Thursday, May 29, 2008

Leyland To Quit? If So, It Might Be A Move Made Nine Years Too Late

Jim Leyland doesn't speak too fondly of his days in Colorado.

He'll tell you that he did a horsefeathers job there, in 1999, when he guided the Rockies to a 72-90 record. He'll go even further, telling you that he stole his paycheck in Denver and should have quit before the season ended. It was a bad enough performance, in his mind, to make him gun shy about managing for a full six years, until the Tigers and old friend Dave Dombrowski reached out to Leyland late in the 2005 season -- Alan Trammell about to be a goner.

I thought about Colorado as I perused that hit-and-run method of communicating, aka the Internet chat forums. A forever anonymous poster said this: "Leyland will quit before the season ends."

Maybe he will.

There's not a lot of hard evidence, just some between-lines reading to go on, but Leyland hasn't been shy to both point the finger at himself for the Tigers' baffling 2008 season and volunteer the fact that he doesn't have a clue as to why things have gone sideways.

He was just as stumped as everyone else when he talked to reporters yesterday about the Tigers' hitting woes. To his credit, he hasn't gone into snake oil salesman mode, where he tries to jabber his way out of this malaise. He doesn't speak of raised expectations or goofy clubhouses or the loss of gregarious players. In other words, he doesn't talk like some of his players. And for that, I give him credit.

But he's out of answers, folks. Leyland looks and sounds tired, and one only wonders if he's learned his lesson from Colorado and will pull a self-ziggy before this season is done.

I'm not so sure that we won't.

If this craziness lasts close to the All-Star break, with no end in sight, then I wouldn't choke on my waffles if Leyland did a self-ziggy and returned home to Pennsylvania. Some would fret that the wrong Detroit sports guy is the one retiring to the Keystone State (right, Matt Millen haters?), but there you have it. Is it probable? No. It's still quitting, no matter how you try to spin it. And sports fans don't have much tolerance for quitters, no matter how good the intentions.

I don't REALLY think that Jim Leyland will quit on the Tigers this season. But I'm not convinced that it WON'T happen, either.

If that makes me wishy-washy and a fence-sitter, then I'm guilty as charged.

But he'll quit before the Tigers ever fire him. That much I know.


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