Tigers must get back to basics/Paul Peterson
The resignation of Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland this week is being viewed favorably and unfavorably by fans.
But whatever your opinion of the former Tigers skipper is, one thing is clear: This team must get back to the basics.
Watch the World Series this week and you will see exactly what I’m getting at.
While not as talented as the Tigers, the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals play the game the way it was intended to be played.
That means laying down a bunt when the situation calls for it. Taking an extra base when it’s there.
And running the bases wisely – not like Detroit’s Prince Fielder, whose zany antics on the base paths could serve as a manual on how not to do that phase of the game.
In other words, executing the fundamentals of the game.
The teams that win championship are fundamentally sound, something Leyland could never seem to get through to his group of overpaid superstars.
Reserves Ramon Santiago and Don Kelly were really the only Tigers who could lay down a bunt correctly. And they didn’t play enough to have that much of an impact on a game.
Speaking of Fielder, nicknamed by some fans the “Jolly Jester” because of his laissez-faire attitude during many games, is another problem that has to be dealt with.
The next manager will have to sit him down and insist that he play whatever role is asked of him. If that means being the designated hitter (probably his true position) then so be it.
Leyland steadfastly refused to even run for Fielder in a late-inning situations because of the gloves-off persona he was apparently granted by Detroit management after signing that preposterous nine-year contract.
Personally, I would try to trade him. But the only team that might even consider taking on that hefty salary is probably the New York Yankees. New York is always looking for a headliner, and their short porch in right field is tailored for his swing.
The Tigers led the majors in hitting this past season and had six All-Stars. They featured the presumptive Cy Young winner in Max Scherzer and possessed the top starting rotation in baseball.
Yet, they finished one game ahead of the Cleveland Indians, a team with one tenth of the payroll and maybe a third of the talent.
Their fadeout in the AL playoffs was even more disturbing. Leyland’s blunder of taking out Scherzer in Game 2 very likely cost the team a berth in the World Series because a 2-0 lead going back to Detroit for the next three would have been gold.
And don’t believe that pitch count baloney, Scherzer still had plenty left in his tank.
If the Tigers hire a no-nonsense manager like Joe Maddon of Tampa Bay, we’ll probably be talking about a World Series title at this time next year.
All the ingredients are present in Motown … they just need stirring.