So Jim Leyland says we shouldn’t talk about the white elephant in the room. He’s certainly not, he says. Uh-uh. None of that talk in 2009. It’s all about baseball and winning games for his Detroit Tigers.

But Leyland conveniently left out that it was he, Jim Leyland, who placed that white elephant in the room to begin with.

The white elephant is Leyland’s contract situation. The manager is signed only thru 2009, and not one day beyond that season. It’s often referred to as a “lame duck” scenario — and one that supposedly invites dissension as dog doo-doo invites flies.

First, that’s not always true. Managers and coaches have worked the final years of contracts since time immemorial and have done just fine, thank you — and so have their teams. The players have even behaved themselves; imagine that.

Second, tough cookies. Leyland is lucky to have a job.


Leyland says shut up and let him manage; will he follow suit?

I’ve written it before here — that Jim Leyland did absolutely nothing to warrant an extension beyond his current contract. He and GM Dave Dombrowski were the Mutt and Jeff of the Tigers, and that’s not a compliment in this instance. Both had miserable 2008s. Both are on the hot seat.

Leyland, some say, is unhappy and disappointed that the Tigers didn’t extend him. Again, tough. Where does it say that a manager or coach has to be signed beyond the upcoming year? And all this stuff about “lame duck” is a bunch of hooey. As Leyland himself finally admitted this week, if a manager is to be fired, he’ll be fired — no matter how many years he has left on his pact. And I’ll say it again: Dodgers manager Walt Alston worked over 20 years on one-year deals. Wanna question those teams’ success rate?

Here’s a sampling of Leyland’s comments about the matter, published in the Free Press.

“That’s [contract] not an issue. It’s very simple: If we do well, I’ll probably still be there. If we don’t, I won’t. But I’m not going to make that a subject all year long, talking about things that aren’t important, because that’s not really important. What’s important is getting our team to spring training, getting back in the good grove, getting our guys healthy and playing baseball.

“No matter where you are or what your contract is, when you do good, you stay. If you don’t, at some point you go. I’ll leave it at that. That’s the end of the conversation for the rest of the year about that.”

Nice. If only he had come to that realization before he opened his mouth and whined about it in October.

Leyland, in those comments, basically verbalized a truth that amazingly appeared to have eluded him a couple months ago.

But it’s also disingenious for Leyland to tell us to mind our own bees’ wax when it comes to contracts, since it was he who opened Pandora’s Box in the first place. Granted, someone in the media would have brought up the matter, since some folks seem so infatuated with managers who don’t have contracts lasting beyond the upcoming season. But then it would have been OK for Leyland to say, “No comment, next question.” Instead, he bellyached about it, drew attention to it, which couldn’t have pleased his owner, and is only now saying what he should have said from the get go.

Leyland is like the guy who yells “Fire!” in a crowded theater then scolds everyone for wondering where the fire is.

I just hope he takes his own advice and zips his lip when it comes to his contract status. Like he says, “No matter where you are or what your contract is, when you do good, you stay. If you don’t, at some point you go. I’ll leave it at that.”

God, I hope so.

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