By: Jeff Riger
Jim Leyland has made it clear; he’s not talking about his closer and I guess I don’t blame him. Ever since Jose Valverde blew a save in Kansas City last Wednesday, the Detroit closer has been a hot topic and by now Leyland has got to be sick and tired of answering questions about it.
But don’t you have to ask?
Of course you do! That’s all anybody cares about.
I believe different reporters have different agendas and mine always is and will continue to be to ask Leyland about what people on our station are talking about and that of course is the closer. So on Monday afternoon when the doors to Leyland’s office swung open, I think it’s safe to say that everybody knew the closer question would be asked.
It took a while and rightfully so as it was announced that Alex Avila and Anibal Sanchez were heading to the disabled list plus Max Scherzer was trying to become the first Tiger pitcher ever to start a season 10-0. Leyland was also asked about Rays pitcher Alex Cobb getting hit in the head so the closer chatter was put on the back burner. About 25 minutes passed and then it was time….
Would he go on a rant? Would he get angry? Would he even comment?
He did none of the above, instead he used comedy.
Leyland decided to battle the Valverde and closer questions with a bunch of one liners that he must have been thinking about since Papa Grande came to town. I asked Leyland what his criteria was late in the game if they had the lead and it was a save situation? Leyland opted for Joaquin Benoit instead of Valverde to close out Sunday’s game against Minnesota. Leyland replied “I hope we got the lead…this is Days of Our Lives boys, you’ll find out tonight.”
Leyland was then asked if he is now going by feel when it comes to deciding who he will use in the 9th? The skipper asked in response if the reporter was staying the for game and that he would find out. Leyland then continued saying “I explained why I did yesterday (Sunday) and hopefully I’ll have the chance to explain why I did it again tonight, whatever I did because we’ll have the lead. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to talk about it after the game.”
So Leyland was not telling a soul who his closer was! But that doesn’t mean that we stop asking.
The comedy then continued when Leyland was asked if he panics like the fans do? The manager cracked “well (Manny) Machado leads the league in doubles and I’m about second in doubles…double vodka’s, double scotch. No I’m just kidding; in fact don’t make it sound like that because I hardly ever have a drink.”
But the laughter didn’t last forever.
Leyland did let some truth slip as he shared with the media just how worried he is about his bullpen. “Quite truthfully, we don’t totally have our furniture arranged in the bullpen. There is no question about that. We tried to get it arranged before we had Valverde, we’ve tried to arrange it since we’ve had Valverde and we’ll continue to try and get it arranged. I don’t have a magic formula for you right now. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Once the manager got going, the information started flowing…
Despite vowing to not talk about a lot of things that fans constantly talk about, Leyland understands the chatter and actually loves it. “Absolutely, that’s a baseball conversation, (referring to the closer) that’s only normal. I’m thankful that we have that because that means that people are interested in us. I think there are some people that make very legitimate points from a fans standpoint when they tweet to you guys, whatever the hell they call it. I think that there are some legitimate points on talk shows. I think that there are some foolish points and just reaching and grasping for straws that are silly. But I think it’s a lot of good thought processes by the fans.”
One of those “though processes” that have been talked about is having starter Rick Porcello be the closer. “It’s not so farfetched, talking about Porcello as a closer; I don’t think that’s silly. But right now is not a time for that. We have information that we see going on that, we think right now that that’s not the best thing for Rick Porcello or our club right now” Leyland said.
So what about making a trade for a closer? That’s a legitimate question considering Leyland himself admitted that he is not sure of his pen. “That’s easy to say” Leyland said. “You can’t go buy a shirt for five thousand dollars and put it on and if it doesn’t look good say throw that one away and go get another one for five thousand. It doesn’t work that way. That’s not fair to the owner.”
So that was Leyland on Monday and believe it or not I just have one question that went unanswered…
Who the hell buys a five thousand dollar shirt without trying it on first?