Jim Leyland. The name evokes a range of emotions and a few expletives from Detroit Tigers fans.
As summer comes you can be sure of two things: one, Tigers team underachieving from expectations and two, “Fire Jim Leyland” calls.
Each year we are left with head-puzzling decisions, a bullpen so mismanaged that if it was a business it would have been bankrupt years ago. Yet here he is, one of the longest active tenured managers, having taken the Tigers to three playoff appearances in his seven years and two World Series appearances.
What’s the issue then? Two World Series sound great — why would Tigers fans be so angry? The Tigers are 1-8 in those World Series games, and the losses have been similar to the head-scratching enigma that has surrounded the Detroit Tigers and Jim Leyland since 2006.
There’s so many to blame. The offense, a glorified lineup year after year destined to set records centered around the best player alive Miguel Cabrera. How does that offense go into slumbers that would make Rip Van Winkle jealous?
That bullpen, ooh that bullpen. Jose Valverde has had more lives than Jason Voorhees, is he gone? Can we ever be sure? It’s enough to drive any fan crazy and draw comparisons of the Tigers as the MLB version of the New York Jets. Leyland has the brashness of Rex Ryan, but he doesn’t want the attention.
Leyland has a confidence in himself and make no doubt about it — this is his team. Ups and downs mean nothing to Leyland, fan reaction and outrage mean nothing to Leyland. He is a honey badger and he just doesn’t give a you-know-what.
Jim Leyland is a throwback to the days of old. I mean, just look at him. He would smoke everyday in the dugout if MLB would let him. Never afraid of fighting, Leyland has fought with the best of them from back in his days with the Pittsburgh Pirates against Barry Bonds to the infamous noodle eating interview.
Don’t tell him how to do his job. Even the old managers didn’t just go completely off their gut though, right? Surely he must care about his team struggling? He must do something different out of desperation. I mean, they are behind the Cleveland Indians — how can they not be throwing deck chairs off the ship?
10 games up or 10 games down, one thing you can count on is Jim Leyland not changing a thing.
He trusts his players, he trusts his gut and if it fails him, so be it. He is going down the way he wants, on his terms and if you have a problem with it, he will be happy to show you where you can place it. Like him or hate him, you have to admit one thing — his trust is impressive in this age of double-guessing and intense scrutiny.
That’s why you will be hard-pressed to find a former player of his badmouth him, and that is why when things are at there bleakest, his players find a way to win.
Because he won’t give up on them, they won’t give up on him.