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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Answers? You want answers? ... I want the truth! (at least about the lineup)

You think it's easy to stroll into the office of a Major League Baseball manager, and demand that he answer your probing questions about how and why he makes out his lineup?

Good luck.

Sometimes, you'll get the answers you seek. Other times — as one reporter found out in Tigers manager Jim Leyland's pregame media session on Friday — you'll just get the runaround, before the skipper finally concedes that he'll answer your question. (No, it wasn't me.)

In this exchange, the reporter was probing Leyland's decision to move Brennan Boesch into the fifth spot in the lineup, a spot occupied by Delmon Young for most of the season. Before Wednesday's switch in Boston, all 93 of Young's previous starts had come in the No. 5 spot.

This is how it went:

Q: Hey, Jim — I know you don’t talk about the lineup ...

A: You’re right. I don’t.

Q: It’s a question about ...

A: If that’s where you’re going, don’t ask it.

Q: Uh, I just ...

A: You can read it out there (in the hallway), can’t you?

Q: Well, yeah ...

A: So what’s your question?

Q: I’m going to ask it, and you can just tell me to shut up, if you want me to.

A: I’m not going to tell you to shut up, but I might not answer it.

Q: OK, do you think people make too big of a deal between the fifth and sixth spot of a lineup?

A: No, I don’t say that.

Q: I’m just curious, because it seems like ...

A: I don’t say that. Do I say that?

Q: It just seems like the overall population makes too big of a deal out of it.

A: No, I didn’t say that.

Q: I’m just asking ...

A: No, I didn’t say that at all.

Q: No ...

A: Well, you said that I say that. I didn’t say that at all.

Q: No, I’m asking if you ...

A: OK, I think that people make too much of a big deal of the lineup, in general. I don’t think it, necessarily, has anything to do with the fifth and sixth spot. I’m sticking another lefty (Boesch) in behind Prince against right-hand pitching. I’ve been thinking about that for a while.

"It’s a little bit more complicated than people think, because — I’m going to explain this to you; I don’t mind talking about the lineup if it makes sense. If someone’s just saying, ‘Well, how come you do this?’ I’m not going to answer that.

"Here’s my thought process — people can agree or disagree: You get Boesch going pretty good, and he’s in a spot — he’s been pretty much the same wherever he’s been — but all of a sudden, he’s hitting behind Prince Fielder, and you know the player, and you know the mentality of the player. Sometimes, you have a reservation if the player’s going to get like a deer in the headlights, because all of a sudden, he has to hit behind Prince Fielder.

"So there’s more to it than just writing down a name, and saying ‘Oh, why don’t you just put this guy here?’ There’s more to it than that. And that’s hard to explain to people sometimes. I think he’ll do OK, but I don’t know for sure.

"Sometimes, when a guy’s gotta protect a big hitter, it’s tough for him. It’s tough mentally, because ...

"I’m not singling Brennan Boesch out — well, I guess I am, but I’m making a point. If you look at what Joe Maddon did to him a couple of years ago in Tampa, when he walked (Miguel) Cabrera with nobody on to face him, that was a psychological ploy. So you have to be careful about that.

(Leyland went off the record for a moment, then came back on) 

"But it’s not etched in stone, and I don’t know if it’s going to work, because of the reasons I just gave you. Sometimes a guy can hit somewhere, and he’s comfortable in a spot, and it doesn’t really matter what spot it is, and you throw him — because everybody, including the media; that’s one of the first things you want to know, ‘Are you going to get some protection for Cabrera,’ ‘You gotta get some protection for this guy.’ They all want to talk about that, because they hear fans talking about it, and most of them don’t know what they’re talking about.

"They talk about that all the time, and it becomes a big thing, so you’ve just got to make sure that you’ve got the right player, in your mind, to put in that situation.

(Off the record again here)

"So that’s my explanation. I hope it makes sense. I don’t know. He got a big hit behind him the other night.

"I don’t know how it’s going to play out, but I just thought, maybe a right-hand pitcher MAYBE they’ll think a little twice with another lefty with power behind him. But I don’t know.

"That’s no disrespect to Delmon, but that’s just the way it was going. So try something else.

"Is it going to work? I don’t know that.

"But that’s why I go over the lineup."

In the end, Leyland circuitously got around to addressing the gist of the question — his thought process for making a switch of Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch in the Nos. 5 and 6 holes in the lineup vs. right-handed pitching. Kind of.

But it certainly wasn't easy. 


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