There’s no computer on his desk. Jim Leyland doesn’t spend a lot of time looking at spreadsheets and percentages. He is not a numbers cruncher and he probably wouldn’t last long in a room with Bill James, Billy Beane, and Theo Epstein. He’d be gone even quicker if they were gathered in a non-smoking room. Leyland’s got to have his Marlboros.
Like Earl Weaver, Leyland never made it to the big leagues as a ballplayer. He never hit higher than .243 and never made it to Triple A. But now he’s managing in the World Series for the second time in 10 years and he’s more popular in Motown than Aretha or Eminem. There are billboards in Detroit urging Leyland to run for governor of Michigan.
There’s nothing political about Leyland. He wasn’t afraid to stand up to Barry Bonds when he managed the Pirates and he’s not worried about hurting players’ feelings when he makes decisions with the 2006 Tigers. He doesn’t have a Francona bone in his body. He’s a manager, not a baby sitter. If Manny RamÃrez quit on him, he’d call him out.
Indeed, Leyland made a terrific lasting impression on Barry Bonds. Who knows what a shitty teammate and worse human being the Sultan Of Surly might’ve turned into, were it not for the early guidance of this great baseball mind?
Of course, not everyone is so quick to lavish praise on what would otherwise be Leyland’s big night. Echoing Bad Altitude’s comments from earlier this week, the Rocky Mountain News’ Dave Kreiger has had enough of the platitudes foisted upon the former Rockies manager.
Leyland as a working-class hero? If you carry a Colorado driver’s license, you know better.
The unvarnished truth is we know Jim Leyland as a quitter.
Working-class heroes don’t claim burnout and walk away from their commitments. For one thing, they can’t afford to. Working-class heroes are seldom millionaires. They don’t have the luxury of deciding they’re sick of their jobs.
Burnout is almost always an indulgence of the rich. It’s not that other people don’t get it.
Unless you’re self-employed, and maybe even then, you probably have a hard case or two nearby. But they soldier on because they have to.
Leyland didn’t have to. So when he came to Colorado and found himself unfulfilled or unhappy or something, he quit. He made a three-year commitment and walked away after one.
He doesn’t like to talk about it. It’s an imposition to make him recall this dark period.
When he does, he says things like, “I think I tiptoed into Colorado, and in Detroit I ran in,” as he told ESPN earlier this year.
I don’t even know what that means, but as an explanation for breaking his word, evidently it works for him.
(pic taken from Pat Appleson Studios, without permission)
While the choice of Bob Seger (above, far right) to sing the National Anthem before tonight’s World Series Game 1 (predicted in this space just a few days ago) has provided easy titters for those with short memories, here’s hoping Bob busts out an improbable “2+2=?” / “American Storm” medley.