Tigers' Jim Leyland remains 'old school'
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Jim Leyland's left shoe was untied and slapping against the concrete floor and his right rear pocket was pulled inside out so it stuck out like a bunny's tail when he walked into his news conference before ALCS Game 1 at Yankee Stadium Saturday night.
Leyland, the Tigers' 67-year-old manager, presents quite a contrast with the meticulous and corporate Yankees manager who preceded him in the interview room Saturday. Leyland, who landed his first minor-league coaching job when Joe Girardi was in first grade, is the epitome of old school. He smokes cigarettes, speaks in double negatives and loves to employ colloquialisms such as "that's yesterday's breakfast" when asked questions about subjects he thinks aren't important.
Leyland often professes not to know the advanced metrics that dominate his profession these days. He makes decisions on feel as much as numbers. This is something the 47-year-old Girardi is just starting to do this postseason, making gutsy calls such as pinch hitting for Alex Rodriguez twice.
Fans have done their fair share of groaning and second-guessing Leyland's lineups and the way he uses his bullpen, but he hasn't had a whole lot of trouble getting his young clubhouse to buy into his old-school ways. Superstar Miguel Cabrera even went to bat for his manager recently during an autograph signing at U.S. Celluar Field in Chicago.
A Tigers fan appeared at the signing with a poster board that said "Fire Leyland" on it and began to badger Cabrera about Leyland. Cabrera took the sign, tucked it under his arm and continued to sign autographs.
In fact, more than a few of his players have credited Leyland with helping them stay together during a challenging end of the season and ALDS. The Tigers won eight of their final 10 games of the regular season to overtake the White Sox for the AL Central title. They then managed to advance to their second consecutive ALCS, beating the A's in five games after blowing a two-game lead.
Leyland is on a one-year contract, and there has been a lot of pressure for the Tigers to make a change for next year. His players, however, say that pressure has never trickled into their clubhouse.
"There hasn't been much drama within the clubhouse or anything like that, despite times during the year where we've been inconsistent," catcher Alex Avila told Detroit reporters. "I think that's a credit to him and the staff we have. That's why I think there's been no sense of panic here. It's a pretty level-headed club, and that starts with Skip and the coaching staff."