When Jim Leyland rants, people listen. It's Ron Burgundy pre-cannonball, laced with expletives and chewed up food.
In case you missed it, here's a recap of the latest second-guessed managerial decision that would ultimately lead to Leyland flipping his lid:
On Sunday, the Tigers were in the midst of a five-game losing streak, with the end in sight: The Tigers clung to a 2-0 lead, as 23-year-old, third year pitcher Rick Porcello only needed 84 pitches to one-hit the Pirates through eight innings. Almost as impressive as the economical pitch count through eighth innings was Porcello needing just seven pitches to get through the 8th inning. It looked like he was well on his way toward his first career complete game (a shutout, no less). With the Tigers' bullpen in general struggling of late, it seemed almost like a no-brainer at the time to at least let him try to complete it.
But that's not Jim Leyland.
When Leyland looks at the roster pinned up in the dugout during the late innings, after mid-inning cigs, and the Tigers are holding on to a slight lead, he sees a closer's name (with an ERA under three and perfect in converting save opportunities on the season), and goes to that closer 99 times out of 100 when the starting pitcher isn't named Justin Verlander. I'm almost sure Leyland conjures up that Jay-Z song during times like this when the rest of his bullpen is pitching like the worst, thinking, I got 99 bullpen problems, but a closing pitcher ain't one.
That's exactly how he played it in a similar situation back in August 2009. The Tigers were up on the Indians, 2-1, and Porcello was tossing a gem, only at 91 pitches through eight innings. Rather than allowing the rookie pitcher to try for a complete game, Leyland opted to go with the closer at the time, Fernando Rodney, who incidentally had not blown a save up to that point in the season. Of course, Leyland's reliable closer blew the save and Porcello's win.
Porcello may have remembered that prior instance on Sunday -- that game in 2009 was his first of only five career games in which he has completed eight innings -- but Leyland probably didn't, and even if he did, it probably wouldn't have changed his strategy.
Leyland discussed his thoughts on it after Sunday's game, suggesting that's how he'll always play it, so Leyland didn't really appreciate getting passive-aggressively badgered about it again on Monday:
Riger: Does it ever amaze you the amount of second-guessing you get?
Leyland: That's you guys. You're a radio guy, aren't you? Well, that's radio stuff.
Riger: But fans as well?
Leyland: I think that's the entertainment business. I think that's what we're in. And I don't blame any fan, ever, who second-guesses taking out Rick Porcello. I don't blame somebody like that. But I don't listen to talk shows, guys who don't know shit about baseball. No. If you're asking if I listen to those guys, no. If I listen to somebody that has a legitimate second-guess, like the one yesterday, I respect that opinion. It's not going to change mine. I've said a million times, I manage for the fans, not with the fans. I don't manage with every Tom, Dick and Harry who calls a talk show, I can promise you that.
Leyland went on to reiterate why he went with Valverde in the ninth:
"... If Jose Valverde is not better in the ninth inning than Rick Porcello after eight innings, and Jose Valverde's a top closer, then we might as well not have a closer. That's the way I look at it."
"I don't get sentimental into all that shit about, 'Oh, he has a chance to have a one-hitter.' I don't get into all that shit. I'm here to win games, and I felt that gave us the best chance to win the game. And he won the game. It could've backfired, and I would've still stuck by my decision. So it doesn't bother me. No, that's you guys' business."
The end to a five-game losing streak wasn't enough, though, for some. Perpetual Leyland haters and Porcello fan boys/girls were appalled Jimmy would mess with Kid Rick's stellar outing, as if it wasn't at all possible that Porcello could've done in the 9th inning what, say, Madison Bumgarner did in his outing less than a week ago and force Leyland to go get Valverde anyway.
In addition to what Leyland said about Valverde being a top closer, Leyland did give the Tigers' offense a better chance of padding the two-run lead by pinch-hitting for Porcello's spot in the top of the ninth. Further, in the bottom half, the Pirates had a pinch-hitter likely coming to bat in their pitcher's spot and then the top of their order, which had faced Porcello three times already. The strategy certainly wasn't the clear-cut route, but it had legitimate reasons to back its implementation. And, despite a rocky first two batters for Valverde, by golly, it worked.
Leyland apologized for his pre-game potty mouth after the Tigers' second straight win on Monday night, but not for his general message. He doesn't need to, either. Yes, it's a talking point for intelligent baseball discussions, but Leyland doesn't need to rehash it every day to supplement or fuel those conversations. Move on, people, especially since the oft-relied-upon 20/20 hindsight argument clearly shows that the strategy worked this time around.
So, really, Leyland's sorry, but he's not really sorry. If he's sorry, he's sorry he's not sorry. Follow? But, if Leyland does want to apologize for something else, he can apologize for this rant's entertainment value paling in comparison to his Jason Grilli rant. Grilli was bad and said some stupid stuff, but a lot of the utter stupidity spewed off on radio shows, Twitter, and the rest of the internet that negatively affects the perception of Jim Leyland and his team is probably a few Jim Leyland F-bombs worse.