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Leyland: Who the (bleep) should I be closing with?

Jim Leyland responded to critics on the Tigers' closer situation, indicating that he basically doesn't like the alternatives to Jose Valverde. We have a few suggestions for Mr. Leyland.

Jamie Squire

Matthew B. Mowery of the Oakland Press tweeted this on Tuesday night, quoting Jim Leyland on the Tigers' closer situation.

Having said that about Valverde, this was Leyland's quote from the other day, on his 9th-inning options for #Tigers

"Who do these fans think we should be closing with? I don’t understand this. When I read (stuff) like this ... and there’s nothing wrong with the article. I don’t understand who they think we should be closing with.
"So I’m asking that question — who the (bleep) should I be closing with?

"They want some rookie kid? I mean, I don’t understand that.
"Stuff like that boggles my mind. It doesn’t upset me. I was just reading this. Talks about Valverde being the best closing option, and talks about the fans. It has nothing to do with me liking Valverde. Who the (bleep) should I close with? Who do you want me to close with? Ortega? Rondon? Smyly? I mean, who the (bleep) do you want me to close with? When I put Coke in the game, and they say ‘He can’t get a right-hander out.’ You want me to close with Coke? I don’t know what the (bleep) these people want. Sometimes, it boggles my mind."

We can hear the tone of the skipper's rant here, and it's pretty clear from the context that he doesn't feel that he has many viable alternatives to using Valverde as the closer. Most Tiger fans, and writers, would beg to differ.

We can't tell for sure exactly which article Leyland was referring to, so I'm going to step up and claim responsibility. I believe that I was one of the first, if not the first writers to call for Valverde's head on a silver platter, and I cited Mr Leyland's refusal to be flexible as one of the reasons a change had to be made. In an article that ran on BYB June 8th. While we're at it, I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome the members of the main stream media as well as the Tiger blogosphere to my bandwagon.

I'd also like to invite Mr Leyland to hop aboard. We have a seat saved for him. He can even have the driver's seat if he likes. We'll give him a senior citizen discount. Aw hell, just hop on. The view is much clearer from here. We'll drive this wagon out of the forest so you can see the trees.

To answer his question, I wrote this piece this morning, offering the most obvious solutions. Rob Rogacki wrote this more creative article, suggesting some outside the box solutions. Phil Coke's brain suggested a very methodical approach and even put it in a diagram for Mr. Leyland.

Taken all together, there's Joaquin Benoit, Bruce Rondon, and Drew Smyly. Then, there's Darin Downs, Evan Reed, and Luke Putkonen. They all have a few things in common. For one, they're not Jose Valverde. That means that they're not the status quo. They all have more than one effective pitch that they can throw in any situation. None of them throws an 85 MPH splitter belt high with regularity. None has allowed five home runs already this season, and none has blown three games that the Tigers had in the bag.

It's not that I don't appreciate the predicament that Mr. Leyland finds himself in. He made it clear to us last January during Tigerfest that he didn't like the options on the Tiger roster should rookie Bruce Rondon not be up to the task, as reported here by Kurt on BYB.

We have guys that can close a game, but I'm not sure other than potentially Rondon whether we have guys that can potentially close every game. In other words, Cokey can save a game, Benoit can save a game, Dotel can save a game, but I'm not sure if any of those guys can hold up day after day, physically or mentally, and I think that you have to be careful with that." (via Beck)

Leyland went down the list, name by name, discounting everyone but Rondon, while Dave Dombrowski was discounting Brian Wilson and others based on the fact that the closer job was not available in Detroit.

This isn't Leyland's best rant since he took over the reigns in Detroit. That distinction goes to his rant after Jason Grilli was traded- and once again, Leyland was the last one to clue in to the fact that his pitcher was toast- and had the audacity to criticize his former club.

Jason Beck had the full story of Leyland's most epic rant, all cleaned up for those with sensitive ears. This was the best part in my book. It's worth another read, if only for nostalgic purposes.

"Grilli should worry about Colorado. I mean, if Jason Grilli had done a better job, he'd still be here. I don't want to hear any weak [stuff] from Jason Grilli. But that's not any concern of mine now either, because he belongs to somebody else. My concern is the guys out there that are talking weak [stuff]. And they'll know about it today."

So, we can probably rule out Grilli as the answer to the skipper's question. He won't be back in Detroit any time soon. Not as long as Leyland is here. Besides, he's doing just fine in PIttsburgh, where he has the most saves, and the highest WAR of any relief pitcher in the majors this season.

For the moment, it sounds like we can rule out everyone else, too. Everyone that is, except Jose Valverde, the proven closer. Not to worry, though, Mr. Leyland is prepared for the criticism, and he's up for the challenge, as he also told us at Tigerfest.

"It's not going to be easy," Leyland said. "They're going to fire me about five times again this summer, but I don't mind second-guessing. I think that's healthy."

You have to give it to the skipper. He can predict the future pretty well. Now, if he'd just pay a bit more attention to the present...