It's late in a game, and the Detroit Tigers are in a tight battle with a central division foe in the heat of a pennant race. Leadoff hitter Don Kelly is on first base with no outs and Ryan Raburn is at the plate in what seems to be an ideal situation for a sacrifice bunt.
However, not to the surprise of any Tiger fan, manager Jim Leyland does not give Raburn the bunt signal and he instead grounds into a double play. Instead of having a man in scoring position with only one out, Detroit now has to go back to the drawing board with the bases empty and two outs. Magglio Ordonez fails to get on base and the inning is over.
A half inning later, Leyland decides to pull a red-hot relief pitcher who struck out the side in order last inning in favor of a cold Phil Coke or Daniel Schlereth. After a combination of walks and hits, the Tigers fall behind in the game and do not catch up.
Every Tiger fan is familiar with the scenarios above, and they are becoming more and more livid with giving away important games every single day. The apparent managing mistakes being made time and time again seem apparent to everyone watching the game.
The Tigers have probably the best pitching rotation in the Central and undoubtedly the best lineup top-to-bottom in the division. What makes no sense is that the nine "regulars" hardly ever all start on the same day. Leyland seems to give everyone in the lineup at least one day off a week. There are nights where Carlos Guillen and Jhonny Peralta, not only two of the most important RBI producers on the team but also both of the middle infielders, both ride the bench while the second-stringers replace them in the lineup and on the field.
Leyland needs to take a page out of Sparky's book. Sparky always said that as long as one single fan buys a ticket for the game, the manager should put his best team possible on the field because the fan deserves to get what they paid for.
Obviously, players need a rest every once in a while, but these guys are making millions a year; they should be able to play for at least a few days in a row! Sparky led the Tigers to their most recent World Series in 1984, and you never saw him sit Lou, Tram or Gibby once a week or all at the same time did you?
Another mistake Leyland commonly makes is making probably the worst possible choices for relief pitchers late into key games. About a month ago, the Tigers were in Chicago for a pivotal series against the White Sox. The game was tied in the middle innings with one out, and Carlos Quentin, arguably the most dangerous hitter against Detroit in the past five years, is due up for Chicago. Out jogs Chance Ruffin from the bullpen in left field, ready to make his big league debut in a tie game with bases loaded against Chicago with Quentin at the plate.
As expected, Quentin lines a double into left field and puts the White Sox ahead for good as they go on to win the game.
Here's another question that Tigers fans have been asking: Why has Wilson Betemit been getting so many days off? Brandon Inge was hitting about .170 for the year so Detroit goes out and gets Betemit: a .280 hitter and a major upgrade at the third base position. What nobody understands is why Inge played literally almost every single day while hitting .170 while Betemit hits .280 and seems to get a day off every series.
However, the most common and ridiculous mistake that Leyland makes, and I have been livid about this since he became the Tigers' manager in 2006, is that he rarely ever bunts runners over in tight games. a sacrifice bunt could and probably would be the difference between a runner on second and one out and bases empty with two outs. The Angels put together a string of division titles in the '00s thanks in part to playing small-ball and bunting runners over. If the Tigers want to win the Central this year, Leyland needs to take a page out of Mike Scioscia's book.
Despite making all of these blatant mistakes on a consistent basis, Leyland was awarded a contract extension through next season for $4 million. If the Tigers clinch the division, okay, I can live with giving him an extension. But to reward him in August while the team is closely being trailed by Cleveland and Chicago and has not accomplished anything of great significance makes absolutely no sense. Make him earn his money before handing it to him on a silver platter.