Imagine, for a moment, that you are managing a Major League Baseball franchise. Your team, hypothetically speaking, is in the thick of a heated playoff race with your nearest rival. You are two games behind said rival and, in your current series, are fully-aware that you MUST win the majority of your remaining games in order to have any chance at a successful season. With your team down three runs and the bases loaded, in the ninth inning, who do you call in from the bullpen?
Common sense dictates that you would probably want to use someone with experience who has been through similar trials and has the ability to, potentially, sequester the situation. That would make sense. Someone PLEASE explain that to Detroit Tigers' manager Jim Leyland.
With the same situation looming in the ninth inning of their Thursday, September 20 meeting with Oakland, Leyland opted to call in the youthful Drew Smyly. Surprisingly, to 99.9% of the people watching, Leyland went with an arm that, to this point in his young career, has never been inserted in a relief situation of this magnitude. This further boggled the minds of many, as Smyly was talked about as the potential replacement for Max Scherzer, during his next scheduled start in the starting rotation.
In a tense situation, Smyly gave up a walk and a hit to the two batters he had faced, effectively putting the game out of reach. While many will be quick to jump on the assertion that Smyly was inadequately-prepared, the bulk of the blame should fall on Leyland.
Once again, Leyland's "gut feelings" and "play by the numbers" assertions have cost the Tigers a chance at climbing closer to the Central Division title. With Chicago's loss to Kansas City, Detroit could have pulled even closer to overtaking the White Sox for the division lead. Unfortunately, however, as it has far too many times this season, the trademark gut-feeling resulted in another gut-wrenching defeat.
I'm not sure who the answer is, as far as potential replacements in the manager's seat. Some are making the call for Terry Francona. Others believe current Tigers bench coach, Tom Brookens, is the next logical choice. Looking at the available names when the season ends, there aren't many options. What I do know, however, is that the failure to get over the hump with a team that includes, potentially, two MVP's, three of the greatest players in the game and one of the, pound-for-pound, best rotations in the Major Leagues reflects more on the manager than it does the team.
The author, D. Benjamin Satkowiak, is a successful entrepreneur and published, freelance author, who has tailored works on various sports, health and fitness topics. He currently serves as a Yahoo! Contributor Network "Featured Contributor" and writes on the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Lions, Great Lakes Loons and Notre Dame football.