have had to make for such a dramatic finish. By the way, the lineup and bullpen issues have been trademark Leyland for 7 years (~1150 games.)

      The current happy Leyland talk is based on a run of about 30 games out of 171 played so far this year. I contend – small sample size! In the short view it’s exciting that the Tigers have gotten through the playoffs (and especially quite easily against the hated Yankees) and are going to the WS, but as far as Leyland’s performance goes it should be looked at within the larger context. It looks like he is going to be back next year (maybe more), but my guess is that by next May or June at the latest we will be hearing a lot of complaints about his crazy lineups and bullpen mismanagement as we see winnable games drift into the L column.

      The real credit has to go to the starting staff, who have been absolutely lights out during the playoffs, because as Kevin says “pitching wins playoff games,” and I am just not willing to give JL a lot of credit for the Verlander, Fister, Scherzer and Sanchez performances.

  3. StorminNorman$

    October 23, 2012 at 11:24 am

    SF Mgr Bruce Bochy, played in one of the more epic games in DET history, Game 5 of the 1984 WS (where Kirk Gibson hit 2 HR’s, one being the 3-run upper-deck bomb off Gossage in the 8th that sealed it). Mayhem ensued.

    Bochy batted 1.000 for the series, he was 1 for 1…game 5 being his only AB. He was the backup catcher.

    • Coleman

      October 23, 2012 at 1:17 pm

      Bochy is also the first non-American-born manager to win a World Series (he was born in France).

    • William

      October 23, 2012 at 3:04 pm

      great memory. and great game

      Kurt Bevacqua homered for the Fathers that game, didnt he? I think he hit a couple of HR that series.

      • StorminNorman$

        October 23, 2012 at 6:47 pm

        Bevacqua did have 2 HR’s, and batted .412 for the series

  4. FWI Tiger

    October 23, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Will Leyland be back? I don’t know but if I were him and the Tigers did win the World Series then I would be very tempted to pull a LaRussa and walk away as a champion.

    Personally, I’ve always liked Leyland and in general I’m not a fan of getting rid of managers/coaches. Unless a team’s players are pulling some kind of mutiny, I’m inclined to believe that firing the manager is rarely the panacea than most fans think it is.

  5. T Smith

    October 23, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Leyland will be back. Decisions are based on high emotions… If you want an example of this sentiment, check this out:

    http://bleacherreport.com/arti.....oit-tigers

    Making it to the World Series in 2006 (after such a dismal run) gave Leyland at least three additional years that likley wouldn’t have been granted otherwise. And now a return trip to the big stage guarantees an extention or perhaps a new and improved contract altogether. He must be doing something right!, right?

    Here’s the thing. Jim Leyland is exceptional at managing the players. They love him. They love working for him, and they love winning for him. He does do a good job managing this aspect of the game. Does that count for anything? One has to say, yeah, it counts for something.

    On the other hand, he’s esceptionally mediocre on managing the game itself and makes a lot of mistakes that cost the team victories.

    Winning 88 games given the payroll and with players like Cabrera, Fielder, and Verlander isn’t exactly a stellar performance. One could even say it is somewhat underachieving and mediocre, given all the variables. Take away one or two of those players and the Tigers could easily be jockying for position in the division with the Royals or Twins.

    The Tigers have stepped up their game after the Allstar Break, geled as a team at the right time, and they do deserve credit–including Jim Leyland–but credit the White Sox as much as Jimmy Leyland for what we’ve seen from the Tigers in October.

    • Smoking Loon

      October 24, 2012 at 1:01 am

      I definitely agree that Leyland is exceptional at managing the players. This is, above all, what the manager’s job is.

      I like Leyland even when I disagree vehemently with his decisions.

      So much of the fan criticism of in-game strategy and bullpen decisions – criticism of Leyland or any manager – is based on hindsight. When “something” doesn’t work out, it looks like “anything else” COULD have. It’s all risk. The batter needs to get the hit, the pitcher needs to get the out, the fielder needs to make the play. I try to remember that when I’m second-guessing the lineup or the pitching change or whatever.

      I don’t think I’ve heard any suggestions as to a good replacement for Leyland. I’m curious about that, but overall, I’m far more interested in the personnel on the field.

      • T Smith

        October 24, 2012 at 3:07 pm

        I would have said Terry Francona before he was hired by the Indians. Now that he is off the market, I can’t think of anybody who I’d like to see over Leyland, per se. Doesn’t mean that person doesn’t exist. Nor does it mean I’m suggesting the Tigers must find that person. I just so happen to be in the camp that is not necessarily smitten with Jim Leyland just because the Tigers are playing in the World Series. JL does a lot of things right, and an equal amount of things wrong.

        Somebody else mentioned Ozzie Guillen. No thanks.

        I not sure what Gardenhire’s contract is with the Twins, but he also would be on my short list.

        For now, I reserve judgement.

  6. Coleman

    October 23, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Leyland has said he’d like to continue managing, but if he did pull a LaRussa…Ozzie Guillen is available, as of today.

    • Smoking Loon

      October 24, 2012 at 1:02 am

      Good one. Wouldn’t that be something.

  7. Coleman

    October 23, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    Ok, not much time left, but someone should petition MLB about the All-Star game home advantage thing, since the NL MVP (Melky Cabrera) was subsequently banned, and now his team is benefitting from his tainted performance.

    • StorminNorman$

      October 23, 2012 at 6:44 pm

      Looks like both teams’ players might rather opt for the projected weather (around 70 degrees) in DET on Wed & Thurs, as opposed to the weather they’ll have for games 3-5 – Sat, Sun & Mon (in the low 40s/upper 30s) in DET.

      I have this lingering memory of the cold weather and about how ‘cold’ DET’s bats were in the 2006 WS (after the 6 day layoff). DET batted .161 (11 runs in 5 games), and STL batted only .228 w/only 2 HRs for the series. Sean Casey had 9 of DET’s 26 hits (and 2 of their 4 HRs…Monroe had the other 2).

      • Coleman

        October 24, 2012 at 2:26 am

        Polanco, 0-17…Ordonez, 2-19…Pudge, 3-19. They completely shut down all the RHB (except, oddly enough, for Inge: 6-17). The Tigers’ offensive production in the 2006 WS was roughly equivalent to the Yankees in the 2012 ALCS…add to that the clown show pitchers’ fielding, and there was no chance.

    • travisfrymanfan

      October 24, 2012 at 4:18 pm

      The true MVP was Sandoval. He had the 3B with bases loaded

  8. jud

    October 23, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    I am in agreement that Leyland should be given a lot of the credit for getting the Tigers to the Series. He has been right on in the last 20 games. GREAT JOB !
    That being said with a different manager, with sound lineups and not automatic outs sprinkled here and there just to go R L R L R L..maybe it would have easier. Maybe without his stubburn Rayburnitess, Benoititess, and ValVerdeitess it might have gone way easier. Never ever ever ever PH for a struggling player is not sound baseball. Never sitting a struggling player is not sound baseball.
    My opinion and it is strictly my opinion is I would rather see some new blood running te show…Lamont and McClendon added nothing, if the only way they go is Leyland goes, I can live with that…

  9. StorminNorman$

    October 24, 2012 at 10:29 am

    http://sports.yahoo.com/news/v.....1;mlb.html

    personally i think there’s a more too Valverde’s struggles than his ‘leg speed’…but i guess we’ll find out…possibly tonight

  10. Coleman

    October 24, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    There is a ton of comaraderie on both the Giants and the Tigers, which makes both teams even more enjoyable to watch, and which I think you have to give both managers credit for. One of the remarkable things about all the rough spots in the Tiger season is that as frustrated as the fans got with the team (and vice versa sometimes), the players always stuck together, they cheer each other, they seem to genuinely enjoy being teammates, and I think you have to give Jim Leyland credit for that (look at Boston for a contrary example).

  11. TSE

    October 25, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    Jim I shame you, publicly and privately, but you already knew that since I’ve complained for many years now, so what do you care anyhow?