I really sense that the Jim Leyland era is winding down and I have mixed feelings. On one hand I thought he should have been named Tigers Manager back when Jim Campbell made the horrible decision to hire Les Moss instead. THAT lasted all of 4 months. Campbell then hired Sparky and the Tigers job was filled for 20 years. Leyland went first to the White Sox as a coach for Tony LaRussa, and then to great success and a couple of World Series in the National League. And then 20 years laterhe replaced Alan Trammell who I believe should never have been fired. It wasn't Leyland's fault that Dombrowski was influenced by Ivan Rodriguez and made the change but he was the guy that replaced Tram and I struggled with that. JL than leading the boys to the World Series and than suggesting Tram take part in the World Series ceremonies made up for some of that. The season itself was huge after so many losing seasons.
Then we went through the rollercoaster of Leyland's Tiger Career.
Next up was the underachieving 2007 team. We all thought they would get back there the next season instead they stumbled a bit, partly because of Verlanders sophmore slump and other team injuries as well. Leyland gets a pass on 07 because of 06 after glow.
2008 was a different story. Everyone in Baseball gave the Tigers the American League Pennant when they traded for Cabrera and Willis. They got off to a horrific start and never recovered. I felt Leyland gave up on the season to soon. Again injuries played a role, losing Granderson early on was a crushing blow, and Dontrelle was a disaster, but 2008 seemed to be the year of 10,000 line ups and THAT is one of my pet peeves against JL. He just cannot resist the constant tinkering. And I think it costs the team 8-10 wins a year. More that season, the one we should never talk about.
2009 was when I first said "Fire Leyland". In my mind HE lost the division champonship and should have been shown the door. Starting Figuroa on that fateful Saturday was his first mistake. Not being able to get the boys ready to play that last weekend was inexcusable. Three games against the White Sox when we needed one win will never be forgotten. That is also when I first heard him argue early on about his goofy lineups and resting stars. I just think that a manager should try to win every game and in 09 Leyland, managing for October didn't get there. 1967 was disappointing losing on the final day, but 2009 was the most awful final week I remember. They had it and blew it. One game, maybe in April or May could have made the difference. And I believe Leyland's goofy lineups cost us a couple of those early games.
2010 was a nice season. Expectations were low after trading Granderson and letting Rodney and Polanco walk away. Being competetive most of the year was a nice surprise and I watched some good baseball all summer long. Interesting how much fun a season can be when you don't expect much and the Tigers overachieve.
2011 was a blast. I can quibble and say he should have sat Jackson more and probably not played Avilla so much when it was obvious he was hurting badly, but JL had no option at catcher so I got his dilema. And his Mario interview after clinching in Oakland was heartfelt and sincere. There is no doubt the guy really wants to bring a World Series Championship and that interview brought a tear to all eyes of Tiger fans. Losing to Texas was a fluke and dusting off the Yankees was great. All in all a memorable season. They just came up a bit short of the prize.
According to prognosticators, including me, the Tigers clinched the Central when they signed the Prince. It hasn't worked out that way..so far.This season has been just plain weird. Frustrating and satifying at the same time. Watching Scherzer and Jackson blossom with success. Having Cabrera with his infectuous love of the game hitting in front of Prince Fielder is a joy to watch. And JV not getting the wins but still dominating almost every time out is incredible. Current Tiger fans are watching perhaps the best pitcher and hitter of all time to ever wear the olde english D. The disappointing performances from Jhonny, Delmon, Boesch, Santiago, and Avilla are the down side of 2012. Baseball is a team sport and there are 25 not 4 or 5. That's why I think it's time for a change. For whatever reason Jim and the staff could not blend these great and good players into a solid team. There is still time but Sunday and Monday were 2009ish. Thats unfortunate.
Because the bottom line is Jim Leyland has taken the Tigers to the playoffs twice, managed one of the most exciting games I remember, game 163 in 09, and got them to the World Series after a 22 year drought. There has been much more good than bad.
In the final analysis if they do not catch the White Sox it will be because of too many errors, too many men left on base, and too many double plays, In other words...fundamentals. And if the Sox close it out take note of one of Robin Ventura's first policy changes: Daily infield practice before every game. Gee, I wonder if THAT could have helped the pourous 2012 defense?
When all is said and done, I think Jim and his coaches have to own some of the failures. I could list 15 games where 1 run would have made the difference. If they miss the playoffs I think it's time for a clean sweep. And that iswhy I am torn. Because the bottom line is Jim Leyland has been a good baseball manager for a very long time. His Tiger roots (as are Lamonts) very deep. And the past 7 years have been very very entertaining. I remember the bad year and aside from 2008 they won more than they lost under Jim Leyland.
I hope he can somehow catch the White Sox and make it back to the World Series before pulling a Larussa and walking away. I think it is time for a new regime in Detroit
Sometimes change is neccesary, not for the sake of change but because a team isn't maximizing potential. Sometimes a managerial change is bad - Ask Boston Fans. Sometime though a managerial change is good...just ask White Sox fans.
Whadda Ya All Think?