From 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.