Tiger fans have always loved picking apart their manager

Many critics have pointed out that Jim Leyland barely has a winning record as a big league manager.

Many critics have pointed out that Jim Leyland barely has a winning record as a big league manager.

It’s always open season on Detroit managers. As long as I can remember, Tiger skippers have been widely maligned. Even in 1968, the quiet Mayo Smith was sometimes denigrated – some fans thought that anyone could have managed that team to a pennant.

Many fans said much the same thing about Sparky Anderson in 1984. I was among the fans who thought that Sparky was vastly overrated; I believed he was a blowhard who got good PR because he unfailingly gave the media plenty of entertaining quotes. Even I, however, had to admit that he did a fantastic job with the veteran 1987 club, leading them from last to first with a thrilling stretch run. My final judgment is that Anderson was good with veterans but not that adept at managing younger players, whose abilities he frequently misjudged.

I thought the club never gave Alan Trammell much of a chance after he was saddled with such a terrible team. I wasn’t awed when Jim Leyland was brought in. I put Leyland in the same class as Sparky — though he’s not as garrulous, he’s willing to mumble his way through interviews and give the media memorable quotes. But other fans have been pretty harsh on this Tiger field boss too. Just look at the typical comments we get on this website.

It’s been easy to criticize Leyland for being enamored with the likes of Jose Valverde and Don Kelly. But now Valverde has finally self-destructed for (we hope) the last time, and it’s going to be up to Leyland to piece together an effective bullpen. If he continues to rely primarily on Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit, he should be fine for the time being (I really like the way he’s used Smyly to pitch more than two innings and Benoit to get four-out save chances). And Bruce Rondon is getting ever closer to the big league closer role.

However, should Leyland keep calling on the likes of Phil Coke in key situations, he’s going to keep getting burned. (He was fortunate Jhonny Peralta bailed him out when Coke coughed off the go-ahead run against Boston last week.)

Most Tiger fans feel strongly there has to be some reason the team has been winning far fewer games the past two seasons than most analysts believe they should. With such a great starting staff and such a powerful lineup one through six (as long as Peralta is not suspended), the team should be a lock to win ninety-five to 100 games in the weak AL Central. But instead they’re on track to win eighty-five to ninety. So who is to blame?

It’s hard to believe, after the addition of Torii Hunter and the subtraction of Delmon Young, that it’s for lack of team chemistry. This squad seems to be a bunch of happy campers, led by the always-smiling Miguel Cabrera and full of guys who clearly love playing the game, including Hunter, Justin Verlander, Prince Fielder, and of course Kelly, who should be overjoyed just to have a job in the bigs.

There is no evidence there are factions or divisions on the club; instead, there’s a friendly, healthy sort of competition that compels each player to try to match or top his teammates. If there ever were a star problem, Leyland is well-versed at handling big egos (he was Barry Bonds’ manager in Pittsburgh).

While it’s tempting to blame the club’s underperformance on Leyland, what’s the evidence? Clearly the bullpen has been the soft underbelly of the team, and handling the relief staff is the primary thing left for an MLB manager to do these days. Officially, the Tigers through June 23 had nine blown saves, which was about the major-league average. But that’s really not a very helpful statistic. If you subtract the number of blown saves (9) from the number of actual saves (16), the Tigers had a net of seven — and only six teams were worse than that.

The Tigers so far have had their fair share of key injuries—Austin Jackson out for a month, and now Alex Avila and Anibal Sanchez on the DL — but that’s not an inordinate amount of bad luck. With a couple of late-inning comebacks against the Red Sox at home last week, maybe the team will once again get that winning chemistry going. But so far, it seems every time they do, there’s a sudden mini-slump that follows. Overall, there have been at least as many downs as ups under Jim Leyland. But as Leyland uses Smyly wisely and more often, I’m giving him a hopeful thumbs up even though I don’t generally like his style of managing. But then, I’m one of those fans who’s usually down on Tiger managers. And I know I have plenty of company.

4 replies on “Tiger fans have always loved picking apart their manager

  • laura hall

    It is good that Avila is out. I think he has surgery on his eyes and can no longer see a baseball. Kelly is a all around good glove. with the ability to play many positions. Cabrera needs to lay off the sauce, and Fielder needs to find himself another Field for every possible run he scores, he strikes out or doubles out 3 times. Torii is probably disgusted, Dirks needs to play for another team, Tuiasosopo is a winner and exciting but Leyland never plays him.

  • Rick

    Bottom line Leyland is the MOST over rated manager of all-time! As I have stated before he IS a career 500 manager! Look it up. He has been given a Ferrari and drives it like it’s a Yugo! Is anyone out there under the belief that this team’s underachieving is NOT caused by Jim Genius? maybe if he wasn’t so full of himself he could get out of his own way. Can someone explain why Don (Leyland) Kelly gets more ab’s then Garcia or Tuiasosopo? I can. He’s one of Jim’s boys! If the Tig’s had a manager who wasn’t so enamored with himself say Giradi, Sciosca and by the way there is a manager who has had to deal with injuries! Even Robin Ventura does way more with way less talent. My only hope is once the Genius blows it AGAIN this year Mr. I will finally pull the plug on this buffoon of a manager! And to think there are people who think he’s a hof’er? One last thing. The next time someone say’s he’s the winningest active manager remember he’s also the losingest active manager. In fact I would bet he’s in the top 10 all-time!

  • Rick

    Ok people I couldn’t resist I had to look it up. The genius’s career record right now is 1,719 and 1,694. That is a winning percentage of 504. In the last year and a half he is 22 games over 500 which means going into last year he was 3 games over 500 in his career! Does anyone out there have any reasoning as to why this moron has a job? Does DUMBrowski NOT see his record? This has the possibility of going down as the worst time in Tiger history. All the talent AND pitching he has had Leyland should have won at least two if not more championships. If he leaves with zero what will that say?

  • radtke

    the tigers will never win with jim leyland.
    he knows nothing about haveing a bullpen ready win his starter is getting hit.
    also small ball is not his game , sometimes you have to make runs , not hope for runs.
    his team cant run, hit and run, or tag on fly balls.why do you think he has a bench coach.

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