It’s already June, and Detroit Tigers fans have been ripping manager Jim Leyland for close to two months because of his team’s lackluster performance. The ridiculing is just, the complaints are warranted.
But now, Leyland deserves a little wiggle room. It’s not his fault that the Tigers are banged-up and playing poorly. The season is just over 50 games in and there are several good teams in the same position. However, those teams aren’t the Tigers, who were projected to be a World Series contender.
Leyland can only put the best players he has on the field. Before the injuries, Leyland was questioned for not doing so. He changed the lineup 34 times in the first 44 games, leaving media members and fans dumbfounded.
But as the Tigers (25-30 as of Wednesday afternoon) stand now, there aren’t any valid or undeniable reasons or logic to hold Leyland to the fire. He’s essentially fielding a minor-league team in a major-league ballpark. Matt Young, reliever Jose Ortega, Quinton Berry in the outfield — that’s what Detroit has to flip around the diamond and attempt to be competitive.
Andy Dirks is on the disabled list. Catcher Alex Avila was put on the 15-day disabled list after re-aggravating a hamstring Tuesday during a 4-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians. And don’t forget that the Tigers pitching staff has two rookies in the mix: Drew Smyly, who started the year off well, and Casey Crosby, who hasn’t appeared too comfortable in the bigs just yet.
Prior to the string of misfortunes, Leyland deserved criticism. With the likes of sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, along with arguably the top 1-2 pitching punch of Justin Verlander and Doug Fister on board, Detroit shouldn’t have struggled so mightily. Then Fister fell from the roster in April after a side strain. He’s back on the disabled list for the same reason.
And then Austin Jackson went down with a similar ailment. The injury bug made its way around the Tigers clubhouse, taking a chomp out of anyone with reach.
At this point, the Tigers are going down — and quickly. Fans know it. The team knows it. And Leyland knows it. However, it’s highly unlikely — despite the outcry from the fanbase — that Leyland will lose his job anytime soon; not while he’s working with Triple-A players in the mix.
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