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December 7, 2011

Jim Leyland


Q.  Did you miss the format of the Winter Meetings in the old days when there were a bunch of trades and all people talked about the trades, and now most of the focus is on free agents?
JIM LEYLAND:  Great question.  I think it's absolutely right.  You know, you can't stop that type of stuff.  But I think the Winter Meetings, they were more fun when we were talking about trades and meeting all hours of the night and back and forth, back and forth.  And rightfully, so.
I don't want to take anything away from the players out there.  Obviously there are some star players out there.  And this seems to be Albert Pujols Show and the Wilson Show and the Prince Fielder Show, and that's fine.  Don't get me wrong.  I understand all of that.
But I think sometimes it's a domino effect.  It doesn't really effect us so much this year.  But sometimes it's a domino effect when one of those guys signs and something else seems to happen and teams move on in a different direction.  But I wish it was more like the old days where it was basically trades.

Q.  It's never going to go back to that, is it?
JIM LEYLAND:  No, I don't think so.  I think this is here to stay.  And it's ‑‑ obviously it's good for the media outlets, I guess.  They're pounding on those TVs day after day after day.  When you're talking about arguably the best player in the game the last ten years or so, that deserves that kind of print, I guess.  It's a little different if teams aren't involved, if they're not chasing a free agent like that, then it's not as exciting as it is for the teams that are, obviously.

Q.  You're leading the pack in managing wins, I presume managing losses, also, I don't know about that.  How do you feel about being the top of those guys?
JIM LEYLAND:  I think I was with Tony last night.  And I think people forget that I had a six year sabbatical.  I was out for a time.  I'm energized.  I feel great about it.  I love what I'm doing.  I feel real good.  My health is good, knock on wood, and I'm enjoying it.
But those six years really pressure end me up.  But it was different for Tony.  He didn't have that time off.  I guess it means you've been around a long time.

Q.  If he managed those other six years, he might have not been managing now, he might have not been burned out?
JIM LEYLAND:  Innings.

Q.  You saw Terry Francona out there.  How do you think of his new life in television?
JIM LEYLAND:  I think he's doing fine.  I had a nice chat with him.  I have the utmost respect for him.  He's a great manager, and a great human being.  I guess it's kind of a funny story, really.  Bobby and him just kind of seemed to switch jobs.  That doesn't happen very often, I guess, in our game.
A great guy.  And I just hope that people remember what a tremendous job he did there.  Two World Series in 4 and 7.  If you're a manager, you know how tough it is to win games.  You don't throw that around lightly.  I hope he gets the respect he deserves.  He's been great for the game.  And I'm sure he'll be back in it in a managerial capacity at some point.  Right now he's going to do something a little different and he'll be very good at it.

Q.  On the total other end of the scale, how well do you know Robin Ventura and where have your guys paths crossed?
JIM LEYLAND:  I know Robin from playing over the years and being around him a little bit, but not too much.  What a player.  I've watched him play.  He's very sound, fundamental player.  A very good player.  I think he'll do fine.  I was asked that question on the radio a few minutes ago with Mike Matheny and Robin Ventura coming in never having managed, you know, what my advice would be for them.
I'm not sure what I would tell them because I managed 11 years in the minor leagues.  So I had 11 years of experience, it was in the minor leagues, but these guys are cold turkey.  So it's going to be a little bit different for them.  They're going to figure it out.  They're bright guys.  And particularly in Mike's case, he's got a world championship club, that could be tough or not so tough for him, you can look at it two different ways.  He's following a legend, obviously.  I think he's going to handle it fine.
I think Robin will, too.  They'll probably, you know, be talking to themselves once in a while after a game wondering with situations.  But I'm sure they're going to have a lot of fire power in their coaching staff help them along.  I think they're both going to do great.

Q.  Is there a division in baseball that's more mysterious right now than the AL central, where you're playing, because of so many different variables, the Minnesota Twins and all their injuries, the White Sox with key players not pulling what you would anticipate the numbers to be.  Your team's up‑and‑down season.  The Cleveland Indians rise in the last half?
JIM LEYLAND:  It was weird in what happened in Minnesota.  But I only worry about the Tigers.  I don't worry about the rest of the division.  I certainly have the utmost respect for it.  But you can't control any of those issues.  I try to take care of the Tigers.  I think we have a good team.  We obviously coming off a 95‑win season, which is pretty good, one playoff series win.
We certainly didn't accomplish what we were trying to do.  We were trying to get Mike a ring, not a Stanley Cup, but a ring.

Q.  Are you surprised that team won 95 games.  He didn't have a regular second or third baseman.  And the bullpen, particularly in the 7th innings was not really ship‑shape for a lot of the time, but 95 wins came out of that.  Does that leave you a little surprised?
JIM LEYLAND:  I think it's amazing.  What happened to us last year is one of those fairy book stories, really, to be honest with you, because what happened was a couple of things a couple of years before that didn't work out for us at the trading deadline or a little beyond.
Last year it worked out to perfection.  Delmon Young was perfect.  Fister stepped in.  How can you do any better than he it did?  And we really took off when we got those guys.  And that's the one thing we feel good about.  We're going to have those guys the whole year now.
So hopefully that's going to help us a lot.  That's when we really, really took off.  One year you make a deal that just doesn't work out for you, and this particular year we made a deal that worked out tremendously.  And we went on to win 95, as you say.  Pretty good.

Q.  Verlander, since he won the MVP, have you talked to him and what was that conversation?
JIM LEYLAND:  I have.  I've talked to him.  I talked to him after the Cy Young, after the MVP.  I was glad he got it, because he was going to blame me if he didn't, because I said the pitcher shouldn't be the MVP ‑‑ I'm just kidding.
As I said so many times under the rules, I do believe that Justin Verlander was the most dominant player last year.  And he deserved that award.  There's no doubt in my mind.  He was the most dominant player, performer in the American League last year, in my opinion.
So I think it was appropriate that he got it.  We had a great conversation.  Not a long one.  It was what it should have been.

Q.  He's so good and he's still so young.  Do you rule out anything for him, or is it going to be assumed that it's going to be tough to match what he did this year?
JIM LEYLAND:  You know, I try to keep stuff like that in perspective.  Because it's only natural for the media members to be talking about how great this guy is.  On the other side of the spectrum, I have to try to keep things calmed down, so he doesn't lose sight of the job at hand.  He's getting himself for the 2012 season.
You're not going to be able to stop all the accolades and all that.  On the other side of the coin, I've got to be the guy that doesn't put the cart before the horse.  I think he'll be fine.

Q.  One thing he said last year, he said he handles his slider more in September.  And he found that to be a good pitch for him.  That gives that guy legitimately, then, four pretty darned good pitches.  Is that fair to say that he's got that kind of repertoire?
JIM LEYLAND:  I don't think there's any question about that.  I think he has three well above pitches, and I think his slider average or well above average.  And it's an effective pitch.  We talk about the numbers stuff and the new wave of statistics.  It's a very good pitch for some right hand hitters.  A curveball for some right hand hitters is a good pitch, but others are not.  A slider is a better pitch.
He knew that and he figured out the guys on the League we needed to use that against and he used that in certain situations, and it became a good pitch for him.
So I guess you could see that three well above average pitches and probably one that's average or slightly above, no question about it.

Q.  Verlander has been a guy that's wracked up big innings the last two years, but this season with the postseason run the innings racked up, I know the question comes up, how do you manage a guy coming off that big of a workload?  Do you handle him any differently going into next spring?
JIM LEYLAND:  Everybody wanted me to pitch him with two days' rest at the end, so I guess nobody was worried about that (laughter).  I think we've taken good care of him.  I think he's a horse.  I think we've taken good care of him.  That's one of the things I told him during the playoffs.
I want him to win four or five Cy Youngs, not one.  You can't help it when people are talking to you every day about it and things of that nature.  He's a team guy and he wanted the ball.  I appreciate it.  On my watch, I hope that when I walk away from the Tiger job, whenever that is, or get fired or whatever it may be, I hope Justin Verlander is healthy, that's one of my goals, as is all of my pitchers.

Q.  Do you know a Japanese pitcher named Yu Darvish?
JIM LEYLAND:  Yeah, but I don't have anything to do with that.  That would be questions for Dave Dombrowski.  I really don't know.  I know about him.  I've heard a lot about hip.  But I don't really have ‑‑ that's top management stuff:  That's not for me.  All I know is that he's good, probably going to cost a lot (laughter).

Q.  Another one on Verlander, when Magglio had that good year in '07, you signed a bat to him.  Are you going to do anything like that with Verlander?
JIM LEYLAND:  Verlander gave all of us an actual big scorecard, the no‑hitter.

Q.  He gave it to you?
JIM LEYLAND:  Yeah, not the actual one.  They made them all up in a frame thing and we all had one.  I have it in my memorabilia room at home.  He signed it.  I'll sell it sometime and get some money for it (laughter).  I'm totally kidding.

Q.  Are you going to give him anything?  Or did he get enough already from the awards?
JIM LEYLAND:  I hope I'm giving him a whole bunch of hand shakes this year.

Q.  Who do you have stronger feelings about how much better he might get Porcello or Scherzer?
JIM LEYLAND:  That's a great question.  I think both of them.  I don't think either one of them has reached their ceiling.  I think they both have room for improvement.  We're fortunate because they've got A's on their side with both of them.  That was another question I was just asked.  They won in 15‑game range.  You can be better, it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to win the same amount of games or more, you can actually pitch better.
Somebody thinks when you win 15, well, he's better this year, so he'll automatically win 16 or 17.  I think the ceiling for both of those guys really ‑‑ I was impressed with the way Porcello came around at the end.  He got a little firmer.  The ball had a little better action on it with a little better velocity.  He's in the process of continuing to work on his secondary pitches.

Q.  What's the next progression for Boesch going into year three?
JIM LEYLAND:  He was doing fine, he was checked south with a doctor in Cleveland.  He was doing great.  We're really excited about that, because we talked about him becoming a little more athletic.  That makes us a little more athletic if Boesch is healthy.  With a little better speed, obviously.  And I really think that this guy ‑‑ I hate to talk about it, because I think he's one guy that he gets high strung once in a while.  I try to stay a little bit low key.
I've said all along I think this guy's ceiling is tremendous.  I really do.  I think he's got a very high ceiling.  But you just have to let it happen.  And I think he puts a lot of pressure on himself.  He wants it overnight.  He thinks he should get a hit every time up.  That's a good attitude you can have, but you can't let it work against you when you don't.  I think he's going to really be good for us and he can hit left‑handers.

Q.  That thing is good.  It was close to being good to go even in October?
JIM LEYLAND:  It was, and Kevin, they got good reports.  I learned a long time ago that stuff is always successful.  We'll see.

Q.  You moved him up in the order after the Delmon trade.  Is he somebody who with that skill set, he could bat in front of the order, long‑term?
JIM LEYLAND:  Yeah, he could.  You just have to wait and see.  We talked about this has been a favorite topic of all Detroit fans, along with a lot of the writers for good reason.  The Jackson lead off situation, you know.  That's very legitimate to be talking about that.
But it's like I said, everybody knows that it's been an issue, but nobody has given me a solution just yet.  So we just have to wait and see how that plays out.  I've gone through that lineup ten times and there's just really nobody else to lead off, as I see it.
So I'm willing for suggestions.  I saw one thing, somebody's email said they have an old fool for a manager that continues to bat Jackson lead off.  But the guy didn't say who should lead off.

Q.  The first part was right and the second part ‑‑
JIM LEYLAND:  I'm not saying it wasn't accurate (laughter).

Q.  Do you see yourself putting Miguel at the DH spot, with Victor at first, or do you see Victor maintaining that DH role?
JIM LEYLAND:  Yeah, I feel comfortable playing Victor.  You get a feel for it, and nagging injuries, hot days, travel days, sure.  I don't mind playing Victor over there at all.  I may slip Victor behind the plate once in a while, if you have to.  We don't plan on doing that very often.
If he felt like ‑‑ what if Alex and Gerald are both banged up a little bit?  So that's a plus.  But we really want to take advantage of Victor's bat.

Q.  Nothing that he did batting third would make you want to put Cabrera third next year, would it?
JIM LEYLAND:  I don't know.  I might.  I'm thinking about it.  That will be one of those lineups that I makeup all winter long, and have him in the three spot and have him in the four spot.  But with Boesch and Young, Miguel is not a burner, Boesch does good.  If Jackson is doing well, that's three guys that can get around the bases better, so I might leave him fourth, but I would consider it.

Q.  Is the biggest appeal of him being third is that he will get more at‑bats during the course of the season?
JIM LEYLAND:  He will come up the first inning.  You look at that two ways.  You can come up in the first inning with two out and nobody on.  If he comes up and he hits fourth that means he has somebody knocked in, so you can look at that a lot of different ways.  Some guys thought it was the best actual contact type hitter third, but our lineup is pretty deep.  I feel real comfortable, I think with whatever our lineup looks like.  I think it will be okay.

Q.  Did that mentality happen ‑‑ did you come to that mentality during the postseason when you were more or less forced to put Miguel in that situation at third?
JIM LEYLAND:  I really wasn't forced.  It was just something I decided to try to shake it up a little bit.  I'm not sure we used the same lineup the entire postseason.  I'm pretty popular with that formula that's going around now for all that stuff, move it around a little bit.

Q.  Is the health of Albuquerque a long‑term concern for you?  Do you have to constantly monitor it?
JIM LEYLAND:  It's really ‑‑ I wouldn't say it's a long‑term concern.  I think it's a short‑term concern.  He's fine now and he's going to do some pitching in the Dominican.  But there has been some history there.  And we saw some of that last year.
So when I say his short concern, I think you have to start with the short concern.  I'm concerned about it for this year, coming into Spring Training, hopefully he'll be healthy for this year.  To me that's short‑term.  Sometimes you have to take it one step at a time.
But it is a concern, sure.  It is.  I don't think there's any question about that.  I think we just is are have to wait and see.  We watched him real close.  I'm not patting myself on the back, but he was never over pitched.  And we really watched him close.  I don't know.  Let me put it this way, we don't see anything from all the reports and everything that's a chronic‑type thing.  We don't see that.  The doctors don't see anything that's a chronic‑type thing.

Q.  What do you see out of ‑‑ what are your observations on David Pauley?  You've got Fister and Pauley on the trade.  Fister exceeded expectations.  Pauley didn't live up to what he did in Seattle.  What do you see from him and his role next year?
JIM LEYLAND:  I think he just got confused on what pitches to use at certain times.  I think Alex didn't know him very well, tried to get him to use his curveball a little bit more, change‑up a little bit more.  I think it was one of those situations where Fister came over and everything just fell right into place.
And I think when David came over I think he put a little pressure on himself, trying to step it up for us right away, knowing that we were in the hunt, knowing that we were playing for something.  So I think he'll relax much more.  We know he's got good stuff.  We've seen that before.
I think he just put a little extra pressure on himself.  The games were so important that we used him some and then he sat for ‑‑ probably didn't do a good job of using him, to be honest with you.  So once in a while you get those guys in a little better routine it helps.  I probably didn't do a very good job with him.
But we had guys, there really wasn't a spot for him that many times because Scherzer and those guys were starting to go deep in the games and Verlander was deep in the games.  And there really wasn't that many opportunities.
I think he'll be fine.  I think it's an interesting Spring Training for him, I think.

Q.  How do you look at the 7th inning, and bridging that gap between what your starters do and getting to benefit Ron?
JIM LEYLAND:  That's a good question.  Right now we look at it with Albuquerque and Perry and Coke.  And I think that ‑‑ I don't think I'm talking out of school, because I think as David addresses you guys every day, I think he mentioned it, we might be interested in finding another bullpen guy, maybe one more guy to protect us in case you've got a situation with Albuquerque, in case Perry doesn't step it up like we think he can.
That's probably the one thing that we would be interested in trying to find somebody maybe in that situation.  But are they out there?  Can you get them?  Who knows.  Almost everybody that we talked to when we go in the lobby and we all get our assignments to talk to different teams and I'm allowed to talk to anybody, because the managers do that, but other guys have certain teams.  Almost everybody says what is this team looking for, bullpen help.
Everybody says bullpen help.  There hasn't been one conversation came about up there that they didn't say that the team wasn't looking for some type of bullpen help, a second lefty or right hand guy or long guy, whatever it might be.  Everybody was kind of looking for bullpen help.  I think you could throw us in that category as well.

Q.  You've gone head to head with Ozzie.  How would you characterize him as a strategies?
JIM LEYLAND:  He's a sharp guy.  There's no question about that.  Ozzie knows exactly what's going on.  He's got energy.  There's no question about that.  He's won a World Series.  He's a real smart, instinctive baseball guy, and he knows how to win the game.  It will be exciting.  It will not be boring.  I can promise you that.
But I think sometimes people lose sight of the fact of what a smart baseball guy he is because of some of the other stuff that goes with it.  He's kind of a flamboyant guy, and there's no question about that.  And that's okay.  I mean that's his personality and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.
But I think sometimes because of that stuff that people forget what a good game manager he is.  I really believed that for a long time about Tommy Lasorda.  Everybody talked about what a great ambassador he was for the game.  But they forgot what a great team manager he was.
But I think a lot of people ‑‑ I think that gets lost with Ozzie.  He knows exactly what he's doing.  He's sharp.  Very smart.  Very smart.

Q.  With the new agreement, it won't happen next year, but eventually you'll get to the point where you have the same number of teams in each division and there will be inner league play going on with somebody at every point during the year.  As an AL manager dealing with the DH and no DH, depending on the park, is that going to be something that's going to be an adjustment for you guys, because you may have to have guys ready to hit at various points?
JIM LEYLAND:  It will be an adjustment.  There's going to be inner league play every day, obviously.  But who knows?  You know what, I'm not so sure that in a few years, there will probably be a decision made ‑‑ this is just a guess, I'll be gone, I'll be out.
But there will probably be a decision made to synchronize the League.  I think at some point it's going to come to pass where there's either going to be a DH or no DH, I think that's going to happen at some point.  I'm not sure I'll still be managing at that point.

Q.  Which way, up or down?
JIM LEYLAND:  Well, I don't know.  I don't know.  I don't want to get into all that stuff what the players want and jobs, I don't want to get into that.  But I think there's a possibility that's going to happen at some point, I really do.  I believe that.  And I don't know how soon it's going to be.  But I think at some point, and I think it's a great idea.  I mean the AFC doesn't play with different rules than the NFC.  I would be all for that.
Whichever way they would go would be fine, just that it gets synchronized at some point.  But I think they're doing things with the replay and everything.  You can't do everything at once.  But I think you're going to probably see that happen at some point.  Maybe not during my managerial tenure, but I think it will happen.

Q.  A lot of those things got changed already.  It was discussed in the committee that you're on.  When you saw the new rules and some of what got implemented that you guys discussed, was it kind of a sense that I'm glad I was able to take ‑‑
JIM LEYLAND:  Yeah, I like that extra player for some double headers.  That was ‑‑ I'm real proud of that one.

Q.  Jim Leyland ‑‑
JIM LEYLAND:  I'm not saying that.  That was one that I brought up.  They figured out a way to possibly do that.  I think it makes a lot of sense.

Q.  Is Tony Stanley coming in?
JIM LEYLAND:  I would certainly think so.

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