DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland told reporters that the pivotal decision Gene Lamont made in Game 2 of the World Series had nothing to do with Tuesdays announcement that Lamont would move from third-base coach to bench coach.
But there's no denying that Lamont's unsuccessful attempt to score Prince Fielder all the way from first on a Delmon Young double put Lamont on the hot seat with those who pay the clubs coaches and players. And Im not referring to owner Mike Ilitch, but rather the fans.
Lamont, along with hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, were human piatas for Tigers fans last year. Lamonts ill-advised decision to send the lumbering Fielder home with nobody out became a symbol of the frustration that came with getting swept by the underdog Giants.
Now know this: Giants manager Bruce Bochy thought Fielder would score and allowed that it took two perfect throws, from left fielder Gregor Blanco and shortstop Brandon Crawford, to get Fielder. And Tigers on-deck batter Jhonny Peralta failed to aid Fielder by coaching him on the slide.
Still, Lamont took the blame afterward, and Leyland agreed with Lamonts assessment that he was overly-aggressive.
When the first out of a potential big inning comes at home plate, the third base coach cant really justify such a decision. Its that simple.
Leyland is big on having your back if you work for him. That's why he protected Lamonts decisions in postgame press conferences whenever asked. Its also why he told reporters this while discussing the decision to move first-base coach Tom Brookens over to third base:
I think Gene Lamont is as good of a third-base coach as anybody in the American League. Terrific judgment -- terrific. But it might be time for him to come over to the bench with me and put Brookie out there.
Lamont and Leyland have been close friends since meeting in Detroits minor-league system as players nearly 50 years ago, so the move had to be tough on Leyland. He likely made it because, deep down, he knew Lamonts terrific years were behind him. He'll turn 66 on Christmas Day.
I thought Lamont, a former major-league manager who has manned third base for the Tigers since 2006, was a terrific third-base coach until the second half of the 2010 season. Thats when I began, for the first time, wincing at some of his decisions while watching from the press box. Over the next two years, I winced even more.
It was time for a change, and Brookens, 59, will be an excellent third-base coach because he's also the club's base-running and outfield coach. His anticipation on relays beginning in the outfield and knowledge of the clubs runners is keen. Perfect combo, isnt it?
Leyland has never had a bench coach here, opting instead to have Rafael Belliard as strictly an infield coach. Now Belliard will add first-base coaching to his job description.
Leylands game instincts are so good that he's one of the few who could prosper without a bench coach, but he'll greatly benefit from having Lamont next to him all nine innings.
Sparky Anderson considered his bench coach, Billy Consolo, central to his decision-making. Consolo, a Bonus Baby with the Red Sox and Andersons friend since childhood in Los Angeles, was somebody Anderson could bounce things off of with total confidence because Consolo was smart and not a yes man.
A great bench coach can be a very beneficial to a manager, and Lamont will be a terrific one. He has a baseball IQ that is off the map, and thats not just me talking.
While speaking during the playoffs with ESPNs Orel Hershiser, the Dodgers 1988 Cy Young Award winner and World Series MVP, he told me, Gene Lamont is a brilliant baseball man -- just brilliant.
Coaches are being placed in their areas of strength, so these moves give the Tigers a much better coaching staff without hiring or firing anyone.
Even the fans are bound to like it.