Oh Donnie Boy

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”.


Aw, hell. Don’s got that “I know you know what I know” look in his eye. Gonna be a long night.

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 –

Leyland LEMONS: 

  • 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:
Would you trust this man with your breakables? I mean look at that shit-eatin’ grin. He’s so great.

Would you trust this man with your breakables? I mean look at that shit-eatin’ grin. He’s so great.                            I've not given up on you yet, but you make me nervous, Potato.                                  I’ve not given up on you yet, but you make me nervous, Potato.

  • 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.”


Jimmy's special lemonade stix.

Jimmy’s special lemonade stix.

  • 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:
Don't even get me started on this jabroni.

Don’t even get me started on this jabroni.

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.

That looks like the skipper's nose, doesn't it? Close enough for me.

That looks like the skipper’s nose, doesn’t it?                        Close enough for me.

So please, leave some comments. Speak your piece. It’s all gravy. It sucked losing to the Astros but tomorrow is another day.

Go Tigs.










  • JenR

    Psych 101: Papa Leyley are very close off season and he thinks of DK like a son. He’s trying to justify keeping him around.

    • http://www.facebook.com/callery Ryan Callery

      I can see some instances where Donnie is worth playing. I like him as a versatility guy and I actually prefer him over bringing up, say Berry, for anything besides running. I just think Jim outthinks himself in pinch hitting situations sometimes. Overall, I’m a “Leyland guy”. I like him as our manager. But days like today are frustrating.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Timothy-Byrnes/100000046372050 Timothy Byrnes

    I’m looking at the line on Al Al and he walks a guy every inning. How can this guy pitch in the bigs. It was painful watching him put the winning run on base in the ninth.
    I also couldn’t see how a guy who was 3/3 can sit and watch baseball Donnie pitch hit for him. If this gives Donnie confidence what does it do for Tui.

    • http://www.facebook.com/callery Ryan Callery

      Yeah, big Al’s been struggling with the command for sure. I admittedly lean toward optimism (perhaps too much at times) with these guys, but I think he’ll figure it out. He’s got wicked movement and the speed we need. He’s got “the stuff” in other words. In the past, it seems staying healthy was his issue. I’m with you – so hard watching him walk that guy. Just the kiss of death when you walk the leadoff. I damn near turned the game off at that point to save myself the Tums purchase. But I do think he’ll find his control. (Fingers crossed). As far as Tui goes, I know its a small sample size and Leyland thinks he can’t hit righties – but I don’t know. I’d like to see him get a chance to prove Jimbo wrong, ya know? Thanks for the comment, Timothy!

  • http://www.facebook.com/callery Ryan Callery

    Tui’s splits vs Lefties & Righties for the year, in case anyone wants to see. Again, very small sample size – but still, given our options, I’d like to see him get more AB against Righties.

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