Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 7/11/13
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DETROIT Jim Leyland doesnt get a whole lot of love from Detroit Tigers fans. Hes maligned in the social media and on radio talk shows for continuing to use Phil Coke with the game still in doubt; having too many cronies on his coaching staff; playing Andy Dirks, Don Kelly, Ramon Santiago and Alex Avila too much; not playing Matt Tuiasosopo enough; letting Jose Valverde burn down the house too often; and, well, lets not forget Ryan Raburn. But everyone in a sellout crowd at Comerica Park supported Leyland Thursday afternoon while he was railing on the umpiring crew in regard to whether or not chin music was being played in a game with the Chicago White Sox. They roared with delight as Leyland went on an animated rant, pumping his arms and spewing venom in every direction. The skipper took over, man! said Tigers catcher Brayan Pena. Now I know I cant mess with him. He was arguing very strongly and he had a reason to be upset. Leyland didnt speak to reporters after the 6-3 loss, but appeared to be very perturbed that Tigers reliever Luke Putkonen was ejected for throwing behind White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez two batters after Josh Phegleys grand slam off Anibal Sanchez. Leylands ire was stoked by White Sox starter Chris Sale not being tossed or even warned after buzzing Prince Fielder just below the chin after Miguel Cabrera deposited his 30th homer of the season in the previous half inning. The fact that Ramirez wasnt ejected for repeatedly pointing at Putkonen and walking out toward the pitching mound while both bullpens and dugouts emptied was also a prime irritant to Leyland. These teams dont particularly care for one another and it couldve turned into an ugly brawl and meant more suspensions for Detroit. Rick Porcello is already out for hitting Tampa Bay Rays All-Star Ben Zobrist with a pitch that was deemed retaliation. I love Leyland, Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter told me. I just love him. Hes smart, and what he did today was smart. He put all the emphasis on himself so more of his players did not get ejected. It was Leylands first heave-ho this season. However, it's been less than two weeks since the Tampa Bay incident, sparked by his biggest star, Miguel Cabrera, getting steamed about Rays reliever and former teammate Fernando Rodney coming in high on him with a pitch. Leyland was in search of some justice Thursday, and let loose when he didnt receive any. The skipper was pretty hot, Pena said. He looked like he was 35 years oldHes been working out, running and lifting weights. I see him. Miggy and I were looking at each other. Wow, hes still got it. Leyland is 68, has won 1,726 games (15th all-time) and taken Detroit to two World Series in the previous seven seasons. No manager since Mickey Cochrane in 1934 and 1935 has taken the Tigers to two World Series, but Leyland hasnt received the overwhelming support of the fan base since his magical first season in 2006. If the players play good, its the players, Pena told me. If the players dont play well, then they blame the manager. But the fans that try to pick on him (Leyland), thats unfair. Jim Leyland is so good as a manager. The respect he has from his players is unbelievable. He battles for you! He has the passion, the knowledge, the experience. And he shares it with you every day. He loves and respects his players and we love him back and respect him greatly. People should know this. Putkonen, who said he wasnt throwing at Ramirez, added, (Leyland) was pretty fired up for us. Leyland is fiercely loyal to his players. And sometimes hes loyal to a fault by playing them when it appears unwarranted. That loyalty is why most of them play so hard for Leyland, and why hes won so many games. Someday, somebody else will be managing the Tigers. And when the team falters, fans will harken back to the glory days when Leyland called the shots and raised pennants. You can take that to the bank. The fans were on Leylands side Thursday because he was standing up for their team, but Leyland knows all too well that theres no such thing as ongoing, unconditional fan love for managers. Win it all or you will be their pinata.
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