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Link: Drew Sharp: Leyland wasn't blowing smoke about Tigers | Detroit Free Press | Freep.com

Drew Sharp

Posted: Sept. 9, 2009

Leyland wasn't blowing smoke about Tigers

BY DREW SHARP

FREE PRESS COLUMNIST

Jim Leyland is entitled to tell his critics where to stick it. He won't, though.

Leyland knows that's the one game he can't win, so why engage those who credit the players when all goes well, but blame the manager when Fernando Rodney can't find the plate in the bottom of the ninth, or when a batter can't hit a fly ball with a runner on third base and less than two outs?

Leyland told me recently he accepts the inherent thanklessness of his task. There are never good days for a manager, only blown opportunities and endless second-guessing.

But now that the Tigers no longer fear dreaming of October just days into September, it's time Leyland gets the appreciation warranted for not losing credibility in the clubhouse, despite his delicate contractual situation, and for not losing hope in a painfully erratic offense.

He's the American League manager of the year. It's no contest.

Some will make an argument for Texas' Ron Washington, should the Rangers earn an unexpected wild-card berth. The Yankees' Joe Girardi will garner some consideration because of the extraordinarily high expectations that have hounded him since succeeding Joe Torre. But, customarily, to the overachiever goes the spoils.

The Tigers have spent four straight months in first place with a roster that boasts only two genuine studs -- Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera. This team is primarily a concoction of withering veterans and spunky youngsters who must draw upon every ounce of their collective will. That's the manager's responsibility. Give it up for the Marlboro Man. Leyland has squeezed just enough out of everyone.

Ryan Raburn is one of those role players that leaves you screaming into the night when he clumsily commits two errors on one play, as was the case last month. But then Tuesday night in Kansas City, he cuts down the tying runner in the bottom of the seventh with a missile from leftfield.

There is no magic wand for good managing. It's more often hunch, gut feeling, instinct. But perhaps more than anything else it's communication. This remains Leyland's strongest managerial trait. He doesn't talk simply to hear his cigarette-honed baritone. As he has often said, he's a man of few syllables. But he regularly talks with all 25 guys, making sure they understand their roles and their importance in achieving the common goal -- the division championship Leyland thought was within the Tigers' reach at spring training. He might've been the only guy in the country who believed that in February.

Leyland never got tangled in the politics of Magglio Ordoñez's contract dilemma. Barring an unfortunate season-ending injury, Ordoñez will satisfy the criteria that guarantees him $18 million in 2010. The extra-base power numbers have improved since he opened his stance, but it still doesn't justify that kind of commitment to an eroding slugger who might cost the Tigers an opportunity to re-sign free agents Placido Polanco or Rodney. All that mattered to Leyland was putting Ordoñez in the best position to work himself out of his doldrums.

You could get motion sickness from the Tigers' roller-coaster ride over the past four seasons. But through it all, the players still trust Leyland's word when it comes to their best interests.

Contact DREW SHARP: 313-223-4055 or dsharp@freepress.com.

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First: "Good Drew Sharp Article" is an oxymoron.

Second: I can sum up the Magglio situation in one word: Mishandled. $18 mill is worth getting "tangled in the politics".

Lastly: It SHOULD BE a two horse-race between Leyland and Washington for AL manager of the year.

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I would agree that Leyland has done his best job of managing this season.

The pitching staff has shouldered a lot of the load, and :smoker: was forced to

do a lot of "mix and match" due to a lack of bodies/depth at DH, LF, RF.

I also like how he has spotted Santiago at shortstop frequently.

Returning Inge to 3rd also was a good move.

I'll always hate his lineups, but as the average saber will easily demonstrate, lineups don't really effect the outcome of a game that much, anyway (and nobody ever uses the optimal lineup).

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You'll be hard pressed to ever see me give Leyland much credit for anything, but I'll say this: He did a great job of managing against Tampa. Specifically, the pinch running Wilken Ramirez, who then went on to make a fairly amazing slide to score, reeked of "Great managerial decision".

Considering that I was highly impressed with the way Maddon managed that series for Tampa (although he made one notable mistake in replacing Cormier in the final game of the series), I was also impressed with the job Leyland did. It is up to the players to execute, and I fully understand that (which is why I praised Maddon so highly), but its up to the manager to put them in the best position to do it. I rarely think Leyland does that, and I think he did it in spades during the Tampa series.

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If Leyland does win it, the Tigers will be glad they inked him to an extension. Otherwise he may have been more expensive.

But come to think of it, this may not be true, at least in Leyland's case. DD said at the time it was one of the easiest negotiations he ever went through. Leyland wanted to stay and him and DD had the contract worked out very quickly.

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If Leyland does win it, the Tigers will be glad they inked him to an extension. Otherwise he may have been more expensive.

But come to think of it, this may not be true, at least in Leyland's case. DD said at the time it was one of the easiest negotiations he ever went through. Leyland wanted to stay and him and DD had the contract worked out very quickly.

If the Tigers win it all, I wouldn't be surprised if Leyland stepped down. Going out on top would be nice.

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If the Tigers win it all, I wouldn't be surprised if Leyland stepped down. Going out on top would be nice.

Why would he do that if he JUST signed an extension?

That makes ZERO sense whatsoever.

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Naaa, that would be "Good Rob Parker Article".

And I agree with John... Sharp can actually write, sometimes. Parker is worthless.

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If the Tigers win it all, I wouldn't be surprised if Leyland stepped down. Going out on top would be nice.
Here's to hoping you're right.

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Here's to hoping you're right.

+1 in every way. I don't think that the Tigers winning a championship could be improved, but Leyland stepping down immediately thereafter might just improve it.

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+1 in every way. I don't think that the Tigers winning a championship could be improved, but Leyland stepping down immediately thereafter might just improve it.

So that he won't be part of the impending post-championship fire sale?:surprise:

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