After leading the Tigers to the ALCS, I’m pretty sure that 66-year-old Jim Leyland hasn’t lost his mental faculties just yet. But how can I be sure when he comes out and says something like he said today?
Leyland’s team lost to the Rangers yesterday to fall into a 3-1 hole, meaning that the media is (for once) accurately describing tonight’s Game 5 as a “must-win.” Anybody who watched Bobby Boucher play on the offensive side of the ball in the championship game knows that in a must-win all hands are on deck and you can’t hold anything back.
Apparently, Jim Leyland has not seen The Waterboy.
He announced today that his two best relievers, Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde, will not be available for today’s win-or-go-golfing Game 5 of the ALCS.
Leyland cites the two righties’ increased workload over the past few games (each have thrown 4+ innings in the past three days), and I’m sure Valverde’s not-so-stellar performance last night aided Leyland’s decision.
I’m in no position to question a manager with Leyland’s track record, but wouldn’t you want all your bullets in your gun for a must-win, even if they’re only half-filled with gunpowder?
Leyland pulled a similar stunt in Game 5 of the ALDS when he came out and insisted that ace Justin Verlander would not be available out of the bullpen. A lot of people thought Leyland was bluffing to mess with the Yankees, but it was later reported that Verlander threw a side bullpen session of 75 or so pitches before the game, essentially ruling him out for any action in Game 5 against the Yankees.
Of course the Tigers won and Verlander was fresh for Game 1 of the ALCS, so Leyland’s plan worked. But this time, I’m not so sure. Not having your best starter available for an inning out of the pen is one thing, but not having your two best relievers, the ones that get you from the 7th to the end of the game, is quite another.
Verlander gets the start today and the SI article reports that Leyland hopes that he can get through the game using just Verlander and lefty reliever/former starter Phil Coke.
That’s a great idea and all, but with all the right-handed power in the Rangers lineup, would you really want your season to rest on the handlebar mustache of Phil Coke?
If Leyland is just playing some Phil Jackson-esque mind game to lull the Rangers into a false sense of security, this may be a genius move. If not, it really doesn’t make much sense.
There’s an old baseball saying: “win today, for tomorrow it may rain.” With the way the weather’s been going I don’t think any maxim could be more appropriate. Considering he was probably alive when the phrase was coined, I’m surprised Jim Leyland is ignoring it.