By Jeff Riger
Every baseball mind preaches patience and I think they are on to something.
When you play 162 games, you can’t let any one win or loss affect you any differently from others. After the Tigers lost in the 9th inning to Cleveland on Sunday afternoon and then lost again in Chicago on Monday, people in Detroit became convinced that the Tigers would miss out on the post season, and they still might.
So on Tuesday, before the 12-2 win over the A’s, I marched into the Skippers office and demanded to know if he anticipates managing this team next season?
If Detroit misses out on the playoffs, after all the expectations and excitement then I believe Leyland has to go. And, I like the guy! Sure he’s grouchy and yells a lot but he is fair and that is something that you don’t seem to find too often in today’s sports world. Leyland, unlike any manager or coach I have ever interviewed also tells you the truth on pretty much everything which I appreciate. I like the guy and sometimes feel myself trying to explain to people why he does the things that he does, especially when it comes to some of the bizarre lineups that he produces day after day.
Tuesday afternoon, Leyland was sitting at his desk as the media filled his office. The skipper ran the gamut, talking about available pitchers, what it will take to make up a 3 game deficit to the White Sox and other general baseball banter all while seeming to be in a decent mood. About 5 minutes into the media session I asked Leyland about his future.
Me: “Jim, with this being the last home stand of the regular season, is it hard not to think about your future? Have you thought about your future at all?”
Leyland: “I always think about my future, yeah, sure, I always think about my future no matter what I’m doing. What’s your point? Ask the question you want to ask.”
Me: “I’m just curious; do you wonder if this could be your last home stand?”
Leyland: “No I don’t! That I don’t think about. That’s not going to have any effect on me. I think about beating the Oakland Athletics tonight and try to get into the playoff. That situation will all take care of itself at the proper time and now obviously is not the proper time. And, if I had information for you I would give it to you, but I have none. I haven’t discussed my situation with anyone nor has my situation been discussed with me and I don’t want to discuss my situation with anyone nor do they want to discuss it with me. We are trying to win a division. I will leave it at that.”
I believe Leyland wants an extension and would love to manage the Tigers in 2013 despite being 67 years old.
People will always cite his situation in Colorado and how he left because he had lost the passion to manage baseball games anymore. Well, in Denver he didn’t have Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Justin Verlander and an owner that is willing to buy whatever a team could want. Leyland is happy here! He often talks about living in Royal Oak and hanging out with his neighbor Gene Lamont on the weekends after games. He gets choked up when talking about Tiger fans and what a championship would mean to this area.
Just because the skip is not ranting and raving like he did in 2006 doesn’t mean that the man doesn’t have the fire and immediacy to win now!
I like the guy but he has to go if they don’t win the division and do something impressive in the post season. The message will have grown stale otherwise. I believe you will see the Tigers make this thing close through the next 15 games.
Through it all Leyland will go down swinging, which seems to be a hell of a lot more than anybody is willing to give him credit for these days.
Yeah I root for the guy, why shouldn’t I?