Friday, May 16, 2008

Leyland Again Presides Over A Long Stretch Of Bad Baseball In Detroit

So, Mike Ilitch is spending over $100 million for THIS?

I know he's not the type, but I wish Tigers owner Ilitch would summon manager Jim Leyland into his office and say, basically, "WTF? I've got the second-highest payroll in the big leagues and THIS is what I get for my pizza dough?"

This is simply unacceptable.

Twenty-five percent of the baseball season is in the books. We're through the first turn. The first quarter is in the books. And the Tigers sit at 16-25, one of the worst records in all of baseball -- for a team widely expected to have one of the best records in the game. If the Tigers ever hope to reach .500, it likely wouldn't come much before the 70th game. They'd still have to go 19-10 to do so. It's conceivable that .500, if it's in this team's future, won't happen until damn near the end of June or beyond. THEN how buried will they be in the divisional or wild card races?

Nine games below the break-even mark isn't a small amount, folks. Even a nice five or six-game winning streak still puts them a short distance away. Then what? Lose a few more? Fall to eight or nine games back again?

Let's examine something. And I'm about to be very unkind to Leyland -- and I guess I mean to be.

In 2006, the Tigers were 76-36 in early August. Then they finished 19-31 -- nearly one-third of a season playing .380 ball. It damn near knocked them out of the playoffs. Yes, they recovered in the post-season. So kudos there. But some of that was Kenny Rogers being unconscious and guys like Alex Gomez coming out of nowhere.

Last summer, the Tigers had the best record in baseball at the All-Star break before a 40-game rut from late-July thru August (16-24) did them in. Another 25% of a season wasted away.

Now this.

Yes, managers get too much praise and too much blame. And Leyland probably got too much praise in '06 -- and it was only the team's surprising post-season that pulled his rear end away from the fire. Had the Tigers gone down meekly in the ALDS against the Yanks, that, combined with the team's awful stretch run, would have cast a nasty pall on what had been a great year.

But Leyland has now presided over three horrible runs in three seasons in Detroit: the 50-gamer in 2006, last year's 40-gamer, and this year's 16-25 start. That's 130 games of bad baseball. There was a time when Jimmy Leyland could have been mayor of Detroit. Now I think he'd be hard-pressed to beat even Kwame Kilpatrick in a primary.

And I don't like how fragile the team's chemistry seems to be. In '06, Placido Polanco went down with an injury and things went sideways. Last summer, Gary Sheffield hurt himself and things went sideways. This year, Curtis Granderson misses the first few weeks and things went sideways. How can one player's absence, no matter how good he is, wreak such havoc? Isn't it the good manager who doesn't allow that to happen? Don't the good ones make lemonade when the baseball gods present them with lemons?

I admit, I'm a little cranky. At least the Pistons and Red Wings have provided ample distraction. But they can't play forever. Sooner or later we're going to have to pay more attention to our Motor City Kitties.

Something drastic needs to be done if this malaise carries on much longer. I'm not sure what that is, but it needs to be BIG.

Sheffield, by the way, is done. I've said it before: I'll bet you three coneys that Sheff hangs 'em up before the season is over with. That'd be sad, as we only got to see the REAL Gary Sheffield for about half a season. But he's still hurt, isn't getting any better, and it's only out of deference to his great career that the Tigers haven't cut him loose by now.

Yes sir, if I was Michael Ilitch, I'd be a little perturbed right about now. Maybe he's too caught up in the Red Wings as well.


Blogger Rick said...

Greg, Great post. The Tigers are pitiful, but you're right, under Jimmy they've played nearly one full season of terrible baseball. Maybe he was more like Billy Martin that I thought he was ... he came in, made some noise and change, and things went well. I have never been overly supportive of Chuck Hernandez as things started to go south last year, I thought. But this team is pitiful. About Shef, sure he'll retire now and then come back in two years with someone new and have a heck of a run, ala Troy Percival, Eric Davis, etc. al. The atmosphere must suck in that clubhouse. I blamed Trammell for allowing Pudge to run things, but I think Jimmy lets everyone runs things even more.

2:39 PM  

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