Jim Leyland: Bulletproof With the Detroit Media

As I have been getting caught up with my favorite Tiger writers’ stuff from while I was away, I came across this gem from my old friend Jamie Samuelsen at the Free Press.  Do not title an article “Can’t Fault Jim Leyland For Tigers’ Fall” and not expect me to respond.  I enjoy a challenge.  Hell, I can fault Jim Leyland for our nation’s poor economy, “Jersey Shore” being put on the air, and the inexplicable popularity of Nickelback if you give me enough time and/or booze.
Get comfortable, kids.  This might be my longest blog piece ever.
Bring it on, bitch.
Let’s get the jump out of the way early, shall we?

Jim Leyland had a bad weekend in Boston.
“Whaddya mean you’re out of Marlboro Reds!  Noooooooooooo!”
He managed those games like they were all Game 7 of the World Series, and they weren’t.
At least he didn’t manage them like they were all Game 163 of the 2009 season.
I didn’t agree with his pitching Jose Valverde in a 6-1 game on Friday night then sticking with him has he self-combusted.
How dare he stick with the first half's most dominant closer in the AL!
I didn’t agree with him pinch-running for Miguel Cabrera in Sunday’s game because you should never, ever take the best hitter in the American League out of the line-up, regardless of the scenario.
Imagine this scenario.  Tigers are up 17-1 in the seventh inning.  We can’t give Big Mig a rest?  Why not?  Is Brad Thomas pitching?
The Tigers lost 2-of-3 to the Red Sox. And while the losses aren’t solely on Leyland’s shoulders, he didn’t help the situation.
Hang on.  You titled this that you can’t blame Leyland.  But you’re sort of blaming him.  And I’m kind of defending him.  Did I cross over into Bizarro World? 
Well done, Samuelsen.  You tricked me.  It won’t happen again.
The weekend was eye-opening to me because I finally saw what so many see in Leyland when they call for his job.
Somewhere, in most likely a suburb of Detroit where black folks are not permitted to live, if you listen close enough, you can Lynn Henning weeping.
Last weekend, he was a bad manager. No debate from me. But as for the rest of the ugliness that is Tiger baseball right now, I guess I still need some help in finding his fingerprints on it.
/takes deep breath
-Penciling Don Kelly in as a leadoff man over and over
-Batting Gerald Laird second at any time
-Hitting Ryan Raburn third
-Resting starters for no reason (AJax right after the break, for example)
-Using Valverde in situations where he shouldn’t be pitching
-Overusing Joel Zumaya early in the year instead of taking things slow with him coming off of repeated surgeries
-Not letting Austin Jackson run more
-Ramon Santiago getting a start at DH
-Not giving Brennan Boesch a f-cking take sign once in a while
-Batting second:  Will Rhymes
-Sizemore and Larish down, Frazier and Rhymes up
-Not making Rhymes the bat boy instead of an actual player
I could go on.  How’s that for some fingerprints?  You would suck as a CSI, bucko.
The one and only Mike Stone
Who the f-ck is Mike Stone?
/checks Wikipedia
The guitarist from Queensryche?  That seems odd.
Retired hockey player?  Doubt it.
WDFN host of the “Stoney and Wojo” show?  Bingo.  Sigh…talk radio.  Where common sense goes to die.
pointed out earlier this week that the Tigers are 32 games under .500 after the All-Star Break under Leyland dating back to 2006. Fans bemoaned the Tiger collapse that cost them the division in 2006 and cost them the division and the playoffs in 2009.
Who are the fans supposed to blame?  Justin Timberlake?  No, you blame the guy in charge.  It’s part of what goes along with being, um, the guy in charge.
For example, I run a successful sports bar in Southeast Michigan.  Let’s say the serving staff started treating customers like crap, the bartenders started stealing, and the cooks in the kitchen began undercooking all of the raw chicken.  If I don’t do something about this and just let the place crumble around me, I’m probably going to get fired.  It’s called managing.
Not the same thing, sure.  But you get where I’m going with this.  Or not.
It bugs me that Leyland loves to rest starters regardless of the stakes. Placido Polanco had no business getting an off day last season in that final-week series with the Twins. But other than that, I’m looking for the rest of the story.
That's all you came up with?  Are you sure?
You think Leyland is a lousy manager? Fair enough. Give some specifics. Because I don’t see it. Give me the story behind the numbers.
/takes deep breath
-Never learning to keep Fernando Rodney out of non-save situations
-Leaving Rodney in way too long in Game 163
-Batting Clete Thomas third for much of the ’09 season
-Constantly pulling Magglio Ordonez from games too early throughout ‘09
-His personal crusade to make sure that Justin Verlander’s arm falls off by 2012
-Starting Alfredo Figaro in the then-most important game of the season last year
-Lack of stolen base attempts from Curtis Granderson and Austin Jackson
-Refusal to adjust batting lineups around the play of the guys in there
-Loyalty to his Pittsburgh crony coaches despite their inability to make any sort of difference in the performance of Tiger players
-Cutting Gary Sheffield despite not having a better option at DH, the team being responsible anyway for paying his contract, and Sheff leading the team in OBP in the Spring before being released
-Don Kelly leading off
-Don Kelly batting third
-Don Kelly being allowed into the clubhouse unless he’s cleaning bathrooms
-Continuing to play Brandon Inge every day last year when his legs were crumbling underneath him, he couldn’t hit the ball, and having Placido Polonco on the team who could have easily shifted to third allowing the Tigers to start Santiago at second or get an earlier look at Scott Sizemore before handing him the second base job in 2010 and letting Polanco walk via free agency (gasp)
-Over-reliance on lefty/righty matchups instead of keeping in a pitcher that’s throwing well or a hitter that's hitting well
-Refusal to join the rest of us in 2010 and embrace computers and sabermetrics
-Career winning percentage under .500
And that’s just stuff off the top of my head in no particular order.  How about this?  Give me one example in Jim Leyland’s entire tenure of managing the Tigers where you said to yourself, “Thank goodness Leyland’s the manager.  No other skipper would have been bright enough to pull that off.”
Jim Leyland is excellent at keeping his ballplayers happy.  No one denies this.  But despite what talking heads on ESPN and talk radio tell you, a bunch of guys that are smiling and all love each other does not automatically translate into notches in the win column.
Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter f-cking hate each other.  AJ Burnett’s a nutcase.  But they could show you some World Series rings that prove that their personal feelings mean jack and sh-t when it comes to performance on the baseball diamond.  There are plenty of teams that had players that hated each other and went on to win titles.  I’m so sick of hearing about “team chemistry”.  It’s giving me brain cancer.
Why have the Tigers fallen out of it this season? It’s not Leyland.
I want to make it clear that I sort of agree with this statement.  It’s not ALL Leyland.  Dave Dombrowski is as much, if not more, to blame for this team’s current situation.  I’m not going to go through all of that since I’m already going WAY long on this piece, but an overlooked one that I keep thinking about lately is not re-signing Marcus Thames.  We have dick coming off the bench this year and it’s amazing how much we miss Marcus in 2010.
Especially when I keep seeing him come up with big hits for the stupid Yankees this year.
It’s the following lists of players.
First – the injured
Magglio Ordonez
Carlos Guillen
Joel Zumaya
Bobby Seay
Brandon Inge
Also, you forgot Zach Miner.  If Zach was around, Brad Thomas would be back in Australia banging kangaroos or whatever Australians do when they’re not drinking Fosters and blaming dingos for killing their children.  Take some responsibility, sh-tty Australian parents.
But injuries are part of the game.  The Twins don't cry about injuries.  They went on their amazing run last year WITHOUT Joe Mauer.  They’re at the top this year WITHOUT Justin Morneau in the second half and closer Joe Nathan all year.  Why is that?  For starters, I admit, the Twins have more talent.  But you cannot overlook that Ron Gardenhire has quietly become on of the best baseball managers in modern times.  The prick.
As for the White Sox?  They lost their ace, Jake Peavy, for the season.  They didn’t miss a beat.  Ozzie Guillen might be the spawn of Satan, but the sonofabitch knows how to motivate a team.  Jim Leyland appears to have the motivational skills of a dead sloth.
Second – the horrible
Adam Everett
Dontrelle Willis
Rick Porcello
Why the hell are you stopping there?  Add in Scott Sizemore, Don Kelly, Will Rhymes, Nate Robertson (yes, he counts), Brad Thomas, and the worst of them all, Gerald Laird.
And screw you on Everett.  We all knew he was a horrible hitter.  The man was there for his defense (and hair).  Dombrowski knew that going in.
Third – the below expectations
Gerald Laird
Alex Avila
Ryan Raburn, anyone?  Ryan Perry?  Even Jeremy Bonderman or Armando Galarraga?
And Laird is WAY beyond below expectations.  Avila…I never had high hopes for him this year.  I’m not delusional like many of my fellow Tiger fans.  Except when it comes to my insane hero worship of Bobby Higginson…
That’s a list of 10 players.
An incomplete list. 
Their absence or ineffectiveness has played a key role in the Tigers collapse over the past month.
That’s f-cking stupid.  Read that again.  I’ll wait.  Here…
“That’s a list of 10 players.  Their absence or ineffectiveness has played a key role in the Tigers collapse over the past month.”
Not at all.  Seay, Everett, and Willis were long gone before the collapse of the past month happened.  Guillen, Inge, Porcello, Laird, and Avila were sucking more than a five dollar hooker for the entire season, not just lately.  Only the injuries of Zumaya and Ordonez have really contributed to the abortion of a second half the Tigers have gotten off to, when it comes to the 10 players you mentioned.
If you really want to put the blame on someone other than Leyland, blame Brennan Boesch.  His game completely falling apart couldn’t have come at a worse time for the 2010 Detroit Tigers.  If only there was someone around that could help him out of the funk he’s been in.  Like a manager-type guy.
Does Leyland have any influence on any one of those things happening? Nope. None.
Okay.  But batting Don Kelly anywhere in a major league lineup anywhere other than 9th is doing nothing but hurting your chances of winning a game.
I hate Don Kelly.
So if you’re looking to apply the goat horns to anyone responsible for this mess, forget the dugout. Forget the clubhouse. Look up into the suites.
F-ck you, Al Kaline!  Oh…not him?
There, you’ll find Dave Dombrowski who put this roster together. He thought that Everett could succeed as an everyday shortstop.
It worked last year.  Dick.
He thought that Laird and Avila would hit enough for the catcher position.
He thought that he could build a rotation with Willis and Jeremy Bonderman who were both huge question marks heading into Opening Day.
Haha…yeah, that was stupid.  Now mention the ugly sweaters that Dave wears.  I hate those things.
He thought that Guillen could stay healthy for an entire season,
Come the f-ck on, dude.  NO ONE expected Carlos Guillen to stay healthy for two weeks, let alone the entire season.  Dombrowski’s made some mistakes, but he’s not brain dead.  Jesus.
which hasn’t happened since Matt Millen was a respected member of the broadcast media (as opposed to a disgraced one).
Matt Millen joke!  Zing!  How topical.  What’s next?  A Monica Lewinski joke?  Perhaps you will go into a bit about airline food…
It’s not Dombrowski’s fault that so many important guys got hurt. But it is Dombrowski’s fault that he didn’t have much (other than the first half Brennan Boesch) to fill in for the injured stars.
Should’ve kept Mike Hessman.  Dammit.
Managers sometimes baffle me.
Other things that baffle Jamie Samuelsen:
-Long division
-Why Bella would choose Edward over Jacob
-How many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop
-His odd attraction to Adam Lambert
-Why Jim Belushi hasn’t been more successful in Hollywood
-That “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” isn’t really butter
-Why Nirvana hasn’t released any new CD’s in so long
-That illusion people do with their hands where it looks like they’re pulling their finger off
-Why Lebron James didn’t sign with the Utah Jazz
Joe Torre was a journeyman before 1996.
Joe Torre managed some horrible f-cking teams before 1996.  Did you ever watch the Braves on TBS in the 80’s?  Mother of Satan, they were bad.
Then he became a Hall of Famer. 
/checks Hall of Fame
Terry Francona might have been fired at the end of 2004 if the Red Sox hadn’t completed their miracle comeback against the Yankees. 
No he wouldn't have.  Silly statement.
Now they’ll build a statue of him outside of Fenway.
Gonna let this slide.  Must be another joke.
I once asked Jayson Stark of ESPN
Name dropping are we?  At least’ it’s not Chris Berman.
what made Leyland a good manager and he told me that when Leyland has a team that can win, they usually win.
Did 2008 not happen all of the sudden?
And wait.  “If he has a team that can win, they usually win.”  This sounds like a statement made by a complete moron…or Yogi Berra.
Reason #742 why everyone at ESPN is f-cking stupid.  Except Scott Van Pelt.  He’s okay.
He won in Pittsburgh. He won in Florida. And he won here in 2006. But since then, it’s been a little dry. So he gets the expected heat.
Choked every year in Pittsburgh.  Bought a title in Florida.  Choked in 2006.  Sigh.
But I see a manager that manages one way and usually (other than last weekend) doesn’t change.
"Hmm.  We keep losing.  Should I change how I do things?  Naaaa…"
/pencils in Don Kelly at leadoff
He didn’t change down the stretch last season. But his team did. They choked and they lost.
Rodney choked, dammit!  He should have been able to pitch for another 13 innings against the Twins if we needed him to despite fresh pitchers being ready.
So going back to the Stark comment, maybe Leyland still has it, but the team that he’s managing doesn’t have it. That’s debatable. But if that’s the case – that’s not on Leyland. That’s on Dombrowski.
I’m exhausted.  Look, they’re both to blame.  Let’s give them both one more year.  I’m a fair guy.  But there should be no more excuses to be made for Leyland or Dombrowski if they fail in 2011. 
But I’m sure that the Detroit media will continue to find them in their continued love affair with a manager has defined mediocrity over his long career.