Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Leyland The "Bad Cop" To Trammell's "Good Cop"

The "bad cop" tries on his new uniform

First impressions of the Tigers’ hiring of Jim Leyland: it’s probably what they need, although Lou Piniella would have been a special treat.

Second impressions: how did Dave Dombrowski sleep during the last month?

According to reports in the Detroit Free Press, GM Dombrowski knew "sometime last month" that Alan Trammell was a goner as manager. But he decided to let Tram finish the season "in a professional manner." Only Trammell didn’t know it.

I don’t know why I find the notion of Trammell functioning as a clueless lame duck for several weeks as being rather unseemly. How could DD look at Tram every day and think, "You’re gone, pal. You’ve got no chance of staying. The decision has been rendered." How could he look the reporters in the face and pretend that the verdict is not in? The second question is easier to answer: Dombrowski is the master of speaking without really saying anything. He would make a good presidential press secretary.

Frankly, managers are fired at every and any point during a season -- even the day before the finale. I’ve seen it. So why Dombrowski couldn’t have pulled the trigger on Tram and let a coach finish up the season -- even with a dozen or so games remaining -- I guess only he can say. Except he won’t, because as Dombrowski told reporters after announcing Trammell’s firing: "I told him the reason. I don’t think I owe you one." Next question.

No, DD let Trammell finish the season in "a professional manner." Unfortunately for the manager, "professional manner" came with a side order of angst, sleeplessness and churning emotions, most likely. All because Dombrowski didn’t see fit to tell Trammell of his decision until his precious Monday after the season. So Trammell got his "professional" ending, but in that ending, he’s still just as fired as if the deed had been done with the season droning toward a conclusion.

But enough of that.

Leyland is supposedly a "no nonsense" type. It’s the same rollercoaster that losing teams ride: hire a nice guy, then a tough guy, then a nice guy....and on and on and on. Because losing teams always seem to need a different leadership style than what they are currently experiencing. The nice guy is needed for younger, more tender players. Then the team gets older and more veteran-laden, and a tough guy is needed to keep the big egos in check. Then the tough guy will wear on everyone’s nerves in a few years, and a nice guy will be needed once again. And through it all, the L’s outnumber the W’s. The same cycle. The cycle of losers.

Having said that oh-so-cynically, Leyland is probably a good choice, because if there was one thing the Tigers weren’t in 2005, it was cohesive. The clubhouse was the major league version of a Rubik’s cube: all those different colors, but it was impossible to form them into a tidy square. Just when you thought you had most colors handled, another would screw the whole thing up. Leyland has the experience, the respect, and the demeanor to smash the cube into commission, if that’s what it takes.

"Let me tell you: certain things are not optional," Leyland said at his introductory press conference. He proceeded to list them: being on time, playing right, following the rules. For starters. It all sounds exactly like what the doctor ordered for this sick franchise. Until it needs a gentler hand.

But now is not the time for gentle. The Tigers need jolts. The Tigers need bombs dropped on them. The Tigers need the bad cop to Trammell’s good cop.

The team hopes it has found all that with Jim Leyland. He says he has the fire. He says he is recharged and ready for another challenge. Bless you, boys!


dolphinfan said...

How about Leyland's speech. "I don't know much about your team or the American League, but I anticipate I'll learn." It's going to be interesting!

Ian C. said...

If Leyland takes on Pudge like he did Bonds, that could be more entertaining than anything that takes place on the field next season.