The chances of this post painting a thorough picture of what happened today at CoPa are less than slim to none. This is pure pot-stirring and postulation, at its most intentional. I’ll start with a common tinder box beneath the fiery debate over Jim Leyland’s managing ability. Skipper’s Godfather of the pinch hit, Don Kelly.
Old but occasionally still funny jokes involving compromising pictures aside, I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why Smokey continues allowing his boy Donnie to swing a bat. Especially in the 9th inning, in place of a man who is hitting .375 and was 3-3 with an RBI at the time. I do not give two craps about lefty / righty match-ups in cases like this. Sometimes you can outthink yourself. This was one of those times. Even in a game so irrevocably numbers driven, sometimes you need to just go with the hot hand – the guy who is passing the “look test”. I’m by no means a Leyland hater. I’m not even a Leyland disliker. My feelings for skip drift between surrendered indifference and possibly naive trust. I appreciate his candor and understated humor. He seems to be the ultimate guy’s guy and I think I would enjoy fixing something with him in the garage while sipping a few cold Bud Heavies and listening to Bob Seger. But the art of motor city fan maintenance is lost upon this man, and in his lineup changes, even his supporters occasionally have a hard time finding their “Zen”.
Which (long winded-ly) brings me to my topic. In your opinion (please support with both rational and irrational explanations) does James Richard Leyland serve our Tigers LEMONS or LEMONADE? (You’ll see this “Lemons & Lemonade” thing from me quite a bit. I’m sure you’ll understand the premise quickly enough.) In answering, try taking into account his entire body of work. Or, at the least, limit your cursing to one out of every two words.
Here’s some fruit for thought –
- A .463 winning percentage outside of his time with the Tigers (If you’re wondering why we should care about what he did before the Tigers, the point I’m making is that, despite his WS Crown with the Marlins in ‘97, he doesn’t have some amazing win/loss record that automatically raises him above criticism. That’s all.)
- A propensity to tinker with lineups and occasionally bat/pitch a guy who has “better numbers” against his opponent, even if the sample size is really small.
- He consistently trusts these men in delicate situations:
- The aforementioned mysterious circumstances that have kept Don Kelly from washing dishes somewhere in Lakeland. (Yes, I know he’s better than single A. This is just for shits & giggles, guys.)
- The calm, casual, “world keeps spinnin’” demeanor that, to some, comes off as indifference. (More on this later.)
- A career .504 winning percentage. Haters could arguably say, “he’s average.”
- A .537 winning percentage with the Tigers, 2 pennants and 2 first place finishes (with a 3rd highly likely).
- Tinkering sometimes works. What I love about Leyland is that he’s truly only concerned with what he thinks is best for the situation and the team. (You’re freedom to disagree with him remaining.) He doesn’t let egos, salaries, media or running out of smokes get in the way of his decision. And he’s not afraid to shake things up if the status quo isn’t working.
- From what I can tell, he is unquestionably trusted and respected by his players and his organization. If you’re also a Pistons fan (I know, there’s like 2 of us left.), you understand the importance of this.
- Further, he trusts his guys. He trusts their stuff and lets them get in and out of situations. Yes, sometimes to a fault. But, being an athlete and pitcher (once upon a time), I know how empowering it can be for your manager/coach to trust you and let you do you.
- The calm, casual, “world keeps spinnin’” demeanor that, to many, is just what the doctor ordered. Let’s get real here – the media and we Tigers fans (myself included) are often pretty GD irrational. Calling for heads on our iPhones one moment and Googling parade routes the next. This bi-polar fandom brings all sorts of fun to sports and all sorts of head shaking in my car when I listen to 97.1. But I’ll take a manager who’s Kool as the other side of the cellophane any day over, for example, a hot-headed clown like this guy:
I’m sure there are plenty more points on each side of this juice stand but I’m going to leave it to you at this point. Because no one is fully right or fully wrong. At the end of the day, Jimmy’s here, his pinch hitting is sometimes queer and we’re all going to deal with it.
After a Face-Paw inducing loss to the lowly Astros…
(side note: there’s a dirty joke here somewhere revolving around how a series against the Astros should make things, you know, smoother for a team trying to, you know, get into a groove…or maybe “glide” into a win streak. Okay, I severely digress.)
…which included a substitution of Don (REALLY??) Kelly for an on-fire Tuiasosopo, Dirks for Avi (who crushed a ball for 3 runs in the 2nd) and the placing of a delicate situation, yet again, into the hands of Mr Coke — there’s a strong chance of bitter faces in the Lemon vs. Lemonading of our polarizing skipper.
So please, leave some comments. Speak your piece. It’s all gravy. It sucked losing to the Astros but tomorrow is another day.