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.
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.