Thursday, October 17, 2013

Is Jim Leyland a genius?

Detroit Tigers manger Jim Leyland, faced with a must win game four in the 2013 ALCS, made a huge move. Not so much in who would play the game but in the better in which the would hit. Leyland is a stubborn old baseball guy, he likes to stick with the guys that got him there but a change at the top of the order was needed. Austin Jackson hitting lead off was bating just 0.77 with five strikeouts during the ALCS. Simply put not good enough. Leyland dropped him to 8th, and basically moved everyone else up a spot.

The Tigers responded. The belted out nine hits, but better yet they scored 7 runs. Jackson came up with a key situation early, bases loaded and took a four ball walk to get an RBI. Jackson would finish the game with 2 walks, 2 hits, and 2 RBI. Torii Hunter batted lead off and set the table for the high octane Tigers offense with a hit and 2 RBI.

There is no question that this was the right move, the Tigers won and that is how history is going to remember it. However, should Leyland have made this move for game three?  If he had would the Tigers be up 3-1 with a chance to shut this series out tonight? Had he made this move one day sooner would the Tigers not have wasted Justin Verlander's 8 inning, one earned run, 10 strike out performance?

Again there is litle doubt that Leyland made the right move. It was a tough situation because it is not as if any other Tigers players is really lighting things up right now. Good managers know how to get the best out of what they have, and one has to wonder if Leyland is always capable of that.

Game three was not a must win, certainly not as much as game four was. However, I learned an important lesson from the sports coaches I most admire and respect and that is you do whatever you can do win the game today. There are no throw away games, and that is more true in the post season. We have to wonder if this move came one day late. Granted if the Tigers win the ALCS it will be a question lost to history but if they fall short this might be the question that most needs answering.

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