Thursday, May 17, 2012

Is it Time to Fire Jim Leyland?

It has been beaten to a pulp in the media, in the offices, at watering holes, on blogs (this one included) that the Tigers are underachieving based on their lofty expectations and perceived talent-laden lineup.  They have been inconsistent, sloppy, offensively-challenged, and the pitching, especially the bullpen, has been non reliable.  These warts became even more obvious after one of the worst teams statistically (offensively and defensively), the Minnesota Twins, came in a swept the Tigers easily.  That is just not acceptable for a team that is supposed to win the AL Central handily.  So is it now time to fire Jim Leyland? 

Leyland is not a bad manager.  Let's get that straight.  He has won a World Series, took the Tigers to a World Series and an ALCS, and the players love him.  However, he is a career .500 manager, has underachieved in Detroit at times (2008 season is the biggest example), and so far this year his decisions have led to blown games on a few occasions.  It may not be as simple as it seems.  Last year everyone was calling for his head when they started poorly.  The Tigers ended up 2 games from the World Series and may have gotten there had they not have been banged up.  Do you take the gamble?

If you fire him, who do you replace him with?  Realistically there are 2 choices.  And no, none of them consist of Joe Torre or Tony LaRussa so don't even think about it.  Not happening.

The first would be promote Lloyd McLendon as interim manager.  My opinion is if you are going to change the management, you don't do it within on an underachieving team.  That's just my opinion.  He is one of the guys in the clubhouse advising Leyland on decisions and the hitters he is responsible for coaching have struggled.  Just an FYI.

The second choice would be to reach out to ESPN and see if you can entice Terry Francona to come to Detroit.  He had a ton of success in Boston regardless of last season.  That would be the only viable option and there is no guarantee it works out.  He has the championship pedigree and is a fresh voice in the clubhouse.  Would he be enough to right the ship or is the team just flat out broken?

Sometimes, a manager's message to the team just stops getting through.  This team is definitely underachieving.  Many young players are not getting better, in fact, many are regressing (Boesch, Raburn, Porcello, Scherzer).  Is the message old and tired (I am not talking about Leyland physically) and not resonating?  If that is indeed the case then maybe a new voice is what the team needs.  We have seen it time and time again in all professional sports where a team fires the head coach/manager when they underachieve early, bring in someone new, only to take off.  The St. Louis Blues this year are a perfect example.  Different sport, I know, but the same premise.  I am not saying this is definitely the case.  I am simply saying it is something to think about.  Is Jim Leyland the biggest reason behind the Tigers' struggles or is the team really this bad?  Should he be fired?  Do the Tigers ride it out knowing the tides will change?  I am glad I am not the one making that decision.

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