Category Archives: Jim freakin' Leyland

stepping down

all images by Samara Pearlstein

Jim Leyland announced today that he is stepping down from his position as manager of the Tigers.

Obviously we have all had our moments of doubt, exasperation, annoyance, and so on with decisions Leyland has made. His use of pitchers was often what might be charitably termed curious. His lineup decisions were sometimes hard to figure out. He was loyal to coaches and players, sometimes, some might say, to a fault. If there is any one among us who has not at some point over the past 8 years shaken a fist at the field or TV or radio dash of a car while screaming, “LEEEYYYYYLAAAAND!”, I would argue that that person is lying or apathetic about baseball or both.

But there is also no denying the good that Leyland did here. As that previously linked article points out, 6 of the 8 years Leyland was here, the Tigers had winning records; they went to the postseason 4 times; and they made at least the ALCS the past 3 years in a row. That’s not an insignificant record, and even all the talent the Tigers have socked away on their roster is hardly a guarantee of that kind of consistent success.

And, of course, there has been much to love. There’s his penchant for smoking in the dugout and clubhouse, and his secret amazing singing voice, and his baseball socks, and his dislike of things that are horsesh!t, and his intense war with all MLB umpires, and the fact that he was never really even mad at Gene Lamont for running over his foot with a golf cart, and his affection for Don Kelly, and the time he said that Phil Coke was rowing with one oar.

All these things and more made us love him, and we had many reasons to enjoy his tenure as manager. He is not entirely retiring– he says he will be remaining with the team in some as-yet unspecified capacity– but I, for one, will miss him.

cartoons from the recent Tigers games

illustrations and photos by Samara Pearlstein

This past Saturday was Max Scherzer’s 29th birthday. July 27 is always extra special, because not only is it Max Scherzer’s birthday, it is also Mr. Dombrowski’s birthday. This year it was extra extra special, because it was also a Max Scherzer start. It was extra extra EXTRA special because Max pitched with the blue eye, and it was extra extra EXTRA EXTRA special because his teammates all chipped in to get him 10 runs of support so that he could get his 15th win. A happy birthday for all.

The Tigers acquired Jose Veras. The excitement was infinite. Who needs an incontrovertible closer when you have 10,000 middle relievers? Not these cats.

On Sunday the great Tigers vs. Umpires War of Major League Baseball continued, as Miguel Cabrera was ejected in the third inning for no immediately and readily discernible reason. It soon turned out that Chad Fairchild, the homeplate ump, had taken a dislike to Miggy’s dislike of his strike calling. Apparently Cabrera said something after the first pitch, Fairchild told him to can it, and when Miggy piped up again after the second pitch, Fairchild threw him out with great immediacy and extreme prejudice. Thing is, Cabrera had not even turned around to voice his complaints or show up the umpire in any way. Even if he really said something that bad, it was as much to himself as anything else. It was a totally uncalled-for ejection in the opinions of Miguel Cabrera and the entirety of the crowd, which proceeded to scream at Fairchild sporadically throughout the remainder of the game (a repeated opinion: “We didn’t pay to see you, Chad!”).

Also deeply unimpressed was Jim Leyland, who stormed onto the field and was ejected in his turn. Of course, his feelings about the umpires are well known.

I was at the game, and let me assure you, he was quite displeased.

On Tuesday Alex Avila hit the first grand slam of his career. Even if you were not watching the FSD broadcast, you already knew in your heart of hearts that Rod Allen called it a grand salami. You knew, and you were glad.

As I said, I was in Detroit this past weekend for the games. Both were highly enjoyable for a variety of reasons, but something extra special and exciting happened at the Saturday game. Here is a little preview:

But you will have to wait a little bit to get the full photographic report.

What do you do with a Potato?

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

As Jose Valverde prepared to enter the game on Friday night, a Tweet rang out on the internet:

Leyland is going to put the Potato right back on the horse. —Stareagle

And so it was.

a variety of Tigers things, related in the usual manner

So I haven’t posted in a few days. Things have been busy in RotTLand, you know, a bunch of work stuff, some friends I don’t get to see much up to visit, cat vomit to clean off the carpet, the usual. Anyways. Here’s a round-up of some of the things that have been happening.

illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

You know I was in Detroit, right? It was hot. It was WICKED hot.

But it was OK, because I got to see Jacob Turner’s debut! So exciting for Rick Porcello; for one brief moment, he was the baby in the rotation no longer. Of course then Turner went right back down and Porcello was back to being the tiniest kitten.

I mean, there are rookies on the team, and FredFred (in his third season!) is still the youngest. It must be kinda rough. He’s probably hoping Turner comes back in September and then Porcello can say things like “KIDS THESE DAYS” to someone in the clubhouse who’s not Little Victor.

We were THISCLOSE to seeing Justin Verlander throw another no-hitter in the Sunday game. I have never seen a no-hitter in person and although I get out to a fair number of baseball games, I rarely get to see them in Detroit, so I was sitting there (roasting in the sun), thinking… oh man, imagine if Verlander does this and I get to see him do it, at home! Also, it seemed only fair that we be rewarded with a truly remarkable game if we were going to sit in those scorched frying pan seats for 9 innings.

Alas, such riches were not to be mine. Justin was still immense, though, and it was still A Thing to See.

I finally met @WhosYourTiger and he took me around the ballpark to look at some things I would not have looked at otherwise and it was exactly like this.

What else has been happening? Hmm.

Austin Jackson made a RIDICULOUS catch. Like an old school Torii Hunter Spiderman move, but he was catching air, so it was more of a Superman. I drew him with a cape but that’s really the only thing that I changed. He saw the ball going over the wall, said to himself, “Mmm… nope,” and stole that home run away. The kind of play to give a fan with a delicate constitution a proper attack of the vapors.

If you haven’t seen it already you should really watch the video, if only to hear Rod’s call and way his voice breaks from sheer joy.

Victor hurt his knee doing one of his weird little dances at the plate. He is back in the game tonight, which is how behind I am on Current Tigers Events, but it was still not pleasant to see at the time. My first thought was OH NOOOO and my second thought was Oh my goodness I hope Little Victor is not watching this.

He’s DHing tonight and right now he’s 1-for-3, so that’s OK, I guess. It’ll definitely be something to watch, though: even Jim Leyland has admitted that Alex Avila has been beaten up a bit too much at this point in the season, and now his backup has this knee strain or sprain or whatever that has nominally healed, but you KNOW how those things are when it comes to recurrences and re-tweakings, especially when it comes to the Tigers. And Victor has a ton of wear on his knees already, lots more than Random Infielder X would have, on account of his accumulated years of catching experience.

So we all say that Avila has to rest more, but do you really want to take Victor away from the DH spot too often and risk him getting hurt, or more hurt, or whatever? Do you bring up another catcher and hope you can limp along on a slightly smaller bullpen or bench until the rosters expand in September (unlikely)? Do you tell Don Kelly to start getting his gear ready again? DO YOU JUST WORRY ABOUT EVERYTHING EVER, LIKE ROAR OF THE TIGERS?

Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland were both signed to contract extensions. Leyland is locked up through the 2012 season and Mr. D is on board for four more years, through 2015. My thoughts on this move are really disorganized and I’m not sure you need to hear them, but generally I am in favor. Generally. I would like Leyland to actually DO something about the players he overuses, though, instead of just giving the overuse lip service.

I mean, the fact that he even acknowledges it now is some progress, but let’s take this thing all the way to the pot of freshly rested ballplayer gold at the end of the rainbow, you know?

I also hope the Dombrowski contract contained a Striped Shirt clause.

And for no real reason, here’s Doug Fister wearing Hulk Hands.

send Jim Leyland all your hamsters

all images by Samara Pearlstein

The quote in the top TC is not verbatim; Leyland said something very much like that in a pregame interview, but I wasn’t taking notes so I didn’t get the exact words. He definitely said that he didn’t have any hamsters right now, though, and if fans thought they had the hamsters, he grumpily invites them to mail said hamsters on in.

Right now the Tigers are in dire need of some serious hamsters. Certain things make sense– Austin Jackson’s wrist is at least comprehensible– but the Tigers need a hamster for the third base situation, a hamster for the issues in the rotation… the bullpen… a hamster for Justin Verlander’s inexplicably tentative and offspeedy outing last night… all these things require hamsters, and Jim Leyland doesn’t have any right now. He’s admitted it. Send some in, if you’ve got ’em.

I’m trying to ignore the rest of that Friday night game. Verlander is allowed to have offdays and it would have been nice for the offense to pick him up on such a rare occasion, but… deep breaths… whatever.

Miguel Cabrera got his 1,500th career hit, that was nice.

Carlos Guillen is allegedly coming back today, allegedly at full health, or at whatever fragile and no doubt transient state of being passes for full health with Carlos Guillen these days. AlAl should be coming back too. Maybe they’ll bring some hamsters with them.

the War with the Umpires enters 2011

illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

As near as I can tell, this is what happened:

–Homeplate ump Angel Campos was making calls early that were not too popular. This was an issue with both Angels and Tigers.

–In the second inning, Howie Kendrick hit a ball to short. Jhonny Peralta fielded it with some effort and threw it to first for a close play. Kendrick was called safe and given a single by Country Joe West, the umpire manning first base. It was clear, however, the Kendrick was in fact out at first and the play should have been a simple 6-3. Tigers, and particularly Jim Leyland, express displeasure with Country Joe’s call.

–Kendrick came around to score in that inning. This turned out to be the only run that Justin Verlander gave up, and indeed the only run of the entire game.

–Leyland and Country Joe had been jawing back and forth on and off throughout the game. Country Joe’s first base post gave him easy access to the Tigers dugout, which is on the first base side in Angel Stadium.

–Just before the start of the 7th inning, Country Joe started edging towards the Tigers dugout and yelling at Leyland. I assume Leyland had been saying things first and that’s what got Country Joe started, but I didn’t see what actually began this confrontation, so I cannot say for sure.

–Country Joe and Leyland screamed at one another for a bit, then Country Joe tossed Jim Leyland. While Leyland was standing in the dugout.

–Having already been ejected, Leyland stormed out onto the field to give everyone a piece of his mind and several fresh samples of his spit.

–With two outs in the 8th inning, Justin Verlander was pulled (by Lloyd McClendon, since Leyland of course was gone by then). As he was leaving the mound, he vented some spleen and said some words that were not to the liking of Country Joe, who swiftly ejected Verlander. Rod and Mario used their mad lipreading skillz to determine that, in part at least, Verlander was telling Country Joe and Campos how they had both had really bad days and had made some damn bad calls.

–So Verlander was out of the game anyways when he was ejected, but this meant he couldn’t stay in the dugout to watch the rest of the game.

–Someone else, I believe Rick Porcello, was also ejected from the dugout, for no readily apparent reason. He must have said something, I guess.

That’s about the sum of it. Country Joe is ejection-happy, to be sure, but this was ridiculous. I know Verlander had to lose sooner or later, but the fact that he lost almost solely because of bad calls is making it awfully hard for me to be zen about this.

Previously in the War with Umpires: one, two, three, four, five.

And don’t forget to Vote Victor!

The Tigers have paired with the Phillies to try to get people in both fan markets to vote the Victor/Victorino ticket. Verily you must vote for the Victors.

sadness is watching your pitchers get destroyed by the Mets

illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you lose in hilariously over-the-top ways to the Mets and the only thing you can do is dig up a drawing from 2007 that is suddenly relevant again.

FredFred was… no. I can’t. Instead let’s look at these words from Jim Leyland, on the subject of the play that led to his theatrical rant yesterday.

My only point was in 48 years of baseball, I have never seen a play where a ground ball that was thrown to the first baseman was called one way and changed. I’ve never seen that in 48 years. I’m obviously smart enough to know the guy was out. The umpire, by his own admission, said he blew the call.

They got the call wrong in getting the call right, in my opinion.
Jason Beck/Chris Vannini,

They got the call wrong in getting the call right. Meditate upon that one, my friends.

And remember, in these waning days, to do your sacred duty:

Keep voting Avila, and other Terrible Cartoons.

all illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

VOTE AVILA. VOTE AVILA. You have until 11:59pm eastern on Thursday to do the right thing! You may think to yourself, Hey, I already voted 25 times, and that’s great, but now it is time to make yourself another few email addresses so you can vote again. And again! AND AGAIN.



I can’t take credit for that idea, though. They had a little Vote Avila campaign thing during the postgame broadcast last night, with various teammates talking up Avila’s finer qualities. One of the things they mentioned was the fact that the team has decided he looks like a koala. Which… you can kind of see, actually. They had Brad Thomas on camera saying that Avila is very koala-esque in his expert Australian opinion, so you should vote for him. Pretty much impossible to argue with that.

A few other things that have been happening:

Miguel Cabrera got the Tigers going in the 8th Inning of Magic and Wonder that took down the Diamondbacks on Sunday. There were many who contributed, of course (even Miggy cannot get 7 runs in one inning all by himself), but Cabrera struck a deadly blow. So of course he is a mongoose. This was obliquely requested by the Twitter horde.

Max Scherzer bothers the Blue Jays.

Jim Leyland absolutely lost his kitty litter last night after a weird call at first base. Andy Dirks bunted and was running down the line. The ball was fielded cleanly by the first baseman, and he clearly stepped on the bag before Dirks did. The first base ump called him safe for some private reason of his own, then looked to the homeplate ump and reversed the call, which, admittedly, is kind of weird.

Leyland did not approve of this series of events, and showed his disapproval loudly, vehemently, and with lots of creative gesturing. He didn’t seem to argue with the idea that Dirks was out (he clearly was), more with the fact that Dirks had been called safe and then had the call reversed on the field. He yelled at the first base ump, he yelled at the homeplate ump, he said many things that made the FSD crew hope none of their viewers could read lips, he stomped all over the place and made Quite A Scene.

It was great. And the Tigers won, so we can count it as a motivation instead of a distraction, and we can talk about how much we like to see Jim Leyland lose his mind on the baseball field, instead of grumbling about Jim Leyland losing his mind when it comes to pitcher management. For once.

bats, bats galore

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Sometimes you see a baseball game that’s just stupid, and nobody deserves to win. There’s no way the Tigers should win a game where Max Scherzer lasts only 5 innings and gives up 5 runs, and then Charlie Furbush has to come in for long relief and he gives up 2 runs, and then the back end of the bullpen is so frustrating that Jim Leyland has to bring in Joaquin Benoit to get an out even though Benoit was supposed to have a firm night off. I don’t know what that is, but it’s not a game that the Tigers win.

Except they did, because HITS HITS BATS HITS CATS WIELDING BATS HOLY CATS HITSSSSSSSS, and Colby Lewis was crying on the inside. You know who got a hit today? EVERYONE. In fact there were only two Tigers hitters who didn’t get extra base hits: Don Kelly and Ryan Raburn. Don Kelly is Don Kelly, and Raburn probably used his entire week’s extra base hit allotment yesterday. Everybody else just went crazy out there.

Especially Brennan Boesch. Clearly the Texas-hot air and the nature of the ballpark lent themselves to home runs– there were 6 total in the game, some of them absolutely crushed– but it still bears mentioning, because Brennan hit TWO home runs all by himself, and a double just for the heck of it. He was responsible for 5 RBIs, which is often more than the entire Detroit offense can manage. Skow.

Other notes from this one:

–Max eats a huge roast beef sandwich before every start. He also hates bananas, but will eat one before deadly hot Texas starts, because he knows he needs his potassium.

–Austin Jackson has been using Victor Martinez’s bats lately.

–Glorious moment captured by the FSD cameras tonight. Leyland was leaning on the dugout rail next to Lloyd McClendon. He took a big wad of bubble gum out of his mouth and stuck it on the rail right where Legendary Lloyd was sure to put his elbow in it. He then kept glancing over and grinning to himself, quickly suppressing it each time so McClendon wouldn’t notice. This went on for a while, with the cameras cutting between game action and the shot of the coaches, Rod and Mario beside themselves with glee.

Eventually McClendon did notice and took the gum off. He gave Leyland a look like, “Dude, seriously?” Leyland responded to this with hearty laughter while McClendon shook his head in what we might safely assume was fond disgust.

During the regular season we all get used to Stoic One Word Answer Jim Leyland, and we’re familiar with Angry Sweary Jim Leyland, but Simple Prankster Jim Leyland is something else. A welcome something else, I might add.

–Rod and Mario mentioned Alex Avila’s superpower! They noted that he has the ability to appear clean-shaven one night, goatee’d the next, and full bearded a day after that. I KNOW GUYS ISN’T IT GREAT?

–Craig Monroe (!) was in the ballpark and stopped by the booth to say hi. Rod said that he had “saved his nickels” and in his baseball-retirement had opened a restaurant and bar. Sure enough, The Internet found it for me: the Twenty7 Sports Bar and Grill. Note the photo of Mr. Monroe posing with his own 2006 Detroit Tigers jersey on the homepage.

–Fabulous MLB article headline for this game.

the baseball battle of Pittsburgh

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

How freakin’ weird is it that half the Detroit coaches are former Pittsburgh Pirates managers? Of course Jim Leyland was the manager from 1986 to 1996. Gene Lamont was their manager from ’97 to 2000. And Legendary Lloyd was their manager from ’01 to ’05. So not only have all these Tiger coaches been large and in charge in Pittsburgh, they did it consecutively.

I mean, I know it’s because Leyland brought his buddies on board, and his buddies happen to be Pittsburgh people. It still feels strange. It does add a new dimension to the Incredibly Natural (Eyeroll) Interleague Rivalry of the Pirates and Tigers, though. Like MLB got lucky with their attempt to create an artificial interleague rivalry because there actually is a connection between these teams, at least for now. Clean out the coaching staff and MLB’s rivalry-fomenting dreams go flying out the window like so many memories of a healthy Joel Zumaya.

It’s hard for me to get super excited about interleague this year, because it is a big part of the reason why the Tigers are only playing two games all regular season in Boston, and you know that this is a great personal loss for me. And aside from the coachcest, why are we supposed to feel strongly about Pittsburgh? They aren’t real enemies. Heck, they’re family (Neil Walker! Don Kelly! Marriage of siblings!). Yet here we are, three games into interleague play, being forced to care about the Pirates all over again. Okaaaaayyyyy.

The Tigers lost two in semi-embarrassing fashion and scraped one win by the grace of Rick Porcello, which seems to demand some sort of reaction. It’s hard to write a coherent blog reaction when you’re mostly disgusted by the losses and simply relieved– rather than actually happy– about the win. Why is this offense so bad? Why is the bullpen so bad? Why can’t everyone be Justin Verlander? Why anything?

The best thing about playing the Pirates is getting to visit PNC Park.

Other things:

Brad Thomas was put on the DL with elbow derp. Charlie Furbush was called up to take his spot. Brayan Villarreal was sent down and Enrique Gonzalez was called up in an exchange of youth for agedness. Carlos Guillen was put on the 60 day DL and nobody is surprised. Magglio Ordonez’s return date is unspecified and nobody is surprised. Joaquin Benoit exists. Things change, yet everything remains the same.