Leyland steamed after Thursday's ejection: 'That's the maddest I've been in the eight years I've been here'
DETROIT — Usually a cooling off period is in order, in whatever level of sports you participate.
In fact, some — the NCAA, high schools — make them mandatory, to allow people involved in the games a moment or two to reflect, and remove themselves from the “heat of the moment” before answering questions.
No one who covered Thursday’s matinee between the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox questioned whether or not Jim Leyland was mad, considering he’d been ejected for an on-field dispute with the umpiring crew. No one questioned that it might be a good idea for him to be given a chance to cool off.
“That’s the maddest I’ve been in the eight years I’ve been here,” Leyland told reporters Friday.
And no one, after standing around talking to players in the locker room two hours later, was all that confused when the media relations folks indicated that Leyland would not be holding a postgame interview session.
Still mad, it was assumed.
Most shrugged. Most reported it. Most moved on.
Turns out he wasn’t a whole lot happier when he met with members of the media before Friday’s game, but most the reason he was still mad had to deal with how Thursday’s incident — which he did not discuss in detail — was covered. At least as it referred to him.
“I’m very upset at some people in this room because I think I was very disrespected,” the manager said. “I’ve been here morning, noon and night for eight years for you guys. In the morning, noon, night, winter, summer, spring — never not returned a call or anything — and for people to take shots at me because …
“The only thing that could have happened yesterday would have been bad,” he said. “There was no need to speak to anybody here yesterday.”
Leyland has been extraordinarily accessible in his time in Detroit. No question about that. For most, the fact that he wasn’t accessible after Thursday’s game was merely noteworthy because it was so anomalous, and not a lot more.
It wasn’t that anyone thought they were owed an explanation from Leyland as much as it was feeling that they owed an explanation to readers about his absence.
Leyland took some of those explanations as criticism, as a lack of respect.
He felt like he should’ve been given the benefit of the doubt the one time he chose not to talk.
“That’s not the way it came off to me. It came off to me that I just blew you guys off and disrespected you and that’s not true,” Leyland said Friday. “And if I haven’t earned that much respect, then I haven’t done a very good job here with you guys, because I thought I was very disrespected by some of the comments taking cheap shots about that. I thought that I was very disrespected.”
Leyland knows he’s gotten himself into trouble before with comments he’s made in front of microphones. He admitted earlier this season he hadn’t had a good blowup in a while.
And he also admitted that he knows it’s in his own best interests not to put himself in situations where he might talk himself into trouble.
“If you remember right, there were a couple people in this room who referred to the fact that the Rodney situation, the Florida situation, happened because I said ‘You pay a price for that,’ so they made a big deal about that and they indicated that it was my fault because I made a reference to something after the game about paying the price. So I didn’t want to say anything yesterday to anybody, because it would have done nothing but get me in trouble and the organization in trouble,” Leyland said.
“It would have been totally out of line, because that’s the maddest I’ve been in the eight years I’ve been here. I doubt very much if there’s anybody in this room with a clear conscience who could say that I didn’t make myself available to them morning, noon and night, summer, spring and winter, all hours of the night, returned every call that I ever got from anybody in this room.”
Like in the situation in Tampa less than two weeks ago, Leyland was trying to protect his player, in that case Miguel Cabrera, who’d taken exception to a pitch thrown up-and-in by Fernando Rodney.
Same thing with Thursday’s game, when Prince Fielder had a pitch from Chris Sale come up under his chin an inning before Leyland was ejected, along with Luke Putkonen. The reliever, who threw a pitch behind Chicago shortstop Alexei Ramirez, was ejected by home plate umpire Chad Fairchild without any warnings having been given in the game. Ramirez, who took several steps onto the field toward Putkonen before being restrained, was not ejected.
“I mean, who took the first action after the pitch?” Tigers reliever Phil Coke asked rhetorically. “He (Ramirez) was the aggressor, yes? Usually the aggressor gets tossed, yes?”
Leyland maintained that his arguments were just in the defense of his players.
“These are my players. I’m the manager. And I’m going to protect them when I think it’s fair to protect them. And I don’t protect people when I think it’s not warranted. I don’t look for issues to start issues. I don’t do that. But I’m not going to tolerate any silly stuff with any of my players. It doesn’t matter if it’s 3 and 4 or 8 and 9. I’m not going to tolerate silly stuff. That’s my responsibility,” he said Friday.
“I don’t support my players if I think my players are wrong. I don’t support my players if I think they’re wrong, but I’m not going to tolerate situations not being handled correctly, and in my opinion, the situation was not handled correctly.”
Matthew B. Mowery covers the Tigers for Digital First Media. Read his “Out of Left Field” blog at opoutofleftfield.blogspot.com.