Jim Leyland, in case you haven’t heard, is a rocket scientist.
He presides over a job so sophisticated, so complicated, that it defies the understanding of those who aren’t rocket scientists.
He stands above all in his knowledge of his very scientific vocation, and therefore has no use for those whose brains simply cannot wrap themselves around the mesmerizing theorems, laws and corollaries that one must know in order to manage a baseball team.
OOPS—did I say Jim was a rocket scientist?
I made an assumption, since that’s how he treats his job, and those who dare question his logic.
Actually, in the World According to Leyland, it’s perfectly OK for fans of the sport to second guess and question. He thinks that’s great. It shows passion and proves that Detroit is a great baseball town.
But if the second guessing and questions come from those who wear announcers’ headsets or who scribble on a notepad or bang away on a keyboard, then he has no use for those types.
Or, in Jim’s words, “People who don’t know s**t about baseball.”
The Tigers manager is as transparent as an icicle on this one.
He’s OK with the fans second guessing him, because he doesn’t have to talk to the fans. The fans don’t show up in his office before games or afterward, daring to ask why he did what he did that night.
If they were, Jim wouldn’t be so gung-ho for the fans’ right to bitch.
Leyland’s latest escapade with patronizing the media came on Monday, before the Tigers started their series with the Tampa Bay Rays.
The day before, Leyland’s removal of Rick Porcello after eight shutout, one-hit innings with a pitch count at 84 raised some eyebrows. In his rant on Monday, Leyland seemed to take the eyebrow-raising in stride—because it was coming from the fans, i.e. those he doesn’t have to face.
But when 97.1’s Jeff Rieger asked the skipper if the second guessing bothered him, Leyland attacked the media, distinctly placing them in a different category from the fans in terms of their knowledge of the game.
I don’t mind the fans, Leyland said, but I do mind people “who don’t know s**t about baseball.”
Hmmm….by process of elimination, who was Jim talking about?
Rieger himself? Perhaps. But likely, the slap was directed at others on the airwaves and in print who’ve dared to criticize the way he handles a ballclub.
In talking about Leyland’s rant to retired Detroit and New York broadcaster Bob Page on “The Knee Jerks” two-year anniversary podcast, Page said, “I’ve been a baseball fan since 1959. I covered it for over 30 years as a reporter and broadcaster.” Page went on to say that while those years don’t necessarily make him a manager, they don’t make him an idiot, either.
Besides, how complicated is baseball, anyway? Funny how it can be portrayed as very simple—even by guys like Leyland—but when the heat gets turned up, the game suddenly takes on quantum physics-like properties that only a manager can understand.
Page also astutely wondered out loud, “Can you imagine this guy managing in New York? For either the Mets OR the Yankees?”
I replied that the Marlboro Man wouldn’t last much longer than a cigarette in a New York dugout.
Earlier in the season, Leyland made fun of those who very reasonably wondered why he didn’t bunt Brennan Boesch in Cleveland during that extra innings affair that the Tigers lost, when the only goal at that point was to score a single run.
“That’s Little League stuff!” Leyland said. “Oh, ‘little Johnny can bunt the guy over,'” he said as those in the room laughed.
The Tigers lost, which I didn’t find too funny.
Since when is bunting a runner over “Little League stuff”?
And since when is Boesch above bunting? The manager said that he would “never” bunt Brennan Boesch, who at the time was hitting well over .300.
Boesch has been a major leaguer for less than one full season, pretty much. He’s not Miguel Cabrera.
And what about Leyland’s decision to save Max Scherzer for the home opener, rather than pitch him on opening weekend in New York against the Yankees?
The manager pretty much got a free pass on that one from those mean old media people.
The sardonically funny irony here is that I look at Jim Leyland’s resume and I wonder how he considers himself so smart, and so above everyone else. He’s not Joe Torre or Tony LaRussa or Ron Gardenhire, in case you were still confused about that—because I know Jim can try awfully hard to make you think that he is.
Here’s what Jim Leyland did before coming to Detroit: he f***ed up NLCS series with the Pittsburgh Pirates three years in a row.
Then he caught lightning in a bottle with the 1997 Florida Marlins, then stole a paycheck from the 1999 Colorado Rockies.
In Detroit, he nearly blew a playoff spot in 2006, bungled a great first half in 2007, didn’t have his star-studded team ready to open the season in 2008, blew a three-game lead with four to play in 2009, and saw another team fade in 2010.
That’s how smart he is.
Just because you’ve managed for a long time doesn’t make you a good manager.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.