12/05/12 7:00 PM ET
Leyland remains refreshingly honest
By Hal Bodley / MLB.com
The unbelievable Giants went on to sweep the favored Tigers in four games in October, but I'm convinced beating 2011's American League MVP/Cy Young Award winner in Game 1 was the key. That's an understatement.
Jim Leyland, one of the most honest and up-front managers I know, would never agree to my thesis on why the AL champions folded. After all, there were at least three more games after the opener in which Pablo Sandoval blasted three homers, including two off the allegedly invincible Mr. Verlander, who threw 98 pitches during his abbreviated four-inning stint. San Francisco won, 8-3.
To Leyland, there's no place in baseball for flimsy or even legitimate excuses. It's been almost six weeks since the Giants wobbled off the Comerica Park turf with their 4-3 victory to complete the sweep.
Leyland, the baseball lifer he is, quickly turned the page on what had to be a jarring setback. At the Winter Meetings on Wednesday, he looked refreshed, younger than the 68 he'll be on Dec. 15.
More importantly, to Leyland, the World Series is ancient history. He's already focused on defending the AL Central title next season and how content he is to work with only a one-year contract.
Back to the World Series for a moment.
"It wasn't very difficult for me to put it behind us," Leyland said. "To be honest, after we beat Oakland in the Division Series, the entire postseason was like a blur.
"I mean, a four-game sweep of the Yankees [in the AL Championship Series] and then being swept four games by the Giants -- it seemed like it went by so fast. I would never have guessed that we would sweep the Yankees. And I would never have guessed the Giants would have swept us.
"One of my favorite expressions, and the Detroit players get tired of hearing it: 'You can't chew yesterday's breakfast.' It's over with. Move on, move forward -- 2013 is coming up, let's get ready for it!"
So, it wasn't the right time to ask about my belief the Tigers probably would have owned the World Series had Verlander been his usual effective self in the Game 1. Had he shackled San Francisco's offense in that game, Detroit might have done the sweeping -- or at least wrapped it up in five games.
"It's a freaky game, and so be it," Leyland said. "In this series, we were not as good as the Giants were. You turn the page; there's nothing you can do about it."
Most managers are uncomfortable working with a one-year deal. It's a lame-duck situation and not uncommon for players to take advantage of the situation.
Leyland has no idea how much longer he'll manage, but admits in Detroit, "We've got a good situation. I took a pretty good beating [when the Tigers were struggling and trying to catch the White Sox] this summer, and rightfully so."
A one-year deal for 2013?
"I think it's fair for everybody," Leyland said without hesitation. "They can make a decision whether they want to bring me back, and if at the end, I'm tired of it, I can say so long. I don't owe [management] anything and they don't owe me anything. It's all good. It puts a little pressure on me during the season."
But you're a lame duck.
"Not so much a lame duck, but you hear the rumblings, not from the organization, but a lot of fans who wanted me fired during the season," Leyland said. "That's just part of it. You have to accept that, and I'm willing to accept that with a one-year deal. I don't want a three-year deal, and I doubt they'd want to give me one. I trust the organization and I trust my own ability."
Pausing, Leyland added: "I think I'll do good enough to maybe get another contract for a year. If I don't, that's fine. They should get somebody else."
Again, Leyland is honest to a fault.
He says it's unlikely third baseman Miguel Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner since 1967, will reach that milestone again in 2013, but "if there's any guy who could possibly do it, it would be him."
Cabrera is expected to represent his native Venezuela in next year's World Baseball Classic, a fact Leyland isn't overjoyed about because it interrupts Spring Training.
"I think the concept is a brilliant idea by the Commissioner, but it can get things out of whack a little bit." Leyland said.
And then, there was this recap of his recent high-school reunion, vintage Leyland.
"As I drove back to Pittsburgh that night, I was thinking to myself, 'I wonder how the girls thought old Jimbo looked?' I'm sure they thought, 'He's a little bald, a little skinny.' "
And a refreshingly honest big league manager.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.