By Evan Jankens
Enough is enough already. Why is all the blame put on Tigers manager Jim Leyland? I hear callers everyday saying “Jim Leyland has cost us five games.” How is that possible? Seriously, I would love to know how, logically thinking, you can blame Leyland for losing baseball games? A manager of a professional baseball team has plenty of jobs, but some of the duties he doesn’t have are pitching to elite-level hitters, hitting pitches off elite level pitchers and fielding.
You can try to put blame for the Tigers season on Leyland, but to me it falls on the players and GM Dave Dombrowski.
What is Leyland supposed to do with the players he has? He was handed a team that everyone thought would go to the World Series — with their eyes closed and me pitching every fifth day. That wasn’t, and isn’t, the case. Yes, I know the Tigers got Prince Fielder in the off-season and that filled the hole for the Victor Martinez absence. That didn’t make the team better, though. Fielder stepped in and is playing great baseball — but that’s the same thing that V-Mart did. Great, they replaced a $50 million man with a $200 million man. There were bigger holes to fill.
Did they Tigers upgrade Delmon Young? Nope, he is still out there almost every day swinging at the first pitch. And that to me is the way the guy plays the game — could Leyland tell him ‘don’t do it’ and bench him if he does? Sure he could, then in his place you have Andy Dirks or Quintin Berry, right? It’s not as easy as it sounds. Everyone can be super high on Andy Dirks, but seriously what has this guy ever done? Is he nice in certain situations? Sure he is but is he an everyday Major League baseball player?
In my opinion absolutely not, he can’t stay healthy. Dirks is hitting .323 with 200 plate appearances this season. Is that an upgrade over Delmon Young? Maybe but not for a full season, he hasn’t had more than 235 in a season. So as some like to say it’s a cute sample size.
Now people want to see Quintin Berry at the plate, but that also isn’t the answer. The dude is fast and can steal bases when he gets on base and that is the key right there, he has to get on base. That is something he hasn’t done as of late. Berry is hitting .274 in 267 plate appearances. Brennan Boesch is nothing special but he seems to hang around. Which brings me back to my original point — Leyland plays the guys who are on his 25 man roster. What else can he do but go out there and be a player coach like Babe Ruth back in the day? Hell, if he did that then we could say Leyland cost the Tigers games.
Now to the pitching, Leyland hasn’t thrown a pitch in one game this season. This is what Leyland was given at the start of the season. He was given Justin Verlander, and no complaints here about him other than since he was rumored to start dating Kate Upton he is 4-3, but that just might be coincidence. He also has Doug Fister, who was injured in the beginning of the season, but has he really lived up to being the No. 2 starter? Not exactly, he has a 3.67 ERA with 102 strike outs and 32 walks.
Last year (and, yes, it was nine less starts) he only walked five men for the Tigers, that’s a big difference but yet it doesn’t fall on his shoulders or Leyland’s. Max Scherzer is the team’s No. 3, but can we really complain about him? Not really, yes, he is hit or miss on some nights but he does his job for the most part. Rick Porcello is, well, he’s Rick Porcello. Has all the potential in the world but there is one thing I guarantee: Upper management for the Tigers will give him every chance to succeed whether Leyland would want him or not.
The Tigers acquired Anibal Sanchez in a trade with the Marlins and he has been exactly what he has been his whole career and that’s a guy who gives up hits and has never had an ERA under 3.55 when pitching 30 or more starts. The Tigers had the likes of Drew Smyly, who teams figured out quickly, Casey Crosby (yawn) and Jacob Turner start major league games this year. So why would Leyland be to blame for his starters being, well, subpar minus their ace Justin Verlander.
Here is the one I hear the most about Jim Leyland: He doesn’t know how to handle the bullpen. How is that possible? He is once again only able to play with the cards he was dealt. Phil Coke and Duane Below are the lefties in the pen and now since Below was sent down, because he was hardly used, Darrin Downs is the other lefty. Are any of these pitchers “lights out?” No way, these are guys who come in shouldn’t face more than one or two guys and they better be lefties.
Now I move onto the righties in the pen. What is he supposed to do, not use his closer in Jose Valverde after he blows a few saves? No, that would be absurd; could he have changed the closer position midway through the season and put Benoit in there? Sure, but we all see how well he has pitched lately. That’s the backend of the bullpen, so let’s talk about the middle relief. Luke Putkonen comes into the game and, well, there is tons of confidence oozing through his pores (that was a joke.)
Hey, at least you can be somewhat confident in Octavio Dotel. Just think, though, the Tigers have had the likes of Thad Weber, Jose Ortega and Luis Marte pitch for them this year. Bryan Villarreal started off this season as if he were the 2012 version of the 2006 Joel Zumaya, and we all know how that ended up.
So why all the blame on Jim Leyland? He only has control over who he puts on the field and after Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson and Justin Verlander, who can he count on day in and day out? He does the best he can with what he has to work with. The blame must fall on the players who haven’t performed like Major Leaguers most of the season and the person who pays them the cash to play the game. Eyes across metro Detroit are on Dombrowski and fans are wondering how the team can get better without replacing just one player.
What do you think? Contact me on Twitter @kingofthekc, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.