The hubbub over the handshake
By now, you know the deal with Jim Leyland and his handshakes. It’s his way of congratulating his starting pitcher on a good effort. If he gives his starter a handshake on his way into the dugout at the end of an inning, he’s done. It’s the way to tell whether the Tigers are going to the bullpen for the next inning.
The Tigers starters obviously know it, too. On Friday, Justin Verlander tried to circumvent the system, as he put it. His manager didn’t take too kindly to it.
Verlander had just thrown a seven-pitch seventh inning and had 108 pitches on the night. That was clearly enough for Leyland, who was waiting at the dugout steps to greet him like he always does. Verlander was headed that way when he took a right turn and swerves towards the other dugout steps.
“Leyland always stands right there at the end of the stairs,” Verlander said. “He put me back out for the seventh, and I only threw like four or five pitches, so I tried to circumvent the system, and not get the customary handshake that you’re done. So I tried to go the other way and sneak around him, but he was too quick for me and caught me at the bottom of those stairs anyway.”
He was smiling about it. It didn’t become apparent until after the game that Leyland didn’t find it funny.
“You might think that was comical,” Leyland said, “but I don’t think that was comical at all.”
That was all Leyland wanted to say about it, apparently realizing what kind of attention that was about to bring.
“I’m not getting into that,” Leyland said a minute later. “I’ve made my statement about that. Let’s move on. I’m not talking about silly stuff. Let’s talk about baseball.”
Leyland, of course, does his postgame interview before Verlander. When Leyland’s reaction was relayed to Verlander, you could see Verlander genuinely surprised.
“If he wants to be mad, he can be mad,” Verlander said, “but I mean, I wanted to stay in the game. I had a quick inning and I wasn’t trying to play a joke on him. I just wanted to stay in the game. You know he always stands there and sticks out his hand so I figured if I snuck around him he’d let me go back out there.”
If Verlander was trying to send a message, Leyland sent his.