August 9, 2011

A Few Thoughts on Leyland and Dombrowski

LeylandFrom what I can gather on the web and on Twitter, the local reaction to the extensions of Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski has not been broadly positive. Nationally, it’s another story.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know that I’ve been a Leyland backer — and one of Dombrowski, too. Fifty-one weeks ago I wrote a piece titled In Defense of Jim Leyland and though the circumstances are different this year than last, I still think Leyland deserves another year.

That’s not to say some of his in-game decisions don’t drive me batty. Ryan Raburn as late-inning defensive replacement? Jose Valverde in non-save situations? Brandon Inge? The featherweight lineup featured in so many getaway games?

For me, the bottom line is that Leyland knows more about his team than I do. He knows who’s got aches or pains or problems on the homefront that can affect performance. I don’t. What’s more, the players sure appear to respect the man — something you didn’t sense in the bad old days of Alan Trammell, Luis Pujols or Phil Garner.

A few years ago I went to a Tigers-Angels game in Anaheim and sat in utter disbelief that Leyland bypassed every opportunity to pinch hit Marcus Thames against a lefty for light-hitting batters. What was he thinking?!

Later that day I read in the game story that Thames had sore ribs and wasn’t available. And to think I could’ve used that my energy on the more productive and satisfying booing of Craig Monroe.

I know many Tigers fans believe Leyland has screwed up this team in one way or another for the better part of six seasons. For me, I see a guy who has the Tigers with a four-game lead in early August.

And I think he’s the guy who can lead the club to a first-place finish this year.

Okay, tell me how wrong I am.

11 Comment(s)

  1. Dre in Chi | Aug 9, 2011 | Reply

    I have no problem with the Leyland extension (mostly because I think Managers are much less important re: W-Ls than GMs), and I think the extensions are a good thing, but I’m surprised that DD got 4 years. I don’t know if its nit-pick territory to say that a 2-year contract would have been more appropriate, but that’s my feeling on this. I think its safe to say that, if the Tigers weren’t competing for the division lead, we’d be talking about replacing the front office (unless there were some fluke injuries to key players or the life). Yet the Tigers success this year seems owed in large part to the ALCent being especially weak this year. I understand no GM is perfect, and have no suggestions as to who would do better, but I just don’t see how Dombrowski has earned what has to amount to one of the longer extensions in the majors at this point.

    I will say its not surprising to me though, considering how Illitch handles long-standing employees across his franchises – this is likely something that has trickled down throughout the organization and helps explain why Inge was given a 2-yr deal at that salary, despite it clearly being far above his market value. I guess I’m curious as to your take on the DD extension, as you focus mostly on Leyland.

  2. sgwill | Aug 9, 2011 | Reply

    My problem is timing; it seems strange to extend a contract partway through the season instead of waiting to see if Leland/D’Ski can pull off a playoff run.

  3. TOLWill | Aug 9, 2011 | Reply

    Dombrowski does deserve a four year extension. While he has made some bonehead moves (i.e. trading Jair Jurrjens, Washburn, Huff) his overall record has been stellar. If you remember the 02-03 seasons when he took over, no one should complain about where we are now.

    He trades, drafts, and signs well. He stole Miguel Cabrera from the marlins, drafted Verlander, Porcello, and Turner, and has done well with free agents such as letting Rodney leave, signing Valverde, gambling on Ordonez who won a batting title and had a memorable walk off HR, and taught the kids how to act professional in the signing of Pudge which truly turned around the franchise.

    Leyland is a much harder assessment because I believe, unless a team knows they have a manager they will stick with, they only should receive one year deals. I do not respect the cronies he has installed as the coaches and believe they would be much better off with a true bench coach, a solid pitching coach, and reinstalling Jeff Jones as the bullpen coach. However, Leyland has found a way to overcome the age gap and motivate his younger players.

    I would prefer the Tigers try to rob a better manager a la TB’s Maddon. However, Jim Leyland is a veteran manager with a proven record of slightly above .500 teams, which is more than enough to challenge for the AL Central crown every year. Since we cannot tell whether we will love him or hate him after this season a one year extension is perfect.

  4. kevo83 | Aug 9, 2011 | Reply

    I think the timing is actually brilliant. It’s risky, but most brilliant moves are. Here’s why: By giving Leyland and Donmbrowski extensions, Illitch is showing the team and Tiger Nation that he believes. Most importantly, it gives Jim full respect and controll over a team that needs a little “boost” now and again. I think this is the boost they need to ride to the division title. With a HUGE series starting tonight, let’s get everyone in good spirits so we can start dominating(which, they really should have been all year! Not too mention, Dave and Jim have created a deep farm and secured some pretty solid players for the future with a specific plan set in stone. I think not to give them the shot to bring it to fruition would be taking a step back.

  5. Dre in Chi | Aug 9, 2011 | Reply

    @ TOLWill

    “He stole Miguel Cabrera from the marlins, drafted Verlander, Porcello, and Turner”

    I’m not familiar with the circumstances of Verlander’s draft, but acquiring the other three had much more to do with Illitch. The owner said, I want Cabrera, make it happen. Sure Dombrowski still has to create an inciting offer (which included two “untouchable” prospects), but Cabrera to Detroit wasn’t deemed to be a DD brainchild. As for Porcello and Turner, again, the owner had a policy of paying above-slot for draft picks, allowing those two to fall to the Tigers – they were not diamonds in the rough that Dombrowski discovered, they fell to the Tigers who were willing to splash the cash.

    Its important not to confuse the resources Dombrowski has had available with his actual ability – which isn’t to say he’s bad, but I just think those examples don’t reflect the GM’s ability.

    I guess the irony is that this might well be the first year he wins the Central, in spite of no longer being the biggest spenders in the division.

  6. Growl | Aug 9, 2011 | Reply

    Lyland..is a keeper

    DUMBski..god get rid of him. You can sure tell what he likes…. $$ in his pocket. He traded all our good peaple away for cash. Then we get JUNK back. Iam so tired of hearing wheres our talent. Go look for Granderson,Joyce and others. We wont make the post season and hes the whole reason. I miss the days of Illich haveing his hands in what going on. He wanted a winning team. Not another version of the Lions.

  7. Buddy | Aug 10, 2011 | Reply

    Jim Leyland used a pitch hitter so that he could sacrifice bunt.

    I think that’s all you need to know.

  8. Mike McClary | Aug 10, 2011 | Reply

    Glad to see Buddy back in the house!

  9. Hutch | Aug 10, 2011 | Reply

    The only thing holding me back from starting this post raving about how frustrated I am with Leyland is because I know I will immediately be labeled as an uneducated fan that just runs his mouth every losing streak and runs back to Jim’s lap when we’re winning. However there are many questions I would love answered about the first two game of this very important series.

    I will start with the blatant problem (in my mind) which is Leyland’s constant refusal to sacrifice. In a tie game that is dominated by pitchers in the way game one of the Cleveland series was, leadoff baserunners are horribly important. Not when you don’t take advantage of them though. Countless leadoff singles/walks were wasted because Jim Leyland is too STUBBORN to give up an out to put the runner into scoring position. The biggest instance to me was when Boesch walked to start the 14th and Dirks was not bunting him to 2nd for Cabrera but instead swinging out of his shoes until the umpire directed him back to the bench. We need to bunt, any run before the 14th would have won the game (obviously).

    Secondly, Austin Jackson continues to leadoff, because of Leyland’s stubbornness, and fail. Especially when Jim puts him in horrible situations like the hit and run. A player that has struck out over 125 times this year (probably about 122 of them swinging) should not get the hit and run signal with a slow runner on first base. Needless to say it resulted in an easy double play and the end to yet another rally.

    Also, pinch running Ryan Raburn in the 8th inning for Victor..? The minute Ryan ran out there I was furious. I had watched the Tigers blow chances for 5 straight innings and sure enough, after the inning they hadn’t scored and our 3-4-5 was diminished to Dirks/Cabrera/Raburn for the remainder of the game. That doesn’t get the job done, especially when Cabrera gets no protection and therefore no pitches to hit. No dangerous combinations in our order existed for the remainder of the game. Where was Magglio? I realize the numbers are down this year but he has been great this half of the year and, after all, I can’t doubt him after he sent us to a World Series.

    On to game two in Cleveland, besides the lineup he ran out there, (I thought I had turned on the Mudhens game at first), I thought Jim was in a bit of a bind. Porcello put him in a tough position because of the depleted bullpen, and I understand why he waited so long to pull him. Still, I can’t help but notice that whatever he does seems to blow up somehow. For Example, he sat Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks plays a bad game in center with a throwing error out of play and a lack of range that AJ covers easily.

    Dombrowski, I have no problem with. He seems to make all the moves we want to see made as fans. He makes big moves in the offseason to put the team on the map such as Magglio, Pudge, Cabrera, Victor, etc. and even his trade deadline moves are normally pretty solid (Sean Casey, Betemit, Fister…).
    While I’m at it I might as well mention that Jim Leyland’s first choice this year was Adam Dunn, who battles with the Mendoza line while Victor battles Cabrera for top run-producer on the club. Well Dombrowski ‘settled’ for Martinez and it seems to have worked out somewhat better…

    Hope this post doesn’t come off as whiny, just thought I would share my doubts and maybe even get some answers from someone, love the Fungo!

  10. Sparks | Aug 10, 2011 | Reply

    Agree & disagree:
    The Leyland/Dombrowski regime has provided considerable continuity to a franchise that had precious little in the “bad old days”, and has managed to fairly successfully keep enough production coming to remain in contention. With Verlander, Cabrera, Jackson, & Boesch, ownership must feel that Dombrowski will be able to continue to put complimentary pieces around them to remain viable.
    The bad: The puzzling, maddening in game decisions, the line ups that hew to a mid-eighties envisionment of the game, and worst to me, the apparent utter unwillingness to call up an arm to see if they were viable to add to the rotation. This seems like grumpy old man thinking.

  11. Jim Craddock | Aug 11, 2011 | Reply

    The big problems I have with Leyland are 1)continuing to bat Jackson at leadoff (although the options are limited there), 2) Batting Maggs third. His production no longer warrants that spot. Move everyone up one and bat Maggs 7 or 8, and you still have the lineup stretched. 3) using Valverde in non-sve situations. He did the same thing with Rodney and it ALWAYS went bad.

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