Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
I was getting ready to get on an airplane when I heard the news of Jim Leyland retiring on Monday. My recent travels have tied up my free time lately and while many Detroit Tigers’ fans have moved on to crafting their perfect new manager, I never got to properly send off the old one. My apologies for the potential staleness of this article.
I have always been a steadfast supporter of Jim Leyland. As someone who has followed the Tigers since the mid-1980’s through the awful ’90’s and into the early 2000’s, I know a good manager when I see one. While I was not surprised that Leyland decided to hang ’em up (I thought he would likely retire at the end of 2012 if Detroit had won it all), I was quite surprised with some of the glee over his departure from some fans.
I really shouldn’t have been surprised by this, however. Detroit should rename all of its professional sports teams the “Goats,” as in scapegoats. We love to assign blame to those undeserving. We’ll watch the Red Wings’ defense consistently cough up the puck, let the opponents dictate play in their own zone, yet blame Jimmy Howard for letting in a goal after 30 shots.
“WORST GOALIE EVER,” we’ll cry.
Matthew Stafford throws for just under 400 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, his receivers drop 10 passes and the defense allows 27 points, but after a loss its Stafford that needs to be run out of town on a rail.
“HE’S ONLY GOOD BECAUSE HE’S GOT CALVIN,” we’ll sputter.
Then Jim Leyland. Everything he did was put under the microscope. He tinkers with the lineup too much, he doesn’t switch up the lineup. He bunts too much, he doesn’t bunt enough. He doesn’t let his players swing on 3-0, why is he letting them swing on 3-0? He goes to the bullpen too much, he left the starter in too long.
No matter what he did, it was always wrong.
It’s almost as if Detroit fans forget the grim cadre of post-Sparky skippers for the franchise: Bell-Parrish-Garner-Pujols-Trammell. Barf. None of these managers had every decision constantly rehashed and second guessed–but then again, no one was watching the team back then. Take it from someone who did watch these torturous games, these managers often made horrible, mind-boggling decisions that would make Leyland’s worst day look like a day with a double rainbow.
Some of the most ignorant comments after Leyland announced his retirement were on Fox Sports Detroit’s Facebook page. Here are a couple dooseys.
There were so many more that it could fill 24 articles, however there was also plenty of voices of reason.
Look, I will never convince a Leyland basher that he was a good manager, just like they will never convince me he was lousy. Nonetheless, is it too much to ask to give a future Hall-of-Fame manager a bit of respect when he is stepping down? Hate him all you want, but you’ve got to respect the guy that helped bring this team back to relevance and give longtime fans from the dark period of 1989-2005 something unfathomable: sustained success.
A lot of names are being bandied about to succeed Jim as Tigers’ manager. Brad Ausmus, Manny Acta, Charlie Manuel, Lloyd McClendon or someone else will be in the Comerica Park dugout on Opening Day 2014. None of them will be as experienced, successful and accomplished as Leyland.
Remember the hatred for Leyland when you’re calling for the head of the newbie during a three-game skid in mid-April. As Mr. Spencer said above, “be careful what you wish for.”