The purpose of this article is not to continue the extended, season-long rant on Jim Leyland that I’ve been spewing all season, but instead to congratulate him on a job well done.
Oct 10, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland (10) looks on during batting practice prior to game five of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
I mean, sure, his ham-handed attempts at proper bullpen usage made the game…interesting: any time the Tigers have a lead and the Red Sox start scoring causes a lurch in one’s stomach. But honestly, after last night’s lineup corrections, the fact that he burned through through four relievers when using one would do is overshadowed by the better fact that Leyland made adjustments.
It was so wonderful it was almost comical: the most predictable manager in the game made some moves that caught the Red Sox off guard and ignited a lineup that had grown stale.
On one hand, it’s easy to look at shifting Austin Jackson lower in the order and say, “FINALLY!” But really, I’m just happy the move was finally made. Putting Iglesias and Jackson lower in the order eased the pressure on them to produce, but put them into positions to capitalize on their speed while still technically in front of the power hitters.
I’d wondered about what shifting Cabrera to the 2-spot would accomplish, and seeing him getting good swings and multiple at bats (AND STEALING A BASE!) was great. Shifting up the red-hot Victory Martinez and Jhonny Peralta also worked magnificently – their ability to move runners and drive the ball a spot earlier was great.
But mostly, watching Austin Jackson easily steal a base was my favorite part of the game. It was great watching Leyland let him and Cabrera (!!!) run, something that he’d seemed loath to do during the regular season, what with a major-league low 35 team steals. The aggressiveness on the basepaths was just…fantastic (Jose Iglesias‘ hard slide into Dustin Pedroia should be made into a gif RIGHTNOW).
Essentially, my relief boils down to Leyland showing an ability to adapt for the first time I can remember during his tenure here. He went against character in so many positive ways, it was the most encouraged I’ve been during this postseason. I’m hoping this is the start of something great for him, that he can continue to adapt like Clint Hurdle did, and that his willingness to try something different will be rewarded with a World Series.