The Jim Leyland era has officially ended in Detroit. As you have most likely heard, the gruff but emotional manager resigned from his position just two days after the Boston Red Sox ended the Tigers hopes of a World Series berth.
I am pretty bummed by the news. But at the same time, I am glad that he made the decision to walk away rather than being fired. Even with the Tigers failure to make it to the World Series this year, I was pretty sure that he was going to be back next season.
Many people have been calling for his ouster for years, but I was not in that camp. I respected him and I liked him as manager of the Tigers. Growing up in the Sparky Anderson era, he kind of reminded me of Sparky.
There are many obvious differences between the two, but to me, both men just seemed like they belonged in a Tiger uniform.
Leyland didn’t always make what many people thought were the right calls. People complained that he kept players like Ryan Rayburn, Brandon Inge, Don Kelly and Ramon Santiago because they were his favorites, but not good ball players. People did not like how he handled the pitchers or the bullpen. Still other complained that he didn’t make them run enough or play aggressive enough.
To me, it seemed like the Leyland haters, and there were many, who were always looking for something to use against him no matter what he did.
The problem with Leyland, in my eyes, was that he cared too much. The man was emotional and while on the outside he always seemed like a man who was mad or beside himself because people dared to talk to him, he really was a caring man who respected the hell out of his players. One would only have to watch him talk about his players after a big game, or a Verlander no-hitter and they would see that he truly cared for those guys that he managed. I did not get the feeling that he was just there to win and collect a paycheck. I could be wrong. It would not be the first time.
People like to mock people, especially men, who wear their hearts on their sleeves. Leyland was a crier. He cried at the drop of a hat it seemed, but his emotions showed more about who he is as a person and not as the gruff manager that he portrayed in press conferences.
I liked that.
I like the fact that regardless of his age, position, gender or whatever the case may be that he cares enough about those that he manages to show his emotions. There is nothing wrong with that.
His appreciation for the fans, the city of Detroit and the State of Michigan, was something he talked about anytime he could. His devotion and respect for the fans of the Tigers was never in question. Leyland was obviously aware that he was not liked and even loathed by many. That didn’t matter. He still thanked the fans, all fans, every chance he could.
The Tigers did not win a World Series under his reign, but they made it to the title game twice. They won three division titles, too. The Tigers have been fun to watch since he took over. Sure, it helps to have an owner who wants to win so bad that he stocked the lineup with heavy hitters and pitchers who drive the batters crazy. But you still have to be able to manage. Leyland did that, even if you do not agree with every decision he made. I do not agree with every decision I make half the time.
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