You might argue that Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland was an idiot for going to Jose Valverde in an attempt to close out a 4-0 lead in game one the ALCS. You might also argue that the Leyland naysayers have been right all along – that he’s loyal to his players to a fault, and that his horrible bullpen management nearly cost the team an “easy” win on the road in the playoffs.
If you believe any of that, however, you’re sorely mistaken. Leyland purposefully made his choices on this night, and careful reading between the lines of the box score reveals his genius plot.
Fact #1: Jose Valverde blew the save.
Leyland knew that the Tigers couldn’t survive in the postseason with a batting practice pitcher closing games. He obviously knew Valverde would give up the lead, but he needed to prove to everyone – including Valverde and other veterans on the team – that he wasn’t simply being “benched” but that he had undoubtedly lost his opportunity to remain in his role. He’ll now backed 100% by everyone in the universe when he goes to someone else in the ninth inning from here on out.
Fact #2: Derek Jeter was injured.
I’m sure Leyland feels bad that his decision directly caused an injury, but he also knew that removing Derek Jeter (one of the only Yankees who had been hitting) from game action would gave Detroit the best possible chance to win the series. A dirty move? Most definitely. But no one can argue that Leyland isn’t fighting for his team with every ounce of vim and vigor.
Fact #3: Drew Smyly pitched well in relief.
Drew Smyly needed to make his playoff debut at some point, Leyland knew this, but a debut in the postseason can be nerve racking. Managers have to pick and choose their spots wisely, and Leyland knew the best time to ease the rookie into October action would be in an extra-inning role in Yankee Stadium. Extending the game gave him the ideal situation to insert the youngster into the game. Smyly did the job, recorded a win, and received a two trillion percent confidence boost in the process.
Fact #4: The Yankee fan base is demoralized.
New York fans would have been upset had they pathetically been shut out at home, sure, but there’s nothing worse than feeling awful about your team’s performance, getting your hopes up, then suffering a crushing defeat anyway. All that false hope. All that disappointment.
So sure, you can believe the mainstream media when they tell you that Leyland made a horrible decision, but the facts are clear. He’s really just an evil genius orchestrating a plan that’s far bigger than any of us can comprehend. You’ll see.