Jim Leyland Managing the Tiger?
"Tiger's manager, Jim Leyland," just doesn't sound right. In fact, it doesn't sound any better than, "Rockies' manager, Jim Leyland," which was Leyland's last managing post. Of course, Tiger fans should be thrilled.
There are several questions here. First, Leyland has been away from managing since 1999. There is precedent for success in that situation. Frank Robinson was in the front office a long time between managing assignments, and he has done wonders with the Expos/Nationals considering the upheaval of that situation. And Leyland knows what he is doing and has a track record.
Leyland's success in the past well documented. His Pittsburgh teams in the early 90's won an average of 95 games for three years in a row. And then he won the World Series in Florida.
But a good manager won't succeed without a good team. Leyland endured terrible times in Florida after the "fire sale." And his teams had terrible years in Pittsburgh and Colorado. Consider that the highest batting average on the Tigers last year was .277. Twenty-one homers led the team! The best E.R.A on the team was 4.48
And the only significant addition in the off season was an elderly Kenny Rogers, whose off-field temper has tainted a pretty successful career. Will he have anything left?
And what of Ivan Rodriguez? I-Rod was a superstar just a few short seasons ago and was the cornerstone of the Marlins' World Series team. He had a good season in 2004, his first season with the Tigers. But last year was a disaster.
Rodriguez, who had never struck out 90 times in the first twelve seasons of his career has done so the last three years. Last year's 93 strikeouts were the highest of his career. What's worse, he only walked eleven times. Eleven! He batted .250 and had an on-base percentage of .290. Ouch!
If reduced production was the only concern with Rodriguez, that would be concern enough, but stories filtered out of Detroit the last two seasons of Rodriguez having the ear of the owner and circumventing his manager. It would be hard to imagine Leyland standing for that kind of behavior.
Leyland is a great manager of good players and an ordinary manager of lowly players. He has a 42 year old starter, a 38 year old closer (Todd Jones), a questionable star catcher who may have left his best days behind him and then a lot of other piece players who may or may not respond to their new manager.
Leyland says his fire is back. It will be interesting to see if he can keep it stoked if the Tigers get off to a terrible start.