15 Days: Number of 15 Days: Number of 15 Days: Number of

Detroit Tigers Opening Day Countdown: 7 Days

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Previously:
15 Days: Number of Ryan Raburn Home Runs in 2010
14 Days: Number of Cards in 2003 Topps Base Set
13 Days: Number of Starts by Jacob Turner for Lakeland in 2010
12 Days: Number of Franchise Playoff Appearances
11 Days: Number of Tigers Rookie Debuts in 2010
10 Days: Number American League Pennants Won
9 Days: Number Consecutive Years With Only One All-Star
8 Days: All-time Rank in Interleague Play Win Percentage

Only seven days remain until the Tigers take on the Yankees to open the season. Today’s subject is skipper Jim Leyland; he’s only seven wins away from reaching the 1,500 mark for his managerial career.

I know there are a lot of Jim Leyland detractors out there, but I’m not one of them. It’s not that I absolutely love his in-game managerial decisions all the time, I get frustrated at things just like everyone else, but I subscribe to the idea that a manager’s impact on his club’s W-L record is marginal at best. He seems to be a guy that players like playing for, and that means as much or more to me than nitpicking at his “poor” decisions. I’d rather have a guy in charge that is appealing to free agents (and it seems to me that Jim is) than one who makes “all the right moves” but doesn’t hold the respect of his team.

Some detractors will point to his sub-.500 career record as a reason that he’s a poor manager. My response is to wonder who can manage the Pittsburgh Pirates for more than half of their career and actually be this close to .500! That’s kind of a joke, but seriously, he’s managed the Pirates (11 years), Florida Marlins (two years), Colorado Rockies (1 year), and Detroit Tigers (5 years now).  That’s not necessarily a resume that screams “this guy should be well over .500!” But still, he managed to win three division titles with the Pirates, and take the Marlins and Tigers to the World Series.

I just don’t understand how one can hate a guy has only had one sub-.500 season in the five years he’s been in town when the franchise had just had twelve previous losing seasons.

I know, I know. It’s because of the players, right? He happened to come just as the team was opening the wallet to actually spend money to bring in players.

That’s kind of my point. We can be quick to write off all of his career accomplishments because he’s had great teams and high payrolls. Like the 1997 Marlins. But we force him to shoulder all of the blame for failures and disappointments, and that’s not fair.

Do we strive for greater heights? Have we been frustrated at times over the last five years? Should/could some of the results been better?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

But the disappointments weren’t all because of Jim. They probably weren’t even mostly because of him.

I’ll offer up the usual challenge for those who would like to see him replaced as the Tigers manager. Instead of just saying “fire Jim Leyland”, provide us with an alternative candidate and provide specific examples of why he’d do a better job.

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