I’m always amazed at how brutally Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland is treated on talk radio and in the blogosphere. There is a large contingent of outspoken baseball enthusiasts in this town who stand ready to blame the Old Skipper for just about anything ailing the team.
Usually around this time of year, ownership and upper management are looking for someone to blame for the things that went wrong during the season. Team owner Mike Ilitch and General Manager Dave Dombrowski are likely candidates for this approach because they believe they offered up a finished product to their manager. The Tigers were not supposed to be in a rebuilding stage. They were supposed to be rebuilt.
Will Leyland become a scapegoat for a season gone wild? Will he be fired as a signal to nervous season ticket holders who are contemplating their moves for next year? Should Leyland stay or should he go?
Keep in mind that just two years ago, Leyland was the toast of the town as he led a group of has-beens (think Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones) and a group of yet-to-bes (think Justin Verlander and Curtis Granderson) to the post season and the American League pennant.
Has Leyland changed or has the team changed? What would make a team that is now overloaded with talent perform worse than a group of old men and unknown kids?
Perhaps Leyland is better at managing youth than he is at managing prima donna millionaires.
How does one go about coaching a guy like Gary Sheffield — a veteran millionaire with a bad attitude — who has been over swinging all season in pursuit of his 500th home run? Does guidance from a manager mean anything to a guy with a guaranteed $14 million a year salary?
Or how about Magglio Ordonez? How does anyone manage a guy making $15.8 million a season if he decides he’s not going to run out an infield hit?
Or the $6.2 Million Dollar Man formally known as Brandon Inge? What is a manager supposed to do with a guy who bats .220 and is being paid too much to be traded?
Let’s be honest. Leyland is no longer managing a team. He’s managing an inflated payroll with the inflated egos that go along with it.
My sympathies go out to Leyland and all the other managers who have to deal with the nonsense that goes on in Major League clubhouses. I, for one, believe Leyland should stay — and that the Tigers’ brass would serve the fans better by fessing up to the payroll mistakes they’ve made that have put Leyland in an impossible spot.
Major League baseball salaries should be based on current performance — not yesterday’s accomplishments or name recognition. Blaming the manager, at least in the Tigers’ case, is confusing cause and effect.