Credit: Eric P. Mull-USPRESSWIRE

Jim Leyland speaks the truth--whether Detroit Tiger fans like it or not

There is nothing worse than seeing a post-game interview with a player, coach or manager when the cliché machine gets revved up.

Following the AFC Championship game, CBS was incensed that Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick refused to talk to its sideline reporter after his team had just suffered an embarrassing drubbing.

John Harbaugh is congratulated by coach Bill Belichick after the AFC championship game.Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Let us delve into an alternate universe where Belichick would have spoke.

CBS: “Coach, what happened out there?”

Belichick: “Well, it just wasn’t our day. Credit Baltimore, they played a great game. They outplayed us, they got more of the breaks than we did, and we tip our hat to the Ravens’ organization.”

CBS: “Thanks coach.”

That is likely the hard-hitting interview that would have taken place–too many clichés to count. So calm down Shannon “Mush Mouth” Sharpe, we didn’t really miss much.

Luckily in Detroit, we have a guy who doesn’t always throw out the same old tired sayings before, during and after the games. That man is the polarizing James Richard “Jim” Leyland.

Leyland has long amused and angered Tigers’ fans with his no filtered discussions. Many have been on the receiving end of a Leyland rant, including umpires, the media for questioning his lineups, and even his own team.

Take yesterday, for instance. When asked about the circulating reports that Jose Valverde could be back in Tiger Town, Skip shot down those rumors faster than swatting a fly dive bombing his lunchtime bratwursts.

“I thought everyone knew we weren’t bringing Jose Valverde back when we didn’t sign him,” Leyland said. “If we were going to bring Jose Valverde back, we would have made a run to try to sign him. We, obviously, didn’t sign Valverde. So that tells you something. We did not really make an attempt to sign Valverde, so that tells you something.”

He added: “The other thing that you have to remember is that there has not been one time this winter or coming to spring training that I was politicking to sign Valverde.”

Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Okay…next topic.

A typical manager would say something along the lines of “while we do appreciate what Jose brought to our team and our city, we feel he is not a good fit at this time.”

Now which quote is more memorable?

Leyland haters may not like him, think he’s too old, the game has passed him by, etc. etc., but one thing that the haters gotta admit–the guy is entertaining!

Another tidbit I found amusing about Leyland was something he said while doing an in-game interview with Mario Impemba and Rod Allen in FSD’s first broadcast of the spring on Monday.

The topic was Alex Avila, who was at-bat. He stated his wishes for Alex to be more aggressive at the plate. Avila got ahead in the count 3-0 and the topic then turned to having hitters take on 3-0 or letting them swing.

Leyland stated that he gives hitters in Detroit more leeway on 3-0 than any other stop of his managerial career. He said that he didn’t understand why hitters don’t swing on 3-0 more often.

As he stated this, Avila took a pitch which caught enough of the plate to be called a strike. Leyland stated that it looked like a good pitch to take a swing on and Alex probably should have swung.

There is one of two things you can take away from this. One, the Tigers don’t listen to their manager anymore. Two, he gives them enough freedom to choose what they want to do in certain situations.

I subscribe to the latter. Players love Jim Leyland, love playing for him, and defend him at all costs. If they stopped listening to him, they would have stopped respecting him, but that is clearly not the case.

As gruff and to the point as Leyland often is, he wears his heart on his sleeve and genuinely cares for the City of Detroit, the Detroit Tigers and its fans.

Remember when Larry Brown was the coach of the Pistons and he’d wear jerseys of all the other teams in the state during press conferences? To me, that was fake. Brown tried to convince everyone he was “one of us.”

Leyland, does not want to, or have to, pretend. He is one of us.

To show a little bit about the nature of Jim Leyland, to reiterate that while there is a tremendous bark, there is also a unique kindness, look at what he said following his “no way in Hell will Valverde be back” rant:

“But from the heart, I told everybody — the only statements I made about that — were that I was totally shocked and brokenhearted that he did not have a job.”




Next Tigers Game View full schedule »
Wednesday, Sep 33 Sep7:05at Cleveland IndiansBuy Tickets

Tags: Detroit Tigers Jim Leyland

  • scott byrne

    Nailed it Matt! Baseball is not football – X’s and O’s don’t win games, managing personalities does.

  • Tim OConnor

    Been reading the JL bashers for years now. I am just fine, fine, fine with Jimmy managing our boys. Perfect? Nope. But I’ve always liked what he brought to the table. Wasn’t that long ago when we couldn’t freakin’ OVERPAY people to play in Detroit. Ain’t that way no mo’!!! Players love Jim and Jim is only about THE TEAM!

    • Matt Pelc

      I concur. He will do something that will really bugs me every now and then, but I can’t imagine any baseball fan agreeing with everything his manager does 100 percent of the time. People forget all the time the dark days of 1989 to 2005. I understand Mr I. really woke up after 2003 and started spending money, but you have to put the right guy in this situation.

  • MichMike

    Leyland is great in most ways. If Lamont will not be in the third base box, he will be even greater. The only legit knock to Leyland is the Tigers are consistently amoung the worst fundamental teams in baseball and that is Leyland’s fault. Go Tigers!

    • Matt Pelc

      I think he manages to the types of teams he has. DD has given him a power team. He’s not going to risk losing out on a two-run homer by trying to run guys and possibly getting them thrown out. He knows that no matter how much he teaches good defense, a majority of the team is going to be average at best. Good hitting and good pitching is this team’s recipe for success, and I think he gets that.

      However, the Tigers should be able to bunt, even if you have the ghosts of the 1927 Yankees on your roster. That is unacceptable.

      If Leyland was the manager of the Minnesota Twins, whose organizational mindset is fundamental baseball, I think you’d see a different manager.

      As for Lamont, seems like Brookins had some problems yesterday waving guys in. I think the third base coach is overblown. He’s always going to be the goat. He should have waved that guy in, shouldn’t have waved that guy in. He doesn’t get any praise or notice when he makes the right calls most of the time.

      • MichMike

        Relative to base running, this is a slow team, albeit a bit faster than last year. I do not advocate the Tigers risking injuries by using running for many of their players, though putting presure on other teams via running is an advantage. My complaint is that from a fielding standpoint there a hundreds or thousands of high school teams that execute better than the Tigers. This is something that can be rectified, even within the confines of the Tiger’s defensive skill sets, but based on the last few years, does not seem to merit effort. It costs the Tigers games and can be a difference maker in a playoff game. This team should have little trouble making the playoffs, but is clearly constructed to win it all and why Leyland would leave an open issue that could prevent winning it all seems odd.