Forty-eight days ago Jim Leyland was angry, very angry. His Tigers had just lost a 10-2 game to the Cleveland Indians; however, unlike previous Tiger managers Jim Leyland let his players know about it. Leyland went off on the media, unleashing a savage rant against the Tigers’ lack of effort and lambasted the players for not caring whether they win or lose. Clearly, Jim Leyland was not willing to accept the defeat that has plagued the Tigers’ franchise for the last 19 years. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Leyland’s rant was the way the players’ responded, by winning. At the time of Leyland’s rant the Tigers were a mediocore 7-6, since then the Tigers have gone 28-13 and now hold the best record in the Major League Baseball.
Jim Leyland has brought a new culture to the Tigers, where losing is not a fact of life, where losing is unacceptable. The fiery, chainsmoking 61 year old returned to manage the Tigers after a six year hiatus. After managing the Colorado Rockies to a dismal 72-90 season Leyland hung up his spikes, he just didnt have the same passion and energy he used to. Leyland, who could be collecting social security checks rather than managing a professional baseball team, gets riled up when asked if he still has the energy, “”I’m getting tired of people talking about how I’m an old man,” Leyland said. “I’m not an old man. That (ticks) me off. I’m not an old man. I’ve got a lot of energy. I’m 61 years old. I can play basketball. I can still throw a football. I can play golf. I’ve got two young kids I chase all around the yard. Everybody talks about me like I’m an old goat. I’m not an old goat and it (ticks) me off. I get tired of hearing about it. I look old because I smoke and smoking makes your face look old. I don’t really care. I’m tired of hearing about it. I can probably stay out later than anybody in this room, if you want to know the truth.” In fact in in the eight inning of an 8-3 Tiger loss on Sunday, Leyland vigorously argued a call from the dugout, was ejected, and then proceeded to get his money’s worth. The arguement went on for a good three minutes, which included Leyland marching over to home plate and indicating where he thought the pitch was. After deciding he had enough Leyland retired to the clubhouse under a standing ovation from the Detroit faithful.
The most daunting task that faced Leyland was replacing the losing culture of the Detroit Tigers. Two years removed from a 119 loss season that made the Tigers a Letterman joke, Leyland has been able to instill an attitude in the Tigers dugout where the Tigers believe they can win every day. However, Leyland has been cautiously optimistic. When asked if the Tigers could keep up their sizzling pace Leyland replied, “”I look forward to my job, but you can see it all being set up,” Leyland said. “Nobody is going to keep up the pace we’ve played. So if we lose a couple games, they’ll say, ‘Oh, it was the Yankees.’ It doesn’t matter who we’re going to play. At some point, this pace is not going to keep up.”
True, the Tigers have not been able to keep up the pace. In their last two series they went 1-3 aginst the Yankees and 1-2 against the Red Sox. However, they still hold the best record in baseball and reaching the playoffs is not out of the question. With attendence for their last 10 game homestand over 300,000 Detroit has become, once again, a rocking baseball town. With Jim Leyland at the helm, the Tigers should be able to continue their playoff pace and keep the fans rocking in Motown.