So Long, Jim Leyland: It's Time to Ride Off into the Sunset
Now I understand how Marc Antony felt: "I come not to honor Caesar, but to bury him."
I come not to honor Jim Leyland, but to hope that come next season, he is not the manager of the Detroit Tigers. His tenure has run its course.
"But...but...he led us to the World Series!"
No, the Tigers won in spite of Leyland. It's amazing how long this fellow has gotten a free pass on something that he lucked into.
Even more amazing is the free pass he is given from the Detroit press despite his numerous blunders, errors, horrible decisions, and utter lack of sound strategy. You'd think he was Joe Torre or someone.
In reality, Jim Leyland is an under .500 career manager who is routinely outperformed by any reject with a brain stem sitting in the other dugout. He often winds up hurting his team more than helping. He is an abject failure as a major league manager.
Nowhere was this more apparent than in a win or go home game in the Metrodome on Oct. 6, 2009.
Now, do not misunderstand me; the Tigers had no business winning that game. The offense was horrible, once Rick Porcello left the mound the bullpen was playing with fire, and the defense, outside of one play in the 10th inning, was largely nonexistent.
But the game was there for the taking, and any drunken slob with a halfway-functioning brain stem could have managed that win.
But not Leyland. His gut told him that Porcello needed to be pulled after five-and-two-thirds, despite leading by a run and having two empty bases to work with. His gut told him that Fernando Rodney was good to go for a fourth inning of work despite a closer rarely ever throwing more than two in a given game.
His gut told him that goshdurnit, Gerald Laird was gonna hit one of those 10 baserunners he singlehandedly stranded home, especially with the bases loaded and two out in what would prove to be the Tigers' last at-bat of the season.
He got lucky in the sixth, even though Zach Miner loaded up those bases before managing to get a pop-up to end the inning. But eventually (like it always does with those old gamblers), the luck ran out.
Common sense would have told any rational human being that Rodney was running on fumes by the 12th inning, and you had five other pitchers that could have stepped in.
Common sense would have told even a stumbling simpleton that Laird (not exactly an offensive force to begin with) didn't even have his normal mediocre game at the plate, and that it was time to empty the clip and go with the young catcher who had been hitting near .300 since being called up to the majors.
But Jim's gut said otherwise, and because of that, the Tigers have completed an unprecedented collapse, losing a three-game lead with four games left in the season.
This is hardly new. Even in their 2006 AL Championship year, the Tigers needed a single win in three tries against those charming bottom-dwellers, the Kansas City Royals, to win the division. The Tigers lost all three and backed into the wild card.
But there was no wild card berth to save the Tigers this time, which is why such moves as sitting Placido Polanco in the second to last game of the regular season to rest his back or trying to juggle the pitching rotation for favorable playoff matchups with a one-game lead are even more baffling.
Forget March. If you're Jim Leyland, 'ware the Ides of October.
Leyland is a relic of days gone by, where you managed by instinct and feel. Then, smart people realized that you can base decisions on the situation and cold, hard numbers, and "go by the gut" managers like Leyland became increasingly obsolete.
If all it took to be a successful major league manager was the metaphorical equivalent to shooting craps, Las Vegas power rollers would be making millions managing baseball teams. But they aren't, and neither should Jim Leyland.
He needs to retire, and if he refuses to do so, then Dave Dombrowski has to suck up his pride and sense of camaraderie to the man who was his manager back in Florida and say, "I'm sorry Jim, but you're fired."
Face the cold truth, Jimmy. You're done. In fact, you never really ever had it. You caught lightning in a bottle twice. You hit sevens twice. That's better luck than most shooters get betting against the house, but you can't count on it happening again. It's time to hang 'em up.
There are plenty of things wrong with the Tigers, but one of those problems can be dealt with as soon as the morning of the seventh of October. Much like Rome could not survive as it was with Caesar on the throne, so can't the Tigers reach the pinnacle with Jim Leyland at the helm.
Leyland does deserve the opportunity to bow out gracefully. As much as I cursed his decisions and screamed at the television whenever he brought Neifi Perez to the plate with a game on the line, I don't necessarily want the man shamed from his position. I don't need to see him slouching forlornly as his personal effects are ejected from the stadium.
But if that is what it takes, then that is what needs to be done. Jim Leyland needs to go.
Learn the lessons presented by Shakespeare, Jimmy. Walk away before you are taken out against your will.
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