10/10/06 8:50 PM ET
Notes: Granderson stays atop order
Glare only a minor issue; Leyland chats with La Russa
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
When Leyland was asked Monday about keeping the same rotation order for the AL Championship Series that he had for the Division Series, starting with Nate Robertson, Leyland said those were his four starters and the order made sense. In the case of his lineup, it wasn't the options, but the order.
With left-hander Barry Zito on the mound, Leyland could've put his left-handed lineup plan back in place, especially since Placido Polanco entered Tuesday having hit Zito (7-for-11) and the A's (33-for-67) so well for his career. But what works in the top spot can also work in second.
Leyland decided to maintain his batting order, mainly for two reasons, among them the fact that left-handed batters actually hit slightly better against Zito for the season compared to right-handers.
"There's not much difference there," Leyland said, "and one of the bigger factors in that decision today was the fact that Craig Monroe has not done very well, so I didn't want to hit him second."
Monroe was 2-for-21 for his career against Zito before going 0-for-1 on Tuesday. Plus, he was coming off a 3-for-16 Division Series, though two of those hits were home runs. The move also kept Sean Casey hitting third, coming off a 6-for-17 Division Series and a 3-for-5 career record against Zito, before Casey left with a pulled calf muscle in the sixth.
The order isn't likely to change against any of the other A's starters, either, considering they're all right-handed.
"I would imagine that's going to be our lineup," Leyland said.
Granderson, 1-for-2 in his brief career off Zito before doubling Tuesday, found out when he arrived at the clubhouse Tuesday afternoon.
"I'm not too surprised," he said. "At the same time, wherever he did put me, I'd be ready to go, whether it was at the top or the bottom."
Look away from the light: The shadows at McAfee Coliseum have been a question ever since the Tigers knew they were coming here for the ALCS. But hitting coach Don Slaught said there was minor late-afternoon concern -- the glare coming off the windows of the suites beyond center field.
As the sun sets, he said, the sun reflects off the suite windows, which are meant more for use in football games, and then shines back into a hitter's eyes. It's only a concern for about 10-15 minutes starting around 8:40 p.m. ET.
"It's like two spotlights coming down," Slaught said, "so your face looks real bright. The shadows will start behind the pitcher, so there's nothing between the pitcher and the hitter, so it's not as bad.
"I'm not sure how bad the glare's going to be, because you can block it out with your visor and it won't last that long."
The fact that the Tigers worked out Monday around the same time helped them get an idea, though Slaught said it was just a coincidence that they had that time slot.
The glare did not have as much of an effect as feared.
"Surprisingly, it was more defensively," Granderson said after the game, and luckily there wasn't too much going on out there. Other than that, we got through it, and we started hitting the ball after that."
Stay off Joe's case: Leyland's club played a central part in the New York Yankees' latest postseason demise. He has been watching the aftermath from the opposite coast.
While Yankees manager and longtime Leyland friend Joe Torre's job hung in the wind of media speculation, Leyland was watching skeptically until Tuesday's announcement that Torre would be back for a 12th season. He doesn't believe Torre's job was ever in danger to begin with, but he doesn't know.
"I don't think the Yankees had any intention of firing Joe Torre," Leyland said, "and I'm darn glad they didn't. He's an outstanding manager. He's everything right about the game."
When Leyland touted the Yankees and their players as a class organization, he wasn't simply being diplomatic, and they proved him right. Lost in the midst of the Tigers' celebration Saturday night after finishing off the AL Division Series, Leyland said, Torre and shortstop Derek Jeter came to the back entrance of the clubhouse to congratulate him and wish them the best of luck.
"It really personifies what I said about the Yankees all along," Leyland said, "that they're class all the way. You're not going to find a better person in baseball than Joe Torre. I don't know Derek all that well, but you can understand he's just class personified, a great superstar player. That doesn't surprise me at all. That's class all the way."
Leyland knows the expectations that come with the Yankees, and he's amazed at how Torre deals with it. But he believes the standard that anything short of a World Series is failure, that they should win a championship just about every year, has become too much.
"I think it's unrealistic to think that way in the modern game," he said. "I think that was a possibility much more often years ago, when there were fewer teams and you didn't have the playoffs set up the way [they are] and there wasn't a Wild Card. To win 11 games is tough to do in postseason play against the best pitchers. Do they maybe have the best shot going in most of the time? Yeah, but I think that's unfair to the Yankees.
"What it does is, I think it blows all those [people] that think you can buy a World Series, it just blows their theory right out of the water, because you can't do it."
Talking with Tony: Leyland knows a World Series matchup with the Cardinals and manager Tony La Russa is possible, potentially just seven wins away. But he's not going to acknowledge it, and he's pledging now that he's not going to talk about it if it happens.
"We do not discuss that," he said. "Even if by chance that happened, that's not going to be a story. We will definitely not talk about it, but we're putting the cart before the horse here."
As it is, the chance has not prevented the two from talking often during the playoffs, five or six times since Saturday alone.
"He's all fired up. He called me on the way to the park today," Leyland said. "He said, 'Are you ready?' I said, 'Yeah, I'm ready, but I think it's more important that the players are ready.'"
La Russa and Leyland, who were manager and third base coach for the White Sox in the early '80s, have been at this point before. They were both in their respective League Championship Series in 1990 and 1992 when La Russa was managing in Oakland and Leyland was in his run of titles in Pittsburgh. Neither time did they match up, though La Russa's Athletics reached the World Series in 1990.
Speech time: Leyland made another speech to his club heading into the series, but it wasn't anything out of Knute Rockne's book.
"I told them I was proud of them," he said, "but I said, 'I'm not proud because you beat the Yankees. I'm proud because the way you've adjusted and gotten the feel from not [winning] the division and then getting right back into a real tough series against the New York Yankees and realizing the importance of concentration. You really made a heckuva quick adjustment. I'm proud of that.' They've just got to maintain it, hopefully through another series, but it's not going to be easy.
"I've only one [speech] left," he joked, "so hopefully we get to the World Series, because I'm out."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.