Tigers extend Jim Leyland

The Tigers today announced the extension of Jim Leyland’s contract through the 2011 season.

“We are happy to announce a two-year contract extension for Jim Leyland today,” Tigers President, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager David Dombrowski said. “Jim is an outstanding manager and he has done a great job for the Tigers.  We look forward to Jim leading our club for years to come.”

Either Jim Leyland forgot to pack his razor…

…when he left for Lakeland. Or he’s going with a new look. A beard and no cigarette.

credit Roger DeWitt

(Yeah, it’s been a long week and I don’t have any analysis to post yet).

More candid talk from the top, Leyland speaks

Manager Jim Leyland was on Mitch Albom’s show and the Free Press has the transcript in 3 parts. The links to all follow, but here are some highlights and my comments.

If I was looking at the two major culprits and without pointing fingers and necessarily individuals, the two major culprits were the pitching and the defense there’s no question about that, it’s a no brainer for me. We didn’t catch the ball very good, we had mediocre pitching with a mediocre defense and that’s a brutal combination, and that’s basically what happened to us in my opinion.

Mediocre is being generous, but I think that is a matter of semantics. He gets it was bad.

Well, I don’t think it will be correct to discuss what Dave and I talked about. I’m sure Dave knows that I’m very disappointed, which I am. I make no bones about that because I want to manage this team. If you’re saying if I have any defense for this year, no I don’t, but I think the overall picture I think it’s pretty fair on my part. But I’m a big boy and I think Dave has tough decisions to make and for whatever reason he chose to go this direction and I respect that. I’m not afraid of anything. I think if I do a good job next year I think I’ll be extended. If I don’t I’ll be fired. If I would have been on the last year of my contract this year I would have been fired instead of the coaches because those guys were the scapegoats for people not doing their jobs, it’s that simple. There is no secret to this stuff. I’m not going to lie to anybody or beat around the bush. Chuck Hernandez and Jeff Jones were basically fired because the pitching was terrible.

This was in response to a question of why Leyland’s contract isn’t being extended. I actually don’t see the need for an extension. I hear it all the time about the lame duck coach/manager, but this isn’t some young manager. It’s a guy that’s been around forever and who the player’s respected the crap out of not that long ago. I can’t imagine players buying into him more with or without an extension. Plus keep in mind, Leyland was offered a longer contract after 2007 but didn’t want to extend it that far and go on a more year to year basis.

I think if you put us all on the dartboard, you know, you can put several people on a dart board and if you threw a dart you would probably hit the right guy with the dart because we were all guilty.

and

I would extend tomorrow — I would extend in June — I would extend in July — I would extend in August — I want to manage the Tigers. I can’t make it anymore simple than that to everybody and I think I deserve to manage the Tigers, but if you’re not wanted, you’re not wanted. I don’t want to be anywhere I’m not wanted.

I’m sensing tension between Leyland and Dombrowski, and not the good kind like between Sam and Diane.

Some guys I really believe can’t handle making the money. I don’t think they can live up to expectations of it. It all sounds good when the agent is talking and they want the contract and they get the money, but truthfully, I believe that there are some players that can’t handle that. They almost go into a little bit of a shell, you know – like ‘Oh my god, so much is expected of me.’ They’re better players probably when they’re not making quite as much.

He was later asked if the Tigers have anybody like that to which he responded “I think so.” Don’t really know how to fix this. It gets to be a point where players have reached the service time marks to get their paydays. Of course you can let them walk, but how do you know who can and can’t handle it prior to giving them the contract. And he has to be talking about Robertson and Inge (and maybe Willis) right?

I think the one thing and this is going to sound crazy, but the one thing that I might do different, looking back at it now and I’m not sure it would have made a difference — but the one thing I might have done different — I would have not started him opening day. I definitely think that he felt he had to be the horse. When Bonderman went down he felt he had to be an even bigger horse. I just don’t he think he was ready for that yet and in defense of him, he’s not supposed to be ready that yet. I mean he’s still a young kid, he’s a young pitcher and maybe I put a little undo pressure on him by naming him opening day and people talking about, well, he’ll have to step it up now.

This is in response to a question about Verlander’s struggles against the Central. Leyland went down this tangent. Leyland also had him start the first game of the World Series as a rookie which didn’t turn out that well. Maybe he’s not a big game pitcher, or maybe it is a part of the maturation process.
Leyland: ‘The two major culprits were the pitching and the defense’ | Freep.com | Detroit Free Press
Leyland: ‘I think I deserve to manage the Tigers, but if you’re not wanted, you’re not wanted’ | Freep.com | Detroit Free PressLeyland: ‘Maybe naming him the opening day pitcher was a mistake’ | Freep.com | Detroit Free Press

Dombrowski says Leyland will be back

Dave Dombrowski told Lynn Henning and the Detroit News that Jim Leyland will be managing the Tigers next year. Seeing as this wasn’t a sound bite, it’s tough to get a flavor for how ringing the endorsement was given this is the quote that Henning had:

“Yes, oh yeah,” Dombrowski said when asked if Leyland would absolutely return in 2009. “He’s under contract next year.”

No mention of his aptitude or qualifications, simply a statement that Leyland is under contract. Curious?

As for my take, I agree with Leyland in that he stunk this year. I’ve never been a fan of his in game management, but watching the 2006 team made me question my previously held belief that managers couldn’t really make that much of a difference. Maybe a capable leader could motivate professionals making millions of dollars to play better.

But then there was this year. A year when the team came out flat. When the team was making fundamental baserunning, fielding, and pitching mistakes. That’s all on Leyland’s watch. The good of 2006 and the bad of 2008.

Then there is the matter of the August-September swoons. I wasn’t worried the first 2 years, because a sample of two hardly marks a trend. But this year’s limp to the finish line is enough to make me concerned.

In short, I don’t know if I want him back.

Leyland abuses Verlander’s arm for no good reason

Jim Leyland before the game:

Zumaya’s right shoulder remains a point of concern. Leyland said Zumaya reported “normal soreness” and indicated that he was able to pitch, but Leyland said that description was “not defined enough for me.”

“I’m not going to have it on my plate that I got Joel Zumaya hurt, getting greedy,” Leyland said. “I’m not going to do it.”

Justin Verlander last night:

  • 7.2 innings
  • 6 hits
  • 5 runs
  • 3 walks
  • 8 strike outs
  • 130 pitches

This is categorically stupid. From an in game management sense, the team was only down two runs and still very much in it. You starter has done his job and worked into the 8th inning. After the Dye double, even if he is still throwing in the high 90’s, get him out of there and bring in a fresh arm. Try and keep the game close. Instead he throws 11 more pitches taking a lofty pitch count to insane. That Lopez finally came in and allowed a single is immaterial.

From a pitching management standpoint it is inexcusable. With last night’s start, Justin Verlander now leads all of baseball in pitcher abuse points. He’s thrown more pitches than any other pitcher in baseball this year. And for what? A 5-1 loss in a season that is already decided? The Tigers just wanted to make sure that all their young pitchers end up on the DL?

It seems that this type of move happens when the manager is on his way out of town.

What to make of Jim Leyland

I’ll be honest. I was going to break my rule about swearing on the blog and use some expletives in the title and direct them towards the skipper. His management – or lack of management – in the final inning of today’s debacle was grossly negligent (I’ll hit this more in a minute). But then I read some of his quotes prior to the game and I don’t know what the hell is going on.

Before the game he essentially ripped into his team. He threatened changes for underperformers and under-hustlers. Some highlights from the Det News article:

“I’m getting a little tired of some of these performances. We’ve got to do better. They (players feeling the heat) can get mad at me ’til the cows come home, but I’ve got people on my (tail).

“If I were my boss, I’d be ticked off. That can be a trickle-down effect. If I have to tell people ‘I’m taking you out of the rotation,’ that’s what I’ll do.

“I won’t hesitate to do anything. We’re pretty fair here, I’d like to think. But there’s a difference between effort and production.

“Hustle should never be in question. Running a ball out, running hard, is a no-brainer.”

and he finished with

“But we’ve had some performances that have been terrible. I’ve been disgusted the last few nights. The last few weeks, we had situations where we should have dominated a game and we didn’t come close.

“You’ve got to step it up if you want to be in the hunt. If not, go home and come back next spring training. I’ll bring up some kids to play.

“If you don’t want to grind it out, then start your vacation early.

“We should be embarrassed,” Leyland said, ending his soliloquy. “And I’m not sure enough people are.”

Okay, so he’s pissed. He’s feeling the heat. He wishes all the players felt the same heat. And it’s seems like changes are coming. A fact that was probably accelerated by Fernando Rodney’s performance today. Personally I think we see Casey Fien or a member of the 2008 draft class joining the bullpen. And Nate Robertson better pitch a hell of a game on Tuesday because he’s all out of leash as well.

But back to today’s game. I can’t fault the manager for Kyle Farnsworth allowing 2 homers. I have no problem with Farnsworth being in the game at that point. But the 10th inning was a debacle.

Not being privy to the pregame rant, the fact that Rodney was coming in didn’t seem out of the ordinary. (Although I was pleasantly surprised to see Bobby Seay take the mound to start the inning. It would have really sent a message had Seay been allowed to pitch because – you know – he’s the guy in the pen that isn’t sucking) But when it became quickly apparent that Rodney and the strike zone weren’t going to be compatible where was the action in the bullpen?

This is an inning that started out with a walk. Followed by a HBP when the Rays were trying to give up an out. Followed by a sacrifice. Now here is the most telling and at the same time conflicting decision. With the winning run on second, and an open base, Leyland didn’t order the intentional walk. This is a manager that intentionally walks everyone. Yet he didn’t want to have Rodney pitching with the bases loaded. YET NOBODY WAS WARMING UP.

So of course a walk comes anyways. AND YET NOBODY WAS WARMING UP. You’re now in the situation you wanted to avoid, and you don’t have another arm to go to. Rodney should never have been allowed to pitch to Carl Crawford, or Longoria, or Pena. There is no conceivable reason that Rodney was left in the game.

I don’t want to hear “he’s our closer.” This is a guy that got the job last week and has floundered. This isn’t Rivera/Nathan/Papelbon/Jenks/K-Rod. This is a guy who has the job by default. Go get his ass out of the game if he doesn’t have.

Of course we don’t know Leyland’s reasoning because he decided to not explain himself. Instead going with:

“You guys saw it,” he seethed, stabbing angrily at a plate of food. “Write what you want.”

In that case – You blew it Jim. Farnsworth blew the game. Rodney blew the game. But in the latter case you allowed it to happen. You’re in the unenviable position of having no one you can trust and limited healthy options. But doing nothing was clearly a ridiculous move. Maybe someone else would have let in the Rodney’s mess. But it became clear that Rodney wasn’t going to get out of it on his own. On the day you threaten changes and demand more from your players, you let the fans down, as well as everyone in that clubhouse.

Todd Jones out as closer

Jim Leyland hasn’t been shy about making changes to established roles this season. He quietly announced a big one on the radio pre-game show with Dan Dickerson when he said that Todd Jones is out as closer and Fernando Rodney would primarily assume the role.

It had become clear over the last couple weeks that Jim Leyland was losing confidence in Todd Jones. Leyland announced a couple weeks ago that he was going “to watch him” speaking more about his usage and indicating that Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney would receive some opportunities. In Baltimore he let Joel Zumaya pitch a second inning to try and get the save instead of Jones.

On Friday night Aquilino Lopez was warmed up and at the ready if Jones started to unravel – the type of move Leyland would NEVER make in the past. We all remember a certain game in Cleveland last year where Jones didn’t have it, got hammered, and Leyland refused to get anybody up in the pen. Jones blowing the Friday game after coming so close to securing the win was apparently the last straw.

Even with 2 blow-ups, Rodney has been the Tigers most effective reliever since coming off the DL*. Since June 16th Rodney (and not counting today) has thrown 14 innings and has allowed 8 walks, 10 hits, and he’s fanned 12. Over the same period Todd Jones has thrown 14.1 innings and allowed 22 hits with 2 walks, 4 HBP, and only 4 K’s. (And if you were wondering about Zumaya he’s gone 16.1 innings with 16 hits, 15 walks – ouch, and 16 K’s)

*Actually Bobby Seay probably deserves to hold that title. Over the same span he’s allowed just 6 hits and 6 walks in 12.1 innings with 13 strike outs. Why are the Tigers looking for a lefty reliever?

Rodney is much maligned though among Tigers fans. I attribute it to the fact that he wears his hat crooked. And when he blows up he really blows up. Still he is capable of extended periods of dominance – like 2006 for example. Or even last year after he returned from the DL and allowed all of 3 hits and 4 walks in his first 11 games back while fanning 17.

Now there are questions about this move. Primarily what role does Todd Jones play? He can’t be brought in to tough jams. Does he fill the Aquilino Lopez role of keeping a deficit from expanding, or eating an inning or two with a multi-run spread? And second there has to be concerns about Rodney’s health. He looks great at the moment, but he’s missed big chunks of the last 2 years and a 45 pitch outing today probably isn’t the best strategy.

I like seeing Rodney get the opportunity, and I like the willingness of Leyland to make a move. Stubborn is a difficult tag to hang on the skipper this season in that he’s tried a number of things. I think Rodney will probably fare okay, but be ready for a different type of rollercoaster. Jones would take you through highs and lows in any given outing but would typically get the job done in most outings. Rodney will wow you sometimes and kill you other times. It’s a matter of inter-outing rollercoaster versus intra-outing rollercoaster.

UPDATE: The Detroit News has some audio with Todd Jones. He says all the right things, but the guy is crushed. And yes, he’s struggled and the move is the right one to make, and he’s a professional, and he gets paid millions of dollars, and he’s made some questionable comments in his columns. I know for all those reasons people aren’t supposed to feel sympathy, but I can’t help it. I do.

How much of the offenses success is attributable to Granderson and Leyland

In a recent blog post for The Freep, Jamie Samuelson wondered about the impact that Jim Leyland’s tirade and Curtis Granderson’s return to the lineup had on the team’s recent success (this was written on Friday morning before the Twins games). In fact he said:

Look, the odds were that the bats would come around. But sorry, you just can’t ignore the tirade and the centerfielder as having some impact. I’ll leave it to the stat gurus to figure out the why (I’m sure detroittigersweblog.com is at it as we speak!) Maybe Polanco feels less pressure with Granderson in front of him, or with Granderson on base.

I wish I could deliver the stats like Jamie suggested I could. But there simply isn’t the data to prove or disprove the value of the rant or the cascade effect of Granderson on the rest of the lineup. But that won’t stop me from opining.
Continue reading How much of the offenses success is attributable to Granderson and Leyland

He looks good, he’s happy, and other reports from spring training

Imagine if the players turned the tables on the beat writers during spring training and wrote stories about the beat writers.

“The official reporting date wasn’t until the 14th, but he was down here a couple weeks ago getting ready.”

“You can tell he was really working out this offseason. His vocabulary has grown as much as his forearms. Both are the product of intensive typing.”

“He’s excited to be down here. You can hear it in his voice when he talks about how excited he is to get to work.”

“As the new guy on the beat, he’s still trying to get a feel for his fellow media members, but he seems to be fitting in great.”

“As a 6 year veteran, and the only remaining beat writer from that awful 2003 team, it’s clear that he’s a leader in and out of the locker room and the other guys look to him for cues.”

“He’s excited to try out the new language he was working on over the winter. By adding Spanish to his repertoire he should really have an advantage over the competition. If he can gain confidence in it, it could be what he needs to push him from beat writer to elite columnist.”

I kid of course, especially on a day when there is so much news coming out of camp.
Continue reading He looks good, he’s happy, and other reports from spring training

What are they talking about?

Leyland and Dombrowski
Dave Dombrowski, Jim Leyland, and Chuck Hernandez took in some instructional league action today. Everybody is in Lakeland this week for organizational meetings so they could have been discussing anything.

Maybe they were talking about the way that the ball explodes out of Rick Porcello’s hand, or maybe the kid’s follow through.

Perhaps they were discussing how much David Eckstein would be worth if he left the St. Louis Cardinals. Would 2 years and $14 or $15 million be too much for a player with declining skills?

It could be they were thinking bigger and deciding if it is worth dealing with everything besides the money it would take to get Alex Rodriguez signed. That negotiation certainly wouldn’t be a picnic (thanks MetsBlog.com!). Would you want to deal with this?

‘All these things have to be part of the deal or there’s not a deal,’ including an office at the stadium for his marketing person, a luxury box where he could host people, and after the game people come down to the clubhouse and get things signed. That he had become so big he can’t fly commercially, so he’s going to need charter airfare. That he wanted to meet with ownership and go through the scouting reports in the organization, since he’s making a long-term commitment, of who is coming up in the farm system to know there’s a bright future to play with around him. He wanted to have a tent in spring training to sell A-Rod apparel. He wanted to know what the team marketing plan was going to be around him as he joined the team. I think that’s about everything.

Or maybe they were just talking about Cameron Maybin’s 2 homer night in the Arizona Fall League.

Really, it could be anything.

Tigers extend Leyland

The Detroit Tigers made it official today and announced a one year contract extension that will keep Jim Leyland managing the club through the 2009 season. No real surprise here.

Jim Leyland on Neifi Perez

Eric picked this up early on, and I saw the comments posted on MotownSports as well. Jim Leyland was interviewed today on the Stoney and Wojo show on WDFN. Mike Stone asked Jim Leyland, “what does Jim Leyland see in Neifi Perez that we as fans and media members don’t?” The response wasn’t the typical fluff you’d expect. Here is the transcribed version of what Leyland said.

Well that’s a good question because he played terrible. And what had happened was we got reports from our scouts, and I had known him from the past. We were kind of in a panic situation. We had lost Polly and we needed someone who could come in and play second, and play shortstop as well because Carlos needed some time off. And up to this point it looks like we made a mistake.

So Neifi’s going to have to prove us wrong this spring because has not been a good acquisition up to this point.

But that was my fault, and the scouts. And I like said we had to have somebody. And I hope Neifi’ll prove us wrong. I think he’ll be much better than what he showed last year because he showed absolutely nothing when he came over.

Now this reads like he was slamming Neifi something fierce. He was very gruff and matter-of-fact, but it’s a little softer when you actually listen to the interview (available on WDFN podcast page). And in typical Leyland fashion he was more than willing to take responsibility.

That said I thought this was a little bit much to call out a player like that in the media in January. I love that Leyland didn’t pull punches and was honest, but what did they really expect from Perez in the first place? Perez pretty much performed up to reasonable expectations given his history.

I’ve definitely done my share of Neifi-bashing in the past, but I tried to direct my frustrations less at Neifi and more at Jim Leyland’s insistence on playing him. Perez didn’t ask to come to Detroit, and it’s really not his fault that teams keep giving him playing time. I actually feel a little sympathetic towards Perez right now. Weird.

But the good news for Tiger fans is that it looks like the Tigers definitely aren’t committed to keeping Perez on the roster and that Infante will have a pretty good shot at making the team.