Jim Leyland was the consensus choice among many Philadelphia Phillies' supporters eight years ago when general manager Ed Wade was interviewing candidates for his vacant manager's job. A new skipper was needed due to the departure of the beloved Larry Bowa prior to the end of the 2004 season.
As hardcore fans know, Charlie Manuel had been a special assistant to Wade for a few years leading up to his hiring as manager. Ever since he was offered and accepted the job, a pack of like-minded emotional thinkers have often professed their belief in Leyland's lost cause.
Leyland's Tigers' roots
Leyland's professional playing career began in 1964 with the Detroit Tigers. The career minor leaguer was a catcher in Detroit's farm system, last playing for the Montgomery Rebels in the Double-A Southern League in 1970. He was a coach during his last active season and transitioned exclusively to that line of work in 1971.
His managerial resume stretches back to 1972, when he first led the Single-A Clinton Pilots. That Midwest League team was also a Tigers' affiliate at that time.
He remained in the minor leagues, coaching through the Triple-A level until 1981. His combined record was 699-637 (.523 winning percentage).
Leyland was a Chicago White Sox coach from 1982-1985. He was the Pittsburgh Pirates' manager from 1986-1996, leading them to three division titles from 1990-1992. He became the Florida Marlins manager in 1997, when they won the World Series, but quit his job with the team after the 1998 season due to a "Charley Finley-style" player sell off.
He was subsequently hired by the Colorado Rockies to manage their team during the 1999 season, but quit that job as well after just one year citing a lack of interest in the game. Connections with long-time friend Tony La Russa helped Leyland to move into a scouting position with the St. Louis Cardinals for the next six years.
Since taking over the Tigers' dugout duties, his team has won the American League pennant in 2006 (which was his first year on the job) and in 2012.
Leyland has a major league managerial record of 1,676-1,659 (.503 winning percentage) through 21 combined seasons.
After endlessly questioning Manuel's worthiness for his job, it's noticeable that silence exists about Leyland's performance against the San Francisco Giants during these World Series' moments. That must be because the Tigers' players are responsible for not performing, or that the Giants' players are exceeding expectations. Maybe Leyland and Giants' manager Bruce Bochy should have been playing cards with each other in one of their offices during the Fall classic, so that they can productively fill their time.
Every seasoned fan knows that Leyland is an accomplished manager. But, those who have expressed half-baked opinions about "anyone" having been able to lead the 2008 Phillies to victory over the Tampa Bay Rays look more foolish as each season passes.
Apparently, Leyland, Bochy and even the Phanatic would have won a string of World Series' championships if any of those men (or one creature) had become the Phillies' manager instead of Manuel. For those who don't know what they have sounded like when championing Leyland's non-cause, the absurdity of that last sentence provides one example.
Statistical proof has been intentionally and fully referenced in this feature. There's no evidence that can ever be presented that would prove that Leyland's presence would have made a difference in Philadelphia during Manuel's tenure.
Many family members, friends and I believed that Leyland was the better managerial choice eight years ago. As time has unfolded, the only people who are still clinging to similar initial thoughts are those personality types who aren't capable of accepting facts and can't admit that they were wrong.
These fans must see themselves as "baseball people" and believe that Leyland represents a real baseball man. They must also believe that Manuel is a bumpkin and that those who defend his hiring are just like him.
Such is the nature of baseball. Some fans also think that they know better than most general managers how to run a team.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He began his professional career in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons' front office (the Philadelphia Phillies former Triple-A affiliate), later worked as a freelance sports writer and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo Contributor Network! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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