For all the disgust and flack that Jim Leyland has gotten over the years from fans regarding his lineups, we here at Motor City Bengals have been for the most part very fair to the Tigers manager. You won’t stop by and read daily posts criticizing his moves, or questioning his lineups. I think for the most part that, while managers can make a difference, the every day impact isn’t all that huge. Ultimately, the players have to perform if the Tigers are going to win. That doesn’t mean there is a free pass given to the boss though. Jim Leyland is responsible for putting his best team on the field, and today, in a rare occurrence, I have to say my piece.
If you are unaware, Jim Leyland has decided to sit the scorching Delmon Young tonight in favor of Don Kelly. That one is a head scratching move Mr. Leyland that most of Detroit right now is questioning big time. You better hope the Tigers win tonight. I’m going to take Jim Leyland’s own words from earlier this season, imploring writers to “write what they saw”, and tell everyone what I see. I see a manager who has let his personal affection for an individual player cloud his judgement at a time when this stuff just isn’t acceptable.
Hasn’t Jim Leyland learned before that every game counts? 2009 wasn’t that long ago.
This is so indefensible, and on so many levels, it’s tough for me to even get started, but let me get started with Don Kelly the player. I don’t think it’s necessary to bore everyone with the numbers. We all know they are bad when it comes to Kelly. In fact, so bad that he was recently designated for assignment, taken off the 40 man roster, and not finding any takers for his services, returned to Toledo where he belongs. Nope. Not one other major league team wanted Don Kelly. Could’ve had him, but they passed.
I knew it was going to be too tempting for Jim Leyland when September 1st rolled around to not only bring Don Kelly back, but to play him. However, my faith in Jim Leyland to leave Kelly alone with the exception of pinch-running and defensive replacements was obviously misplaced. Nope, he has to start him at 1B, pushing Prince Fielder to DH, and Delmon Young out of the lineup.
This of course doesn’t make sense, especially considering a few factors. One, Delmon Young is about as hot as a hitter can get. In the last 12 games, he is hitting .362 with an OPS of 1.154. I don’t care if he is 3 for 20 against Justin Masterson in his career. How many of those at-bats came during a stretch like Young is on now? The second thing that doesn’t make sense is the fact that Kelly is replacing Prince Fielder in the field. Fielder appears to be healthy, meanwhile Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera is gimping around out there. Wouldn’t “rest” by move to DH have been a better option for Cabrera? He is the one that actually needs it. Kelly could’ve played 3rd base.
He also found a spot for Brennan Boesch once again, and continues to play a horribly slumping Alex Avila, who also looks like he could use some rest. Boesch shouldn’t be playing over Delmon Young right now, and it’s even debatable he should start over Quintin Berry.
I get that Jim Leyland has the pulse of his team better than I do, or any of the other fans who question his decision making. That is why I rarely engage in the slamming of the manager when he rests guys. I didn’t beef when he wanted to give Austin Jackson the day off yesterday, despite Jackson being a young man of 25 years old. But the Tigers are in a pennant race, and the timing of his moves is terrible. It opens himself up to second guessing, and I no longer want to hear him get testy with reporters who have the guts to ask him about his lineups.
Essentially, the second guessing is Leyland’s own fault. I have no doubt that Jim Leyland believes he can win with tonight’s lineup. And the Tigers might very well do so, maybe led by a big day by Don Kelly. Cleveland is terrible, but I want to point something out. Jim Leyland has mentioned several times this season he would like to see his club have more of a killer instinct. To that, I would say that Jim Leyland needs to look in the mirror.
The Tigers are in a tough division race, and Jim Leyland is resting hot players, and worse yet, replacing him with a guy who wasn’t even worthy of a 40 man roster spot just a couple weeks ago. He’s not batting Don Kelly 9th either. He is of course batting him 6th. If Cleveland is smart, they will just take the gift that Jim Leyland has given them and take the bat out of Prince Fielder’s hand a couple of times tonight.
So I ask you out there, where is Jim Leyland’s killer instinct? Where is the sense of urgency in a pennant race to play every game like it’s his last? The season is shrinking by the day. The Tigers just took first this past weekend with a big sweep of the White Sox, and had that momentum stunted with a loss yesterday. But instead of loading his lineup today, he begins running out Don Kelly and Brennan Boesch, pulling the hottest of hitters out of the lineup.
The Tigers should still win this division. Jim Leyland should better hope so, his future in Detroit may depend on it. You notice there was no mid-season extension this year? I’ve been relatively neutral about Leyland as a manager, much like his career .500 record would suggest. I will admit, at times, I have felt bad for him having to explain all the time his lineup decisions, but I can’t defend tonight.
If the Tigers lose, Jim Leyland should have to answer some tough questions tonight. But this time, I don’t feel bad. He only has himself to blame for that.