Coke: “I’m not ready to go home yet”

Phil Coke kisses the ball that got him the final out of Game 5. (Getty Images)

Phil Coke kisses the ball that got him the final out of Game 5. (Getty Images)

Not surprisingly, Phil Coke was going crazy in the bullpen while the Tigers were rallying ahead in the sixth inning. He had a good view when Delmon Young’s home run completed the natural cycle and put the Tigers up 6-2. He wasn’t thinking about the ninth inning at that point, or the eighth for that matter, or whenever he would have to close.

When he did, he thought back to Tampa Bay.

The one save Coke recorded this year was a two-inning, 51-pitch marathon Aug. 23 at Tropicana Field that required him to finish off the Rays once the Tigers took the lead in the seventh. The headline was Brad Penny outpitching David Price, but Coke was the finishing act, stranding the tying run at third and winning run at second with a Ben Zobrist groundout.

When he got the call Thursday once another Nelson Cruz home run whittled Detroit’s lead to 7-4, that Rays save was his most recent experience. It helped balance the nerves a little.

“Yeah, it played out in my mind right after I got told I was going to close the game, when I went out for batting practice,” Coke said. “I was like, OK, I can do that. I’ve done it. I know what it’s going to take. Let’s do it. I wasn’t really nervous or anything.”

That was key. Of course, he didn’t have any cause for nerves until two hits and a walk turned the final out of his five-out save into a chore, with the potential tying run on base and Mike Napoli at bat.

“I have a personal history of overthinking things and getting myself into trouble,” Coke said. “I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to be the reason why we were packing up and going home. I wasn’t OK with it.”

He stayed aggressive with Napoli, and ended up with the ground ball he needed to finish off the Rangers and send the ALCS back to Texas for Game 6.

He was close to nerves, but not quite there.

“If I had walked Napoli, it probably would’ve been a different story,” Coke said. But at the same time, I wasn’t giving in. I didn’t care who had the bat in their hand. I wasn’t giving in. I mean, I was doing everything I could, and I wanted to have something to do in forcing this to another game. I don’t want to go home yet. I’m not ready to go home yet.”

14 Comments

Another great game. The Rangers were not giving up. JV struck out Cruz earlier on that same fastball I believe. Anyway, How about that Delmon Young? Coke looked a little scary but so has Valverde. We got the win. I will save my comments on Leyland until November. Go Tigers! –Dave

Wow, what a win last night. We sure do like to live and die by the long-ball. Hard to those homeruns by Delmon – I guess fate played a funny role in having Maggs get hurt so badly that Delmon got back on the roster. And VMart hitting a triple? These guys are doing all they can to win and for that they get a ton of credit. I saw/listened to the start and the end and taped the middle. I knew the outcome so just got a chance to fastforward to see how we scored, that is a great way to watch a game – much less stress! But then I miss all those lovely comments by the dynamic duo.

I have to laugh, I truly can’t stand AJ Piercynski (I know I spelled that wrong) when playing against him, but love how overly favored he is towards the Tiger team. He seems to just gush over those guys, must be from playing us so much more than Texas.

I watched the game at the local sports bar after work around 5:30, There was enough noise so we could hardly hear the dynamic duo. One thing we all heard was when they went over and over about a ceertain play. We all looked at each other and said, “yeah, we all saw it happen and also the many replays”. Then on MLB network they had Dan Dickerson’s voice call the homerun by Delmon.

about the dynamic duo —- why doesn’t fox/tbs use 1 hometown FSN announcer from each team, and then 1 “non biased” knucklehead to sit between them? I mean, they’re all professionals and should be able to call a game together. Currently they have two guys who know very little about the either team…..

That’s a good point, Evan. Fox has used some local announcers during the Saturday games this season, such as Rod Allen, Mario Impemba, and Bert Blyleven. Their postseason coverage is lacking that. Of course, not all teams are carried by a Fox affiliate. There are some Comcast stations, MASN in the mid-Atlantic states, and YES and NESN. Sometimes it does seem that Joe and Tim work for the latter two, however.
Really it’s all in the homework. A good anouncer will be prepared. Back in 2005, the Tigers played a series against the Dodgers and I learned stuff about the Tigers from Vin Scully that even I hadn’t known. That guy is good. Joe Buck is a pretty good NFL announcer but McCarver’s time is past, if he ever had a time. Maybe it’s just my take, but I think Joe is really enjoying our series.

Can’t read that without the Insider subscription. You’d have to copy and paste it in here.

When Lou Piniella stepped down as manager of the Chicago Cubs last summer, he was greeted with a spate of articles from smart people suggesting that he was bound for the Hall of Fame, not to mention tributes to his famous temper. Jim Leyland might lack Piniella’s signature flair for the dramatic base toss or hat kick, but he can light up a postgame news conference as well as Piniella ever did, and he’s always been known to get his money’s worth out of the umpires.

More to the point, with the spotlight shining on him thanks to the Detroit Tigers’ postseason run, the 66-year-old skipper’s own Hall of Fame candidacy looks even stronger than Piniella’s, not to mention many of his peers’.

Leyland’s résumé starts with the fact that he’s one of just eight managers to win pennants in both leagues, with the 1997 Marlins (who won the World Series) and 2006 Tigers (who lost). Of the other seven — Sparky Andeson, Yogi Berra, Alvin Dark, Whitey Herzog, Tony La Russa, Joe McCarthy and Dick Williams — all but Dark are either enshrined in Cooperstown or will be. Berra, who earned his bronze plaque as a three-time MVP catcher, managed just seven seasons, Dark just 13; the cases of the other four certainly aren’t hurt by that accomplishment.

In 20 seasons managing the Pittsburgh Pirates, Florida Marlins, Colorado Rockies and Tigers, Leyland has racked up 1,588 wins, good for 18th all time. In that category, Leyland leads Hall of Famers Williams (1,571), Earl Weaver (1,480), Miller Huggins (1,413), Al Lopez (1,410) and Herzog (1,281), as well as several others enshrined more for their playing skills than their managerial ones. Eleven Hall of Famers have more wins, as do La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre, who are all bound for Cooperstown. Only Gene Mauch (1,902), Piniella (1,835) and Ralph Houk (1,619) have more wins but are on the outside looking in. Leyland will bypass Houk next season.

Leyland’s winning percentage is his weak spot. He’s just over .500 for his career and ranks higher in the all-time loss column (14th) than the win column. Yet Connie Mack (217 games under .500), Bucky Harris (61 games under) and Wilbert Robinson (one game over) all gained entry with less daylight between their win and loss totals, with the first two managing at least 1,200 more games. For perspective, it’s important to understand the peaks and valleys of the careers that produced those figures.

Mack, who also owned the Philadelphia A’s, managed for 53 years, finishing in last place 17 times while winning nine pennants and five championships. He had no qualms about selling off his expensive stars and settling into the basement, as he did for seven straight seasons following the A’s 1910-1914 run of four pennants and three titles. Harris won a World Series in his first year with the Washington Senators in 1924 and a pennant in the second but oversaw 13 sub-.500 squads among four different franchises before winning again with the Yankees in 1947. Robertson won pennants with the 1916 and 1920 Brooklyn Dodgers, who finished under .500 more often than not during his tenure due to their shoestring budget.

Leyland’s story isn’t too dissimilar. A minor league catcher (1964-1970) and skipper (1972-1981) in the Tigers’ chain, he spent four seasons (1982-1985) as La Russa’s third-base coach with the White Sox before taking the Pirates job in 1986. He lost 98 games in his first season — an improvement from 104 the year before — with a 21-year-old rookie center fielder who hit .223/.330/.416. That rookie, Barry Bonds, would win a pair of MVP awards as he helped the Pirates take three straight NL East flags while averaging 96 wins from 1990-1992. Alas, the Pirates lost all three NL Championship Series, falling to Piniella’s Reds in six games in 1990, then to Cox’s Braves in seven games in 1991 and 1992. The latter was most agonizing; up 2-0 in the ninth inning of Game 7, flagging starter Doug Drabek and closer Stan Belinda surrendered three runs, the last two when Francisco Cabrera’s two-out, pinch-hit double plated David Justice and Sid Bream.

Despite falling one out shy of a pennant, the Bucs lacked the bucks to retain Bonds and others who departed as free agents that winter. Stripped of his stars, Leyland stuck around Pittsburgh for the first four seasons of what’s now a 19-year run of sub-.500 futility before escaping to Florida in 1997. In Leyland’s first year, Florida won 92 games, the NL wild card, and a thrilling World Series against the Indians that went to Game 7. But after owner Wayne Huizenga forced a fire sale and left the Marlins without many of the key players from the World Series club, Leyland resigned in disgust following a dismal 54-108 season. Remove that season from Leyland’s career, and his winning percentage jumps to .509, alarmingly similar to Casey Stengel’s (.508).

Leyland spent one undistinguished year managing the Rockies before departing the dugout for a six-year hiatus, during which he scouted for La Russa’s Cardinals. Hired in Detroit three years after the team had lost a near-record 119 games, Leyland led the 2006 Tigers not only to 95 wins but the franchise’s first winning season since 1993, their first playoff appearance since 1987, and their first pennant since 1984. The Tigers have finished above .500 in three of the five seasons since, and at .500 once; all told, their .533 winning percentage under Leyland ranks fifth behind the New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels. The major blemish is the 2009 team squandering a seven-game September lead and losing a play-in game, one not helped by star Miguel Cabrera being arrest for an alcohol-related domestic violence incident the night before.

In all, Leyland has gone to the playoffs six times with three different teams; among contemporaries, only Cox (16), Torre (15), La Russa (14), and Piniella (7) have more; Ron Gardenhire, Charlie Manuel and Mike Scioscia have as many, and of the last four, only Manuel has two pennants. Leyland won’t last long enough to equal the slam-dunk Cooperstown credentials of the first three. But considering at least half a dozen of Leyland’s seasons were spent with teams hampered by incompetent management, the strength of what Leyland has done with the remainder of his time suggests a manager worthy of the Hall of Fame.
-Jay Jaffe from ESPN

Thanks for posting it, Evan.
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Interesting article. It would appear that longevity is the main criteria. That would get JL in. His W-L record and the way he quit Colorado work against him. I’m not actually a big fan of managers in the Hall of Fame because there’s too much of a disconnect between the first half of the 20th century and the second half and beyond. The overall criteria for HoF induction has changed for players. Many of the earlier inductees wouldn’t make it in this day and age. Ross Youngs is one example. All I know for sure is that I wouldn’t lose any sleep over whether JL makes it or not.

Also, and I hate to bring this up, but how many managers were stacked with players on PED’s during the 80′s, 90′s and beyond.

ZZZzzzzzzzzzzz…….

Well here we go folks.
Can we win games 6 and 7 on foreign solil like we did in 1968?
The Rangers have Colby Lewis scheduled for game 7 and we have Fister.
I would not be shocked to see Ogando throw that game if we were fortunate enough to kick the Rangers’ butts today (a la game #6 in ’68) and keep Ogando out of this game.
Regardless, there will be a time that we will be facing him and needing to score runs off him.
Don’t know about anybody else but I’m realy tired of hearing how Austin Jackson has “fixed” or is “working” on his leg kick. How many legs does this guy have? How hard is it to lift your leg and put it back down? Most players have a problem with their mechanics and then they correct it. But the same problem over and over is a bit ridiculous. There is a bigger problem there than a “leg kick” going on. One that might be about 6 feet away from lead foot. That’s what McLendon needs to be working on.
We need some surprise contributions today. Inge, Ramon Avila and in a sense, VMart. If some of these guys can come through to help out that would be great.

You are right, Dan, about Ogando. I was thinking the same thing. Will be interesting to see how the game unfolds and whether Washington goes to Ogando if today’s game hangs in the balance or whether he is considering him for a possible start tomorrow. I think he would be foolish to not start him Sunday given our struggles against him. It would have been nice to have had a little success against him this year.

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