October 21, 2008

Give Leyland His Extension

I know I’m in the extreme minority on this one but I think the Tigers should extend Jim Leyland‘s contract to 2010 or ’11.

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In the most recent Fungo Pulse Check poll, 67 percent of respondents said Leyland should not get an extension to ’01 and beyond. Thirty-three percent said he should. Why do I think he should get a few more years? Three reasons.

1. Leyland isn’t suddenly Luis Pujols. This past season was awful on every level but after one stinker of a year you leave a guy like Leyland hanging? The guy can manage like nobody’s business and is the victim of his own success. His problem is, his three seasons in Detroit produced won-loss records that no one expected — particularly in the order they occurred. The Tigers went from unwatchable in 2005 to a World Series in ’06 to a disappointing-but-solid ’07 to a last-place finish in ’08. The real Tigers are somewhere between the 2006 and 2007 teams — and probably better. If that’s the case, as I believe it is, I definitely want Jim Leyland managing that group of guys.

2. The Tigers don’t want to be the Rangers. Perhaps it was an aberration for Detroit to have one manager from 1979 to 1995; I’ll grant you that. But do the Tigers want to get back into the managerial-revolving-door thing again? Do they want a new manager every three or four years? I’d be surprised if the club’s answer is yes. Think about the teams that’ve experienced sustained excellence — the Angels, Yankees (until this year), Cardinals, Red Sox, Braves — they’ve all had one manager locked in and establishing his methodology for winning baseball. On the other hand you have the Rangers, Orioles, et al. The Tigers aren’t going to achieve sustained winning with another merry-go-round approach to the manager’s slot.

3. Who else is going to manage this team effectively? Seriously. Who? Lloyd McClendon? Matt Walbeck? Truth is, I’d take either one of those guys in a perfect scenario: the Tigers win a World Series and Leyland retires. Handing over the reins of a high-powered club to someone like McClendon or Walbeck makes sense. But if the Tigers think either of those two guys (whose names I pulled out of the air) can get this club over the hump, I’m not sure I want to watch what happens next.

Leyland was dealt a 2008 hand loaded with fragile pitchers and a half-dozen designated hitters. He did what he could with what Dave Dombrowski provided.

It’s up to Double D to fix the roster and let Jim Leyland do what he does best: manage the Detroit Tigers.

3 Comment(s)

  1. Jim Craddock | Oct 21, 2008 | Reply

    I think the Tigers should give Leyland his extension–for one years, and a mutual option for the next two. This gives Leyland his security, and peace of mind. It gives the Tigers a hedge against another disaster like we experienced this year. Like Mike, I don’t think Leyland turned into Luis Pujols all of a sudden and I do think a measure of stability would help. But the big thing is improving the talent ON THE FIELD! Give Leyland a flexible, talented, healthy, and athletic roster and he’ll be fine. Give him a situation where he has to play up to four guys out of position to make a lineup, and there’s gonna be problems.

    I think the same people that are calling for Leyland’s head now were many of the ones who were bummed that they didn’t have a Manager of the Year vote in 2006. The easiest thing in the world is to blame the manager, but there was epic failure in all areas this year. Leyland shoulders a portion of the blame, as do Dombrowski, Ilitch, the coaching staff, and especially the players. Despite the quick success of 2006, ther is no “Easy Button” for what has to be done, and that’s what pushing Leyland out would be.

  2. Jennifer | Oct 21, 2008 | Reply

    Nicely put. I was sort of thinking that Leyland didn’t exactly earn an extension after last season (not that I was placing all the blame on him). After reading this, I definitely agree that I don’t want to be on the manager merry-go round.

  3. Matt in Toledo | Oct 22, 2008 | Reply

    I’d like to respectfully disagree, Mike. I think the reason the Tigers are holding off on extending him is they want to see what 2009 brings.

    I think they expect it was a good team that ran into a perfect storm of poor performance and injuries. If it looks like they can work with their current core, tweak the defense and the bullpen and stay contenders beyond 2009, they will extend Leyland.

    If 2009 proves the team is a dog that needs taken behind the woodshed, they will probably look to reload and do so with a fresh manager who has the stomach for the work that entails.

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