Results tagged ‘ Jim Leyland ’

For Leyland, AL Central crown is personal

While the Tigers made a champagne-soaked, cigar-smelling mess of the visiting clubhouse at Oakland Coliseum, Jim Leyland was tucked away in the manager’s office, enjoying a cigar he received from closer Jose Valverde. He had his hugs from players and coaches, and he got his share from champagne spray from Carlos Guillen, Phil Coke and others.

“There was a bunch of them that nailed me,” he said.

But there in his office, with the Tigers’ first division title since 1987 now official, Leyland got a little vindication, too. And he wasn’t shy talking about it.

He looked back in amazement at what they had done, not just over the last two weeks, but over the last 4 1/2 months. They were eight games behind the Indians on May 3, and they’re up 13 1/2 games now, a 21 1/2-game turn over the course of 121 games. They went from questions whether they were already out of the division race to becoming the first team to clinch a division title this year.

And Leyland went from a manager on the speculative hot seat to a potential AL Manager of the Year candidate.

“I’m an emotional guy. We all know that,” Leyland said. “I have a very special satisfaction, personally, for obvious reasons. Probably lot of people didn’t think I’d be managing the Tigers next year at the start of the season.”

Leyland managed this season in the final year of his contract without any guarantee of an extension coming. He and team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski were under pressure to win now. When they got off to a sub-.500 start, the questions rose whether he would make it.

As mentioned, they’ve outplayed everyone else in the division by far since then, including the longest streak by a Tigers team since 1934. And several players credited Leyland’s drive with turning this into such a long streak.

“Skip’s been saying, ‘Keep your foot on the pedal, on the gas pedal and keep going at the end,” Brandon Inge said. “That’s honestly what everyone’s done. You’ve got to admire the focus that everyone’s had here coming down the stretch. Just watching Miggy, Peralta, Victor, all those guys. They just kept going and kept going and never let off. Even when you have a big lead sometimes, you tend to let up. They kept going. Those guys are unbelievable.”

So did Leyland. Friday was a chance for him to take pride in the fact that he’s still standing.

“I’ve been around a long time. I don’t think any one is more special than any other. But you always find a reason to make this one special,” Leyland said. “This one’s special for me for personal reasons.”

He was then asked whether he wanted to show something to the baseball world.

“I don’t think I want to show the baseball world,” Leyland said. “I’m just glad I’m managing the Tigers next year, when probably a lot of people thought I wouldn’t be here. It sounds kind of selfish, and maybe it is, but that’s why it’s personal.”

Was Aybar right to bunt?

There were plenty of contentious topics coming out of Sunday’s win, from what seemed like a misunderstanding from Jered Weaver over Magglio Ordonez’s home run to what looked like a threat from Justin Verlander to get Erick Aybar next year after keeping his poise on the mound all day. But one of the lingering questions was Aybar’s bunt leading off the eighth inning, and whether he violated baseball’s unwritten rulebook doing it.

Verlander tried to look at both sides, but the pitcher in him couldn’t hide his disdain for it.

“Very surprised,” Verlander said after the game. “It’s a three-run game, a close game, but there’s arguments both ways. Obviously, from a pitching standpoint, that’s kind of, we like to call it bush league. But there’s arguments both sides of it. It’s a three run game, if you get a guy on base, you never know what can happen. Those things work themselves out.”

Later, he tweaked his answer, albeit slightly.

“From a pitcher’s perspective, yes,” Verlander said when asked if that play was wrong. “From the Angels’ perspective, I doubt they feel that way. It’s a three-run game. You never know what can happen if you get a guy on base. I know there’s probably two vastly different opinions on that based on which side of the locker room you’re on right now.”

That would be correct, though both managers said Aybar had the right to try it.

“Beautiful play,” manager Jim Leyland said. “I’ll be in the minority with the people who didn’t like that, I disagree with that totally. They’ve got a good team with a lot of speed. They’re trying to win a pennant, just like we, are I don’t have any problem with that play whatsoever. He’s trying to get on base and as it turned out, it was a big play for them because that was one that got it going for them. I have no problem with that. That’s baseball. You’re supposed to play the game right. They play the game right.”

The score at the time, obviously, is the key.

“That’s a great baseball play,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “If the score’s 10-0, obviously it’s a different situation. We’re trying to get that trying run to the plate. Leading off an inning, you use whatever weapon you have.”

Closer Jose Valverde said it basically depends on which team you’re following.

“You know, it’s baseball,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do. Everything tries to do the most they can. Aybar, that’s part of his game. Everybody plays a different game. Do I like it? No, I don’t like it, because I want my guy to throw a no-hitter. But everybody plays a different game. There’s nothing you can do about that. If I play for Anaheim, I don’t like what Carlos did. But I like it, because Carlos plays on my team.”

Aybar’s response was pretty much on that point.

“That’s my game,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with that. Verlander was great today. So we tried to get back [into the game].”

Leylands will enjoy this camp

Jim Leyland has a very lucrative contract to manage the Tigers. Patrick Leyland, on the other hand, received a nice but modest signing bonus to turn pro after the Tigers drafted him last summer.

On the other hand, Patrick Leyland was traveling on business with his dad, and he wasn’t a tag-along. So when they got to the airport in Pittsburgh and had time to spare before their flight to Florida took off, it was the younger Leyland who picked up the bill for breakfast.

The skipper, old school as he is, had two eggs and hashbrowns. The son went with the wrap.

“It was cool,” Patrick Leyland said Sunday. “We just BS’ed a little bit. It was good. It’s kind of different, but it’s a cool experience, too. I don’t really look at it as flying down with the manager or anything. It’s still just dad. So I don’t read too much into it.”

Still, he admits, “It’s a cool experience, I think probably moreso for me than it is for him.”

It’s a pretty cool experience for dad, too. After more than 40 years of Spring Trainings, they should all run together. This one was different, he said, because his son is a part of it. They’re going to enjoy it as much as they can.

At some point this spring, of course, the younger Leyland won’t be part of this camp. Patrick Leyland is a teenage catcher, eight months removed from high school graduation and the draft. At some point, his dad will call him into the office and tell him he’s being sent to Minor League camp. The future is his.

Jim Leyland, on the other hand, is a veteran manager trying to put together a winning team. He’s also in the final year of his current contract. For him, the future is now.

Patrick Leyland isn’t going to let his job get in the way of his father’s. It was fitting, then, that while they walked into the clubhouse together when they arrived Saturday, they went in different directions as soon as they got through the doorway. Dad turned left and went to his old office. Son turned his right and found his locker in the other corner of the clubhouse, where the non-roster invites are put.

“He’s very busy getting his team ready, and that’s what he’s here for,” Patrick said. “He’s got a big job to do. He’s got a lot on his plate, and I’ve got a lot on mine.”

It’s the job, Patrick says, that’s the easy part of this odd situation.

“Honestly, I think that’s the thing that’s the least strange, the baseball stuff,” he said. “I mean, you’re doing it with different people, guys you’ve been around for a while that are good players. But that’s why you’re here. That’s the second nature part. Being around everyone is the part that’s kind of odd. But once you get out there, that’s kind of second nature.”

He has a simple goal.

“I just want to stay here as long as I can and pick up as much as I can,” Patrick said, “and really observe these guys that have been doing it for years and years, how they go about their daily business and that kind of stuff. Obviously developing is why you’re here, but to pick up how they handle themselves and how they go about their day is something that I definitely want to take with me.”

Pickles, pizza, fries, dancing: Welcome to the caravan

The Tigers winter caravan has gotten creative in recent years, from Magglio Ordonez checking in passengers at Detroit Metro Airport last winter to training exercises at the Detroit Fire Department’s academy a couple years ago. This year, the Tigers have some other diversions in store.

Ordonez, who served coffee at a local Starbucks to raise money for charity a couple years ago, will be serving french fries at a local McDonald’s with Jose Valverde. A dance-off at the Compas Artistic Center in Southwest Detroit will pit Valverde (presumably not doing his closer dance) against Tigers broadcaster Rod Allen and others (Magglio, perhaps?). Other players will be serving pizza to the homeless as part of the 25th anniversary of the Little Caesars Love Kitchen. Another bus will take players to the Hausbeck Pickle and Peppers plant in Saginaw.
This year’s caravan runs Thursday and Friday, Jan. 20-21, ahead of TigerFest on Jan. 22. With TigerFest sold out, the caravan might be the one way left for local fans without TigerFest tickets to run into their favorite players. Look for more details in a few days. 
There’s also a non-caravan event with Mud Hens Fandemonium on Wednesday, Jan. 19, which will include Jim Leyland and Rick Porcello. Tickets for that event are still on sale at mudhens.com.

Leyland: Foster said I spit on him

Obviously, the no-hitter is the big story coming out of Tropicana Filed last night. But for Tigers fans, there’s yet another chapter in the ongoing saga of Jim Leyland and umpires, and it was uglier than the blown call in the would-be perfect game or the blown call that ended a game at Atlanta.

This time, Marty Foster’s blown call on a B.J. Upton stolen base brought Leyland out of the dugout in a huff. But it was a Foster accusation that really set him off.
“He accused me of something I didn’t do, and that ticked me off,” Leyland said, “and that’s what got me going. I had some sunflower seeds in [my mouth] when I was talking. Some sprayed on him, and he indicated that I deliberately spit on him, and I’m not going to take that from anybody. I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to take that kind of accusation from anybody. That’s a blatant lie.
“Now, did some of the sunflower seeds spray on his shirt? Yes, they did, without any question. [But] I don’t even spit on the ground. But I’m not going to take that. I’m tired of protecting umpires, tired of not being able to say anything. I’m defending myself. If they want to kick me out, that’s fine, I don’t care about that, because [seeds] sprayed on his shirt. But when you start accusing somebody of deliberately doing something, you better be careful. 
“I don’t give a care what [Foster] says, and I don’t give a care about what anybody else thinks when they read it in the [Commissioner's] office. I’m tired of not saying anything. I don’t care that he missed the play. That’s part of the game. When you make an accusation that’s a total, blatant lie, that’s upsetting to me.”
Keep in mind, this is the same umpiring crew that handed Leyland his other ejection during that series in Atlanta June 27, the day after crew chief Gary Cederstrom rang up Johnny Damon on strike three to strand the tying run on third with a pitch that was clearly outside on replay.
That reaction is likely to get a reaction of some sort from the Commissioner’s office, even if Leyland is one of the prime figures on the 14-person Special Committee for On-Field Matters that the Commissioner put together to look at ways to improve the game. 
“I asked [Foster] if he was going to write me up,” Leyland said. “He said, ‘You spit on me.’ I said, ‘You mean to tell me that you’re going to write up that I deliberately spit on you?’ He said yes. I said, ‘Well that’s a blatant lie.’ I’m tired of protecting them, worrying about what you should say and what you can’t say. I don’t care that he missed the play. I don’t care that he threw me out. But when you make accusations like that, I’m not going to accept that. That’s a blatant lie. I don’t even spit on the ground. That’s a serious accusation, and I’m not going to accept that.
“I don’t know what they’re going to do, and I don’t give a care. They can do whatever they want to do. I’m tired of it. I don’t care that they missed the play. That’s part of the game. I don’t care that he ran me. That’s part of the game.”

Leyland the recruiter? Well, sort of

The White Sox had A.J. Pierzynski and Hawk Harrelson to give their pitch to Johnny Damon on the golf course. The Tigers had manager Jim Leyland … sort of.

It wasn’t a recruiting pitch on the phone, but it was Leyland who had what was believed to be the one bit of direct contact between Damon and the Tigers. It was 15-minute phone call late last week at the suggestion of Dave Dombrowski and Scott Boras, and it was a simple conversation about how Leyland saw Damon fitting on the club.

“I don’t think in any way, shape or form I had a factor in his decision,” Leyland said Monday morning. “But we had a very honest conversation.”

At the end of the conversation, Leyland said he told Damon that he had to do what’s best for him. That ended up being the Tigers, but Leyland isn’t going anywhere near the credit for the signing.

“I ‘d have to say that Mr. Ilitch was quite a bit more influential to Johnny Damon than Jim Leyland was,” Leyland said.

Line of the day: Justin Verlander

It isn’t really a line so much as a proclamation, or a challenge, or just Verlander being competitive. But Verlander is calling it: He’s going to be perfect in PFP for the rest of camp, or at least when Jim Leyland is hitting PFP to him.

I can’t make this up.

“He won’t get me anymore this spring,” Verlander said, for quotation, Saturday afternoon. “He will not get another one past me.”

This came after Leyland got his second ground ball past him in as many days, and made no secret about it.

On Friday, the Tigers’ first workout, Leyland was crowing after putting some spin on a ball or two to get past Verlander. On Saturday, Verlander’s 27th birthday, Verlander called Leyland over to the PFP field to hit him some grounders.

Not only was Verlander bragging about being perfect himself, he pointed out that his entire group was perfect, including Zach Miner and Ryan Perry. Then Leyland put a sharp ground ball through the 5-hole on Verlander.

Seconds later, Leyland got one past Miner. But it was Verlander’s miscue that was the big deal.

“I got him two days in a row,” Leyland said. “We’ve only been here two days. I got him both days.”

Verlander is competitive, all right. But so is Leyland.

“He’s smart, though,” Leyland said of his ace. “There won’t be anything at stake until he goes perfect.”

Leyland, Sizemore slated for Mud Hens Fandemonium

The Tigers haven’t announced the final list of players for their upcoming winter caravan and TigerFest, but one lead-up event already has its slate set. The Mud Hens will hold their annual Fandemonium event, this time in conjunction with hockey’s Toledo Walleye, on Wednesday, Jan. 20 at the new Lucas County Arena in downtown Toledo.

Once again, Tigers manager and Perrysburg, Ohio native Jim Leyland is on the roster of guests. His third-base coach, Gene Lamont, is also on the list. All of the listed players were key contributors at some point in Toledo during the season and have a chance to make the big club in Detroit: second baseman Scott Sizemore, Eddie Bonine, Jeff Larish and Don Kelly. Mud Hens pitching coach A.J. Sager is also scheduled to take part.

This year’s event is again a buffet dinner format that will include a baseball or hockey celebrity at each table, a speech from Leyland, a Q&A session and a live auction. Dinner tickets cost $20 for adults and $15 for kids age 12 and under. For those who want to skip the dinner, there’s an $8 general admission ticket that includes Leyland’s speech, the Q&A session, live auction and Walleye player autographs.

Tickets are available at mudhens.com or by calling 419-725-HENS.

Leyland places 6th in AL Manager of the Year voting

Jim Leyland received two third-place votes out of 28 ballots for American League Manager of the Year from members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Angels skipper Mike Scioscia, for whom Leyland has been outspoken in admiration, won the award with 15 first-place votes. Minnesota’s Ron Gardenhire was the runner-up, following by World Series champion Joe Girardi, Seattle’s Don Wakamatsu and Texas’ Ron Washington.

Bonderman, Mac suspended, Mijares only fined

Suspensions and fines just came down from Thursday’s hijinks between the Twins and Tigers, and the only suspensions are on the Tigers side. Jeremy Bonderman received three games, which he immediately decided to appeal. Hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, who was acting manager when Bonderman hit Delmon Young with a ninth-inning pitch, was suspended one game, even though he wasn’t thrown out of the game. He can’t appeal, so he’s out for tonight’s game. Bonderman was fined $1500, McClendon $1000, and manager Jim Leyland (ejected earlier in the game) and catcher Gerald Laird (ejected along with Bonderman) were fined $500 each.

Jose Mijares, whom the Twins and Tigers blamed for escalating matters when he threw behind Adam Everett in the eighth, was fined but not suspended.

Former Tiger Bobby Higginson was not at the park and was neither fined nor suspended.

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