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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, May 18, 2012

Ticked off at the Tigers? Jim Leyland says you have every right to be

Jim Leyland was very candid in his pregame media session before Friday's opener of Interleague Play. It came a night after the Tigers (18-20) had fallen to two games under .500 for the first time since last May 7, 2011, the night of Justin Verlander's no-hitter against the Blue Jays.

The veteran skipper said that fans — even vocally critical ones — have every right to be, given how far below expectations the Tigers have flown.

Here are some excerpts from his 22-minute session (note: most of these were continuous dialogue without any follow-up questions — not exactly a :

Q: Do you listen to some of the things they say on the radio?
"Nah, but I know what’s being said. My buddies all listen, and they call and have the latest gossip for me. ‘Oh, they’re all over you.’ I say, ‘I’m sure.’ Right now, you can’t argue with them.

"I don’t mind them being pissed off. I’d be pissed off."

Q: How do you deal with the negativity around the team?
"We’re just in one of those situations where there’s so much going on, there’s so much negative talk about us right now — and rightfully so — that you just have to stay the course. And that’s what I do. 

"I don’t alter my routine, I don’t alter the players’ routine. I just don’t believe that’s the approach to take. I think you just stay the course, and just keep doing what you do. Because it can get confusing to everybody if you’re talking about — on one hand, talking about all the negative, and the other hand talking about how much you believe in the club, the positive.

"It boils down to simple stuff: Come to work, do your job. Try to do your job well each day.

"It’s no different than you guys’ job. We’re in the limelight a little bit more, they talk about us a little bit more.  It’s just come here and do your job. ...

"The one thing that won’t happen is I won’t let happen is be negative, myself and coaches. That will not happen. I’m a positive guy and I stay positive. That’s just the way it is.

"You can harp — if we lose the game tonight, and you say ‘I believe in this team,’ that can get old, too. You’re really in a no-win situation when you start talking about that kind of stuff. Just stay the course."

Q: Has there been any point in your career when the criticism was hard to handle?
"First of all, I’m a grown man. And I’m a realist. And I think if you’ve seen me over the six years that I’ve been here, I get a little snippy once in a while, when I think people are unfair. And I stand by that forever.
"They’re not being unfair right now.
"I can take it. I’m a man.
"We have to take it. We’re not performing well.
"You won’t ever see me snap at anybody if it’s fair. I’m sure there’s some crazies that are way out of line, but the average take on that is: That’s fine, we have to take that.
"We have it coming right now. You better have broad shoulders.
"Does everybody like it? No. But do we expect it? Yes. I expect it.

"We got it last year. And we turned it around, and that changed a little bit.

"It’s one of those things, basically, that if things don’t get better, it heats up even more. But if you start winning games, you get back into that, people start feeling good again about the Tigers, that changes as well.

"I’ve been around long enough to realize how that works.
"That’s part of this business. If you can’t take that ...
"You don’t snap at reporters, and everything, when you’ve got it coming.
"Right now, I have nothing to come back with, because we haven’t been very good. Simple.

"You’ve gotta take it when you’ve got it coming, and right now, we’ve got it coming. Pretty simple."

Q: How do you balance the fine line between being positive, and being pissed off?
"Oh, I’m pissed off, believe me. I’ve been pissed off a few times this year.

"I can tell you this: It’s changed. The yelling and screaming, and throwing (crap), like I did 20 years ago — that doesn’t work anymore. Forget it. It’s a whole different society. Whether it’s your kids, my kids, ballplayers, whatever — that doesn’t work anymore. It just doesn’t work.

"You talk out things sensibly, you make your points, and you get firm when you make your points, normally in a private conversation.

"But that stuff doesn’t work anymore. All that rattling (crap) and throwing stuff, that doesn’t affect guys at all. That doesn’t help anybody hit a slider, doesn’t help anybody throw one over the plate.

"So you just grind your (butt) off.

Q: Has that evolved since you've been here in Detroit? Or have you thrown things here?
"Very, very little. I mean, I’ve gotten upset a few times in my career here.

"You also have to understand that if people are waiting for me to start throwing stuff, put on a show for the media, I’m not going to do that. That’s not going to happen. I’m not going to put on some phony show for people.

"The simple fact is, we gotta get better, start winning some games, then the negative talk will be turned back to positive talk. With the exception of some people that that’s their life. They’re going to be negative no matter what. They’re not going to like the manager, they’re not going to like the first baseman,or the third baseman ... whatever it may be.

"We understand all that. But right now, the people have a right to be upset."


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