Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit drinking...

                             Many people have been trying to figure out at what point Jim Leyland decided to retire...some of my friends have said that he went into the 2013 season knowing it would be his last.  Others make the argument that not making it to the Series this year was the last straw.  More specific than that theory, I believe it was the play during game six against Boston when Jhonny Peralta grounded to second; Pedroia tagged out Martinez, then threw home, where Saltalamacchia eventually chased down Prince Fielder. The visual of Fielder falling down a good three feet before the bag, followed by Leyland's exasperated look, pretty much said it all.  Detroit could have had a big rally, but instead no runs scored...a couple of innings and Shane Victorino later...

                  Leyland was one of the last managers who never made it to the majors as a player.  It used to be the norm; managers were either lifetime minor leaguers, or had very little time in the bigs.  Earl Weaver, Dick Williams, Tony Larussa and the like fit that bill.  Today, players that were good to great tend to be the norm; Don Mattingly, Dusty Baker, Robin Ventura, Ryne Sandberg and such are becoming more prevalent.  The old thought was that if you were a good player, you wouldn't be patient enough with players who didn't have your talent. (Ted Williams managing the Washington Senators, comes to mind)

                  Starting his managing career with the Pirates in '86, Leyland eventually guided a young team to three N.L. East titles from 1990-1992,  losing the first year to the Reds in '90, and then the next two to the Braves, the second of which in heartbreaking fashion, letting up a game winning hit to Fransisco (bleeping) Cabrera. (Cabrera was actually mentioned by then President George Prescott Bush, using the walk off hit as a metaphor for his campaign...if that was the case, then that makes  Bill Clinton the Toronto Blue Jays.)

 After leaving the Pirates organization for a few years, he then managed the Florida Marlins to a World Championship in 1997.  While Leyland has always been pretty likeable, the '97 Marlins were not; with players that were basically bought for one season and let go, Florida were merely a collection of great players who happened to win it all...there was also a game against the Braves in the NLCS where Livan Hernandez threw ball after ball, but got strike calls from umpire Eric Gregg.

         After a bizarre one year stint with the Rockies in '99, Leyland retired from managing for a few years.  He was lured back by the Tigers in 2006 and won the pennant in his first year, then lost to the Cardinals in five games in the World series. He made it back to the Series in 2012, this time getting swept by the Giants.  You kind of had the feeling that 2013 was going to be his last year; he had the best starting rotation in baseball and maybe the best 1 thru 5 hitters in the game as well...shame about that bullpen, though...we'll miss you Jim, you seemed like a throwback to the hard drinking managers of the past...somewhere, John McGraw and Billy Martin agree,,,   

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