For the entirety of the 2012 Detroit Tigers season, I have been texting back-and-forth with a friend of mine about the team’s performance.
He usually starts the conversation with a text about how frustrated he is with this team, then I talk him off the ledge. I’ve maintained all year that the Tigers are too good to not winning the division. I could see them winning by default because the rest of the division is terrible.
For the last five months, I’ve tried to stay reasonable.
But after last night’s game against the lowly Cleveland Indians, I can’t do it any longer.
In case you missed it (or you just don’t give a shit about the Tigers) Jim Leyland benched arguably his hottest hitter, Delmon Young, in favor of super utility player and Leyland favorite, Don Kelly.
Kelly is batting .179 this season.
Let me repeat that: .179.
That is nearly 100 points less than Young, who, according to Motor City Bengals, is batting .362 in his last 12 games. In short, he’s been raking it.
Plus, WHY WOULD YOU INSERT SOMEBODY IN THE LINEUP WHO IS BATTING .179 IN THE HEAT OF THE PLAYOFF RACE!?
(That felt good.)
It’s now the day after and I still cannot come up with one good reason why Leyland put Young and his hot bat (and his mustache) on the bench, then refused to pinch hit him when the opportunity called for it.
Instead, he chose Avisail Garcia and his seven career at-bats, while Young continued to languish on the pine.
Since Jim Leyland became manager of the Detroit Tigers in 2006, his gut has been lauded for many decisions that, while they seemed strange on paper, turned out well in the course of a baseball game.
Some thought it was his years of managerial experience. Others thought he just possessed a knack for the game.
Either way, you had to sit in awe at this man’s ability to pick the right players to perform on the right nights.
Numbers be damned, Leyland managed by his gut, and his gut rarely let him down.
But in 2012, we’re starting to witness the downfall of the gut decision, and the decision to bench Young (who had a poor career record against Cleveland start, Justin Masterson) was a prime example.
As I mentioned above, when you’re in the heat of a pennant race, you stick with the girl you brought to the prom, regardless of how poor their numbers are against certain pitchers. If a guy is on a tear, you stick with him until he’s spent. You can’t afford to take a chance on a guy batting below the Mendoza Line to contribute.
The games are too important at this stage of the season; the stakes too high.
For the past five+ years, we’ve watched Leyland nearly deliver this city the World Series championship it has yearned for since Kirk Gibson & Co. beat the San Diego Padres in 1984.
For a while, it seemed certain the drought would end, but now, we’re not so certain.
It seems he’s lost his touch. He’s having a hard time pushing the right buttons. And when he does press the right one, another button, somewhere else on the keyboard, pops back into place, negating the pressure of the other button.
We, as Detroit Tiger fans, have little room to complain about the team’s performance. After all, would you rather the baseball we were forced to endure through the 90’s and half of the 2000s?
No. Of course not.
But on a night in September, when the games matter, we deserve to see the best team the manager can put on the field.
If the manager can’t do that, then maybe it’s time for a change.