Giving Leyland Some Love


Buddy Bell, Larry Parrish, Phil Garner, Luis Pujols, Alan Trammell.  What do these men have in common?  They all tried to revive a dormant but proud baseball franchise . . . and they all failed.  When Jim Leyland arrived in 2006, it was clear he would bring a different attitude.  During spring training of that year, Leyland wondered what was wrong with the team he had just inherited.  “They’re too nice,” he said, “They’re a bunch of nice guys who get beat.”  Can you imagine hearing that if you were in that clubhouse?  I think he changed the culture right then and there.  Early in the 2006 campaign, Leyland made what is now an infamous rant after the Tigers lost the finale of a 4 game home series before heading out on the road.  The Tigers went on a hot streak after that and never looked back on their way to the World Series.

Jim Leyland has been a polarizing figure in Detroit, especially lately, but I believe fans and media are too hard on him.  Believe me, I understand the complaints.  HIs lineups are confusing, his bullpen management is suspect, and his propensity to throw Triple A players into the fire is hard to understand.  However, there is more to managing than the X’s and O’s.  Leyland cares deeply for the city of Detroit, the Tigers organization, and his players.  His tears when talking about Don Kelly helping the team to the playoffs and how they work hard for the hardworking people of Detroit prove he is deeply invested in his job.  In today’s sports world, that is a very refreshing attribute.

In all professional sports, there is a tendency for players to ignore their coaches and play only for themselves.  The belief that a player is “above” the coach is too widely accepted.  Jim Leyland has the respect of his players.  They listen to him and they play hard for him. In some ways, that is more valuable than the in-game decision making we all gripe about.

I’m not saying Leyland deserves to stay on as manager for many more years.  In fact, if he can’t guide this year’s team to the playoffs, I don’t think he or his staff should be back next year.  All I am saying is that everybody needs to back off a bit.  Criticism goes with the territory, but what Leyland has received is too extreme.