January 27th, 2013

Highlights from Leyland at TigerFest

Jim Leyland spent a good amount of time at TigerFest trying to caution about expectations — it’s OK for fans to have them, he said more than once, but the team has to be cautious about allowing those expectations to affect them.

“Expectations are high, and they should be,” Leyland said. “We just have to make sure we don’t get caught up in that.”

In fact, he called it his second-biggest concern behind figuring out what he’s going to do to close out games.

“Don’t put any extra pressure on yourself because they expect us to win,” Leyland said. “Well, we expect to win, too, but it’s not that easy. Just don’t get caught up in all the hoopla. Just come ready to do your job each and every day, play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”

Jim Leyland talks with reporters at TigerFest

Jim Leyland talks with reporters at TigerFest

That, of course, led to another discussion on his philosophy, and some of the carryover from his reaction to fan criticism last year. Even after a deep playoff run seemingly vindicated him from the hot seat he seemingly spent all summer keeping warm, Leyland still seemed to remember some of the critiques. He brought up the topic of lineups when somebody asked him whether Torii Hunter will hit second, and about team speed and better, more aggressive baserunning.

“I get a kick out of everybody referring to me as old, old school,” Leyland said. “If you think old school is doing things right, then I’m old school. I’m proud of that. That’s not old school to me. If you do things right, that has nothing to do with old school. You do things right. You respect the game. You respect the fans. You keep them entertained. You do things the right way. It has nothing to do with being old, even though I am old. That’s just the way it is.”

Other notes from Leyland’s talk with reporters early Saturday afternoon:

  • He didn’t call the closer’s job a competition, saying again that he might tinker with Bruce Rondon and others sharing opportunities.
    “I’m not afraid to tinker with it. I’m not afraid to mix and match,” Leyland said. “You just have to be careful, because this is a real sensitive subject. We have guys that can close a game, but I’m not sure other than potentially Rondon whether we have guys that can potentially close every game. In other words, Cokey can save a game, Benoit can save a game, Dotel can save a game, but I’m not sure if any of those guys can hold up day after day, physically or mentally, and I think that you have to be careful with that. So if I have to mix and match, I’ll mix and match. I’m not afraid.”
  • Leyland indicated he might bring Victor Martinez back gradually in Spring Training to give him time to adjust to not seeing live pitching for more than a year.
  • Hitting on the discussion above, Leyland indicated that he probably won’t have that much more aggressive of a baserunning team, mainly because of the talent he had. In his explanation, he sounded a little like legendary Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula and his ability to adapt to the talent he has. “Everybody thinks they need to be more aggressive,” Leyland said. “Well, we’re aggressive by hitting doubles and homers. If we had the 1959 Chicago White Sox, I’d run, I’d squeeze, I’d bunt, I’d do all those things. But we don’t have that type of team. And to me, smart managers take the talent that they have, and the manager adjusts to the player. You don’t ask a player to adjust to the manager. The manager adjusts to the type of team you have. I mean, that’s what smart managers do, I think.”
  • Leyland on his team’s potential to manufacture offense more often: “I think on the days when you run into a real nasty pitcher and you’re probably not hit a two- or three-run homer, then we might be able to manufacture a little bit more with this team than we have in the past. But we’re still not a big basestealing, hit-and-run team. We’re not that, because we’re going to end up opening bases for guys that we don’t want to open up bases for. They’re going to end up walking them.”