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Dear Mr. Leyland: It's Okay to Motivate Your Players

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I've been reading some grumblings on blogs and message boards that say Jim Leyland needs to explode on his team, that losing his temper will wake the Tigers up and shake them out of their daze. That sounds a bit desperate to me (not to mention overrated), and I have a feeling Leyland knows that's exactly how it would come off that way. However, I do wonder if he's being a little too trusting of his players:

"I don't try to motivate anybody," he said. "If I have to motivate major league ballplayers, I should go home. If they have to be motivated, they should go home.

"That's OK for a high school football game, when you build them up all week, Friday night, get ready, all that rah-rah (stuff). When you've got to motivate people making five, six, 10, 15, 20 million a year, they've got a problem.

"If there's somebody that needs to get motivated to play a big league game, they should turn in their uniform and not take any more checks -- manager, coaches, players. I include all of us."

Okay, players should hold themselves accountable. I totally agree with that. But everyone needs a nudge once in a while, regardless of his or her profession. Sometimes, you have to be told that you could be doing better. And when you stink, it really needs to be pointed out.

As Jon Paul Morosi points out in his story on this, Leyland said over the winter that he wasn't going to allow any "championship hangover" to linger in the clubhouse. But by waiting for the players to motivate themselves, isn't that essentially what he's doing? Leyland has already given far too long a leash to players who did well last season (Jason Grilli, Craig Monroe), but have stunk this year. Is he holding the Tigers accountable or isn't he?

Maybe Leyland doesn't have to remind his players that their season could very well be on the line in the 13 games they have to play after this Oakland series. Let's hope the Tigers realize just how damn important those games are. But if they're still stumbling over the next four games, acting as if they still need some kind of push, maybe it's time the manager provided one.

Leyland said the Tigers lack the "extra charge" necessary to win. Well, where exactly is that going to come from? Yes, the players should provide it themselves. But would it really be a bad thing to close the clubhouse doors before they play the Indians or Yankees and remind them what's at stake. No one's saying he needs to rip his shirt off, throw a trash can across the clubhouse, and put out a cigarette on someone's head. Leyland doesn't need to put on a show. But he shouldn't be content to send messages through the press, either.