David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since 1991, when he started covering New York City
Down three games to none in the World Series and betrayed by a feeble offense, the choices must have been obvious for Jim Leyland as he stared down elimination in Game 4 Sunday night.
Time to panic, right?
Well, no. The Tigers wound up by being swept out of the World Series when the Giants earned a 4-3, 10-inning victory in Game 4, but in a not-so-shocking development, Leyland refused to follow the Joe Girardi script that worked out so well for the Yankees in the ALCS (#sarcasm) and left his lineup intact against Matt Cain.
The Tigers had been terrible, losing 8-3 to the Giants in the series opener and then getting shut out twice in a row, becoming the first team to suffer that fate in a World Series since the 1966 Dodgers. Overall, they were batting .165 (15-for-91) with three extra-base hits, one home run and 24 strikeouts.
To make matters worse, Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and $214-million dud Fielder entered Game 4 in a combined 3-for-19 (.158) funk with three singles. The Tigers' troubles were reminiscent of the Yankees' power outage against them in the ALCS, but Leyland chose to sit tight and hope for the best.
"Our lineup is what it is," he said Sunday, "and we're playing in a World Series. I'm not afraid to make adjustments. But down three games to none, it's a little late for changing a lineup, I think. We're here, and that's pretty good, the fact that we're here. Now we've got to try to figure out a way to win a game."
The Tigers were a deflated bunch after a second consecutive 2-0 loss Saturday night. But with the exception of Cabrera -- who hit a two-run homer in the third inning in Game 4 -- the majority of players stuck around to discuss the gory details with reporters. Being asked to repeatedly discuss your failures is no fun. And in this series, the Tigers are getting too much practice at it.
The Yankees were stricken by an epic cold spell that they barely survived in the ALDS before getting swept in the ALCS. Perhaps what emboldened Girardi's shell-game lineup shuffling was the initial success he experienced when he pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez; Raul Ibanez came through with two homers to tie and win ALDS Game 3.
Girardi's magic touch ultimately wore off; by the end of the ALCS, all he had accomplished was to fuel the media frenzy already swirling around A-Rod.
As for Leyland, he had his own budding controversy to defuse before Game 4. He had to deal with Cabrera's decision to bolt the clubhouse the previous night and leave his teammates to handle the grim aftermath.
"I will deal with the situation and check into it," Leyland said, "because you have to be there through the good and the bad. You can't be on this podium only when you win. When we're 0-3, I've got to be up here and I'm not the happiest camper in the world. However, you have a responsibility."
Leyland didn't excuse Cabrera's behavior, but he also suggested there might have been extenuating circumstances, such as a family matter. The manager was unsure because he had yet to speak with Cabrera about it.
Initially, that didn't appear to be the case, as a smiling Cabrera was spotted leaving the clubhouse loaded down with World Series souvenirs -- and in no particular hurry once outside.
Having to discuss Cabrera's breach of conduct is part of a troubled team's daily strife. Such is the whirlpool of floating garbage that gathers around sinking teams. The Yankees became reacquainted with that unsavory endgame this October.
If Leyland's crew does go belly-up, he'll do so without the frantic scrambling the Yankees went through at the finish. In the final analysis, a loss is still a loss. But Leyland might have spared himself some future aggravation by staying the course rather than inviting the recurring headache Girardi arranged for himself.