I was wrong (again…so I think). On September 27th, prior to game 156, I posted that this would likely be Leyland’s last regular season game in Detroit. Now I’m certain he’ll be here next April.
As intolerable as Leyland’s idiosyncrasies, tendancies and hunches are, it is these same foibles that have him in his 2nd WS as a Tiger in 6 years. Take that in for a minute.
If you take a close look, it’s really the positives that emerge from his faults (as we see them) that have the Tigers playing for their 5th World Series title.
He’s loyal to his players, almost to a fault. Every single one of us has either written, said, or thought “why is ______ still playing?” Likely all 3, and likely multiple times. So how do guys like Peralta and DY, who had career low years, respond? By leading the offense and winning ALCS MVP, respectively, of course. Heck, Phil Coke seemed destined for the island of misfit toys next to Charlie-In-The-Box and the spotted elephant when he couldn’t get lefties out in the 6th inning. Now he’s striking out Raul Ibanez with the deadliest slider you’ll ever see on a 3-2 count.
His lineups are crazy…but he gets everyone involved, and keeps players fresh. In the playoffs, we had key contributions from guys like Garcia, Kelly and Worth. Kelly scored a key run, Garcia set Tigers pinch-hitter records, and think about that play Worth made in game 2 of the Oakland series. Santiago doesn’t make that play; Peralta certainly doesn’t. That goodness Worth was ready to play.
His bullpen management could politely be called stubbon and is a constant source of derision on the DTW. But let’s credit him for loosening up in the NYY Series, even if it was a game too late. He could have easily, and likely justifiably, used Valverde in game 4, but he stuck with Coke, in a move that I think foreshadows the World Series – go with Coke, or the hot hand (if it’s someone else).
He’s an emotional guy, which likely explains his seemingly non-rational decisions. But that emotion forges a bond with his players, and as hard as Mitch Albom tries to fabricate it, you won’t see a better moment than the one we witnessed when he pulled Cabby in the season-ender after Cabrera had clinched the triple crown.
About a month ago, I posed a question on here and asked how far would JL have to advance for you to want to bring him back next year. I said 1 series, which he’s eclipsed. Several of you commented that no matter what you wanted him gone next year. Has anyone else changed their mind? A recent Freep poll concluded that 70% of respondents want JL back. Where do you stand now?
One final thought:
“Sometimes I look around the stadium and I get a tear in my eye,” Leyland said. “I wish I didn’t show it. But to see those people waving those towels? To see them so happy? I truly believe the game impacts their lives.”
He’s talking about us.