Too much blame for losing, not enough credit for winning. Such is the life of Tigers Manager Jim Leyland. What does the guy have to do to get the state off his back? Well, its starts with pointing out the gross misconceptions that are out there, as well as the ignorance shown by the “radio experts.”
Jim Leyland, after taking over a team that had not had a winning season since 1993, has led the team to five winning seasons, two central division titles (plus that game 163), three playoff appearances, five playoff series wins (3 vs. New York), and now a second World Series appearance. Despite all of this, too many fans want to get on the radio or the internet and bitch. I’m tired of it. Jim Leyland is a good manager. He deserves better from a passionate fan base.
Not Without Faults
Believe me, I have disagreed with Leyland many times during his tenure. I have agreed with the masses about his propensity to rest players too often. His loyalty toward underperformers goes too far at times, and he definitely shoulders some of the blame for the second half fades of 2007 and 2009. More recently, his decision to leave Jose Valverde in after giving up a home run to Ichiro was definitely wrong, and thankfully didn’t cost the Tigers the game.
We Don’t See the Whole Picture
During Leyland’s seven years at the helm, the Tigers have had an abundance of star players: Magglio Ordonez, Pudge Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and many more established veterans. There has never been a clubhouse issue during this time. Players have never abandoned Leyland or each other. They played hard for him year after year, game after game. Do you notice the celebrations after the games? These guys LOVE their manager! There is so much more value in those intangibles than any lineup or bullpen decision. In today’s sports world, respect for coaches and managers isn’t easy to find. Controlling a locker room full of superstars is no simple task (why do the Lakers always want Phil Jackson back? Why did Terry Francona lose his job? Why do Bill Belicheck and Andy Reid have such great job security?). I would much rather have a manager whose “x” and “o” decisions I occasionally disagree with than a manager that doesn’t have the respect of his players.
Its great to live in a state that has so much passion about their teams and such ease of communication on radio and online. But fans must be careful about how they base their opinions; there is a lot of ignorance out there. Many prominent radio hosts in this state find it good for ratings if they stir up the angst of the fanbase toward a common scapegoat: Jim Leyland. I don’t expect there to be no complaints out there, of course there will always be second guessing and armchair managing. But too many times throughout this season I have listened to outright lies and baseless opinions spread through the media by people who don’t fully understand baseball decisions or the make up of the Tigers organization. Earlier this playoff season, I heard a caller explain how Jim Leyland cost the Tigers a game because of a certain move he made. However, the caller was wrong, the move discussed had never been made. Did the hosts correct him? No, they agreed with him and talked about what a great point he made! So how many more fans listening bought into that and let their opinion of Leyland be affected by it? Everybody has a right to their opinion, but it is not fair when a good guy and good manager like Jim Leyland has to endure such harsh criticism for so long.
How often do you hear national media members talk negatively about Jim Leyland? Speaking as someone who pays attention to this sort of thing, I would say it is extremely rare. National media members that have been around baseball, the Tigers, and Jim Leyland for a long time all say the same thing: He is one of the best managers in baseball. Fans can listen to radio hosts everyday (heck, I do), but is that who you trust for the best baseball opinions and insight on Jim Leyland? I choose to trust my own baseball knowledge, the expertise of Dave Dombrowski, and the opinion of the 25-40 players nearest to him everyday.
Rooting for failure?
At a local pub during a playoff game this year, a man at the bar yelled and screamed at the TV every time he saw Leyland, every pitching change made was booed with authority (alcohol may have been involved). When the new pitchers got the necessary outs, the “fan” was not to be heard.
For some reasons, fans want to boo more than cheer sometimes. There are more comments after a loss than a win. The phone lines are never as busy as after a loss. It’s a strange phenomenon, and most of the time it is just comical. But what’s happened to Jim Leyland is not funny anymore; it’s embarrassing and undeserved.
If you have wished for Jim Leyland’s dismissal, what are you looking for in a replacement? As the Tigers stand four games from a World Series championship, be careful what you wish for.