“I wasn’t as upset as everybody was last night and I’ll tell you why.”—Jim Leyland
There’ll come a day when Jim Leyland is no longer managing a Major League Baseball team, and that’ll be a really sad day on a lot of levels. Leyland treats people the way we’d all like to be treated. He knows the game better than almost anyone. He knows people, too. If you’re lucky enough to spend a few minutes with Jim Leyland, you’ve had yourself a fine day. He’s so simple, so blunt, so honest. I’ll step out of the way and throw out some highlights from Leyland’s news conference before Game 5.
On dealing with a tough defeat…
“And I know this sounds crazy, because we were all a little heartbroken. I wasn’t as upset as everybody was last night and I’ll tell you why. We didn’t walk them. We didn’t hit a batter. We didn’t make an error. We didn’t throw the ball away. We didn’t make a bad fundamental play. They beat us. They earned it. They hit the ball. They stroked the ball off Valverde good last night.
“Were we all a little heartbroken? Sure. But you know what, they earned it. We didn’t kick the ball around. He didn’t walk guys. Nobody made a stupid mistake. That’s the beauty of the game, and they earned it. It hurt, but, you know, it’s one of those that you just tip your hat to them. They got the closer, and you tip your hat to them.”
What’s the mood of your club?
“I would say they’re pretty normal, to be honest with you. I usually don’t go out there a lot in the clubhouse. I think that’s their place, that’s their house. I walk through once in a while. But everybody seems to be pretty normal to me. I’m not really sure what they’re supposed to be doing. They do what they do every other day. They’re getting ready to play Game 5 of a fivegame series.
“I think you find out over the years that I never try to intrude on their privacy, because I think different players get ready for games in different fashions. Some guys listen to music. Some guys maybe meditate. Some guys joke around. Some guys and I like them to all have their own personal touch. So I really never mess with that.”
Did you watch the games today?
“Oh, yeah. Yeah, I watched the games at the hotel. My wife and I watched the first game, the GiantsCincinnati game. Watched the last inning or two out here. And we just watched Werth hit a walkoff. And we’ll probably be out for BP, we’ll watch some of the Yankee game. But, yeah, that’s what we do. And this time of year is pretty exciting. They’re pumped up in Washington right now. It’s been great. So far it’s been a great postseason. What happened in New York last night is mind boggling to me, that blows my mind, that a guy ties it up in the 9th with a homer, and hits the game winner in the 12th. It’s unbelievable. We’re just trying to keep you guys working.”
How do you handle the anxiety of an elimination game?
” Well, I think whatever happens, happens. I think you’re supposed to have anxiety, I think it’s a good thing. I don’t think it’s good to keep it in. The heart gets pumping a little bit more obviously. But for me that starts with day one of the season. You know the players are the show. You want the players to be the show. They are the show. You kind of stay in the background, you orchestrate things if you need to orchestrate things. But this stuff belongs to the players.
“But it’s actually harder to sit there I mean, I was only a minor league player, but I can tell you for a fact that it’s harder to sit there and manage.”
Was there some comfort last night in knowing you had Justin Verlander for Game 5?
“I didn’t even think about that. All I thought about last night was that we lost a tough game. Thinking about my lineup today. Thinking about what their lineup is probably going to be. I went back to the hotel, to be honest with you, I slept great.
“I don’t want to sound casual about this kind of stuff, because don’t get me wrong, the game broke our heart. But at the same time you learn over the years that, like I always use the expression, you can’t chew yesterday’s breakfast. The game is over. They beat us. They earned it. They had a great celebration on the field. Game 5 is going to be exciting. It’s going to be loud. This is what we do for a living.”
Who among your starters are accustomed to warming up quickly if you need someone tonight?
“Well, we’re going to have Fister sitting around, probably, for tonight, you’re talking about. But and I don’t want to put this all on one guy, because I don’t mean it that way, but this game will probably be decided with Verlander in the game. I don’t have anybody better than him. And if they get to him that much we’ll probably be in trouble. That’s just common sense. I don’t have anybody signal down to the bullpen no matter who you’re talking about. I don’t have anybody better to bring in than Justin Verlander, unless the pitch count gets way up or he just is totally, totally out of whack.
“But I’m pretty sure this game will be decided by him. I’m not taking him out if they get two runs in the first inning, I’m not taking him out, I can assure you of that because I don’t have anybody better to bring in.”