It’s comes across as odd when a hard-nosed manager shows compassion for a former subordinate who went out underperforming. It’s like hearing a professional wrestler quote an article from Glamour, watching James Bond cook an apple turnover, or witnessing a grizzled Korean War veteran volunteer at an inner-city high school and not say something horribly offensive within the first ten minutes.
I don’t think Detroit Tigers’ skipper Jim Leyland is going soft, but him saying that he is “shocked” and “broken-hearted” over Tigers’ ex-closer Jose Valverde not being signed yet seemed strange, and, to use his words, I’m shocked.
It’s just surprising; with fifty years around baseball Leyland knows how this league works and that no player can stay at the top of their game forever. Baseball is like horse racing, except when players in the MLB get too old they retire to their estates, to commentating, or take up coaching instead of being put down on the track and shipped off to the glue factory.
Valverde put together a great body of work during his time in Detroit, but no one can forget the two meltdowns in the 2012 playoffs. That’s the last time anyone saw him pitch and that’s the image people have of him. Ask Shane Falco, one bad game can completely tarnish the reputation you have.
The Big Potato may sign with a team at some point during spring training, but he’s going to have to earn the closer role again. He’s going to be 35 when the season starts and no one is going to want to pay him close what he was making the last three years in Detroit.
And, Leyland, well, I guess this is just a softer side of you that I never knew existed.