What the Deuce: The Value of Leadership

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Value of Leadership

I had lofty ambitions for this week. I wanted to post multiple times, on a variety of topics including the Detroit Tigers, Michigan's win over MSU, and the Yankees. Unfortunately, between school and work, I had no energy to write anything insightful, and hard as I tried, I could only produce garbage. Thus, I didn't post anything. After a relaxing Wednesday night, I'm ready to post again, being confident that my post won't read like a caveman had written it.

Managerial Value: After the Marlins fired Joe Girardi last week, local sports radio debated the worth of a manager. Notably, Dan LeBatard of the Miami Herald and ESPN, opined that a manager is worth as much as a bag of baseballs - the players are fully responsible for wins and losses. Polishing that gem, LeBatard asserted, at most, because of strategic decision, a manager might be worth 5 wins. Thus, the Marlins firing Girardi, a 1st year manager, who took a $ 14.3 MM payroll team that started 11-31 to a final record of 78-84 was nothing to worry about. In fact, the Marlins seriously contending for the Wild Card until the last week of the season. I completely disagree with LeBatard, who typically takes ridiculous positions for the sake of taking them while writing columns that are superficial and lacking thought.

Managers might not win games for their teams because of strategic decisions. Yes, ultimately, the players have to make plays - a hit and run is no good when the batter can't hit the ball. BUT managers can do other things that can't be tracked statistically. What made Girardi a great manager was that he got a team of young players to play hard everyday. He was able to enstill confidence in a team that started off 11-31. That's what made Girardi so valuable to the Marlins.

You want more evidence that a manager is very valuable to a team? The Detroit Tigers. They are up 2-0 in the ALCS. They weren't even supposed to make the playoffs. This is a team that lost 119 games 3 seasons ago. What struck me about the Tigers, this year, is that they believed they had a chance to win every game they played this year...and that's because of Jim Leyland. He's done a great job of teaching kids how to be professionals and its showed. Early on in the season, Leyland blew up because the Tigers had loafed in an afternoon game before leaving for a West Coast trip. Leyland wasn't mad because they Tigers lost; he was mad because their of their lack of effort. After that game, the Tigers went 52-23 into the All Star Break. When the Tigers were stumbling to the end of the regular season, risking missing the playoffs, Leyland kept the team calm and guided them into a first round matchup with the Yankees. Against the Yankees, Leyland and his coaches handled the Tigers' pitching staff better than any Tigers manager I've seen since Sparky Anderson retired. In Game 2 of the series, Leyland made multiple trips to the mound in order to get Justin Verlander to calm down. He did the same in Game 1 of the ALCS with Nate Robertson.

The things that are happening under Jim Leyland didn't happen under Trammell or the other terrible managers the Tigers employed before him. It's no coincidence that the Tigers turnaround corresponds with Leyland's tenure and Detroit fans couldn't be happier. And LeBatard, he should stick to idiotic conversations with washed up wrestlers - it doesn't require you to use your brain, something to which you seem to have an aversion.


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