One of the weird things that I love/hate about watching the ALCS this year is that every time FOX shows the Tigers’ dugout, it’s flat-out impossible to not see at least two ex-Pirate managers. Jim Leyland is always sitting with either Lloyd McClendon, Gene Lamont, or both guys at the same time. I don’t bear any ill-will towards any of these guys. If anything, they’ve taught me that bad teams don’t always have bad managers and that I’d rather have a good person managing than a jerk, because most managers make the same bad decisions and it’s easier to stomach when the guy managing at least seems to mean well (Leyland and Tony La Russa, for example, are pretty similar stylistically, but Leyland rarely seeks out the spotlight for himself and will often toss himself under the bus to spare his players whereas Tony La Russa might actually think that the entire universe was created simply to watch him change pitchers in the sixth inning).
It’s weird to watch these guys in the dugout because I think they’re all good guys (no ex-Pirate, player or manager, has grown on me more than McClendon in the past five years, simply because of the egotism, incompetence, and braggadocio of his various successors) and I wouldn’t mind seeing them win a World Series. Leyland kind of rubs me the wrong way sometimes, but he’s not on my list of Most Obnoxious Managers. Still, seeing the three of them in Detroit and knowing the lack of success they had between 1993 and 2005 among them, then remembering that the Pirates have had as many managers since 2005 with the same lack of success, well, it’s disquieting.
Still, I can’t help but laugh when I read things like Jonah Keri’s recap of last night’s game:
Trailing 1-0 entering the bottom of the 4th inning and 2-0 in the series, Jim Leyland knew he needed to come up with a brilliant strategy to rally his Detroit Tigers back from the brink. Finally, just when all seemed lost, he remembered the sage advice another wizened skipper had given his star slugger. With Victor Martinez about to stride to the plate, Leyland tried the same approach.
Leyland: “You, Martinez, hit a home run!”
Martinez: “OK, skip.”
Colby Lewis delivered, Martinez swung, lofted the pitch to right, deep and gone. Tie ballgame.
Leyland: “Ha-ha! I told him to do that.”
Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon: “Brilliant strategy, Jim.”
I mean, as a Pirate fan, you know that this exact exchange took place.