Leyland discusses “punch to the gut”
The Mud Hens’ annual Fandemonium event isn’t officially part of the Tigers’ winter caravan, but it’s really the unofficial start for the media, since it usually features manager Jim Leyland and some players in a less formal setting than the larger-scale rallies and interviews that go on later in the week. Not surprisingly, Leyland was the highlight in wake of Tuesday’s news about Victor Martinez’s season-ending knee injury.
Leyland touched on a lot of topics, the vast majority of them revolving around the Martinez situation and what the Tigers do now. The overriding theme was that Leyland is trying to stay positive, as he did earlier in the day in an interview with MLB Network Radio on Sirius/XM.
“I don’t want to downplay it, but I’m positive,” he said later at Fandemonium. “I feel good about our team, and this is something where we have to make the adjustment and go forward. We have a good team.”
If the logistics allow, he plans on talking with the team at some point during this caravan about it.
“It’s always a catch-22 when you’re management. You don’t want to downplay the loss of Victor Martinez, but you don’t want to prey on that either all the time,” Leyland said. “I was thinking coming down here, during this caravan, I don’t know how it’s all going to work out, but just having a meeting: ‘Look, we’re going to discuss this today, and after this, I don’t want to discuss this anymore. And I don’t want to downplay Victor, but I want to get the message across: Look, fellas, this is the way it is. We can take a punch.
I wrote a lengthy article here, but couldn’t get to everything, so here’s the roundup:
- On how he found out: “I got a call a couple days ago from Dave [Dombrowski]. He said, ‘How are you doing,’ and I could tell something wasn’t right. I said I’m fine, and he said, ‘Well, you’re not going to be doing too good. Are you sitting down?’ … I was in my car with my duahgter and my wife at Kent State.”
- On his reaction: “To me, I think Dave put it well: It’s a punch in the gut. But if you want to stay in the fight, you take a punch. We can take a punch. We took the Delmon punch last year, the Magglio punch last year, the Victor punch last year. We had guys hurt. If you can’t take a punch, then you don’t belong in the fight.”
- On moving on from it: “It’s something you just do the best you can with. I think you don’t beat around the bushes when you comment on it. Most likely, it’s a total shot in the dark you’re going to find somebody as good as Victor Martinez. Let’s face it. So if you say it’s not gonna hurt us, you’re lying. This guy’s one of the best clutch hitters in baseball, one of the best two-strike hitters in baseball, he’s one of the best run producers in baseball really without the big-time home run power. So you’re most likely not going to replace that.”
- On filling the spot: “I don’t know. This is so, so fresh, this hasn’t really set in yet. so I don’t know what’s going to happen. You think about it, there are some options probably outside [the organization], and there are some options that would be possibly hitter-type still not a lot of speed. There might be some speed out there that you might make adjustments with some personnel on your team and put them into that role or fool with that role. But I think we just want to look at it internally first.”
- On the abundance of hitters on the market: “There are a lot of names out there. I’ll say that. How good they produce anymore, I don’t know. And I always ultimately leave that up to Dave. We’ve already had some discussions, I won’t say who they are, of some guys internally. We’ve had some discussions about some guys outside the organization. … I imagine there are a lot of agents that called Dave Dombrowski yesterday. All of a sudden there were a lot of guys that wanted to play in Detroit.”
- On agents: “I did have an agent call me today about a player, which is rare. That’s not really my area, and I basically told him that. I was very respectful, but I told him I’ll pass that name along to Dave and I’m sure we’ll discuss it.”
- On whether it’s easier to fill void at DH: “I don’t know that it’s a DH spot we’re trying to fill. I think that’s part of the puzzle here. Do you take something you already have and put them in that role and pick up a position player to play more? That’s what I’m saying. It’s all premature right now. If we were saying, hey, we’re just going after a DH-type guy, then that’s one thing. But that’s not necessarily the way it could end up. It might, but it might not.”
- Are they focusing on short-term options: “If you’re asking me if we’re going to go out and sign some guy for three years, I would doubt that. But I don’t want to speak for Dave on that. That’s his area. Dave, he’s smart. He talked about some names already, but he’s not going to panic. He’s going to do his homework. When this happens, you just don’t go out the next day and sign some guy. There’s all kinds of things that are involved in that, what kind of physical condition [players are in]. You just have to be patient, and that’s one thing about Dave, he’s relentless when it comes to this kind of stuff. And we’ll come up with something. Maybe we do have something internally, I don’t know. Maybe we do. I’m not saying we don’t. We’ll look at that. But everybody has to remember, you’re not going to sign Victor Martinez, and you’re not going to find him internally, most likely. I mean, you’re kidding yourself. I think I would make myself look dumb to say, ‘Don’t worry about it, we’ve got another Victor.’ We’re not going to find another Victor, most likely. That’s a total shot in the dark.”