Detroit Tigers: Why Jim Leyland Is the Perfect Manager for 2013
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Hi, my name is Brett, and I am a big Jim Leyland fan.
During the season, that admission could cause a fan to receive a lot abuse from other fans.
With Detroit Tigers fans, there is no grey area when it comes to their opinions about Leyland. You either love the guy or hate him.
If you ask baseball scouts and other managers, they talk about how smart he is and how he's a top manager. But if you go on message boards or Twitter throughout the season, there are so many Leyland detractors that you would think the Tigers were the worst team in baseball.
There is constant criticism by fans about his lineup decisions and bullpen management, but he shows self-confidence in his decision-making and never loses track of the big picture. His favorite way to deflect the second-guessing and questioning of his decisions is to use his quick wit and humor, which is constantly on display.
I personally believe that Leyland likes it this way, as it helps to shield his players from the outside pressures of social media and potential disruption to their routine by keeping the spotlight on himself.
Leyland understands he has an older win-now team, and that is when he is at his best. He can be himself, which is a straight-forward, honest guy who won't lie or deceive his players. He will always be upfront with everybody, from the players to the media, and in return, he receives the respect that other managers may not necessarily get.
He has a knack for learning each player's personality and then tailoring his management style to each individual. Even though his players are millionaires and are getting paid to be professionals who are expected to perform each day, they too have everyday problems that the fans don't always see or understand. That is why if a player is having marital problems or their child is sick, he may give the player a day off or have a talk with him.
Fans constantly vent when he rests his players in the middle of the season. But by playing his bench players, it allows him to give his starters a rest and keep them fresh for later in the season. Fans may gripe about Austin Jackson not starting a Sunday afternoon game in June after a Saturday night game, but they will be silent when Jackson is fresh and not burnt out in September and October, when the games really matter.
Another positive outcome is that it also allows his bench players to get in at-bats, because you never know when an injury might occur that will force that bench player into the lineup. This way the player won't be cold from not having played for several weeks.
Another hot topic is how Leyland has received a lot of abuse over the years for showing his loyalty to certain players that aren't performing by keeping them in the lineup.
Two popular examples on this subject are Ryan Raburn and Brandon Inge. Personally, I wasn't a fan of either of them and wanted them released, but I understood Leyland's thinking. Even though they should have never left the bench, let alone be on the team in the first place. Leyland took into account that they had performed in the past and he wanted them to play with confidence without constantly looking over their shoulder after every groundout or strikeout.
This also demonstrates Leyland's loyalty to his players, which they appreciate, and it goes a long way in getting them to stay loyal to him.
He also handles delicate situations the correct way, such as Miguel Cabrera's two arrests related to drinking, and the tragedy Max Scherzer was dealing with this past season.
Yet another hotly debated discussion point is Leyland's handling of the bullpen, but he manages it to perfection. He knows each pitcher's strength and weakness and doesn't overuse a player. While relief pitching is one of the more volatile things in the game, more often than not, Leyland makes the correct call.
Granted, he does sometimes make mistakes, as evidenced by keeping Jose Valverde in way too long during Game 1 of the ALCS, but overall, he pushes the correct buttons. He rarely has a pitcher go three days in a row, which keeps them healthier and protects them from overuse.
People tend to forget how good we as fans have it since Leyland became manager in 2006. In his first year, he brought the Tigers to the World Series, which was an incredible achievement compared to the previous years before he joined the team.
Does anyone remember Phil Garner, Buddy Bell or the Luis Pujols years? Even Tigers great Alan Trammell was a failure as manager. Granted, the players weren't as talented, but it seemed like the Tigers were always getting out-managed by the opposing managers.
Just remember that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Who else could come in and manage this year and have the instant respect of the clubhouse? A lot of fans were wanting Terry Francona, but look at how the Boston Red Sox fell apart at the end of 2011.
As Leyland has shown with the Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies, he doesn't tolerate losing and knows when to walk away. His personality won't allow him to manage rebuilding teams, and that is fine by me. That is why, while this team is going all out to win the World Series, he's the perfect fit for the Detroit Tigers, and I'm going to feel comfortable watching him manage to his strengths.
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