First of all, I love this card. Leyland looks like an old school “I take no shit” manager in this pic and he is wearing my all time favorite Pirates uniform in the process. Seeing him in the classic flat top “We Are Family” Pirates hat in their last year is a sight to behold.
He just looks better in that kind of uniform.
Compare that to when he wore the “Flash Forward” uniforms the Colorado Rockies wore for a game.
I would like to think the day he put that uniform on was the day he chose to resign from the Rockies.
I am a Leyland fan. The Bonds/Bonilla/Drabek/Leyland Pirate teams of the early 1990’s were one of my favorite Non Red Sox teams of all time.
In my humble opinion, Jim Leyland belongs in the Hall of Fame. He has the resume to back it up and won as many World Series titles as Leo Durocher, Whitey Herzog and Earl Weaver did in their long careers.
He went to the World Series 3 times as a manager in 3 different decades, winning in 1997 with Florida. He also won division titles in 1990, 1991, 1992, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
There were a few at bats that if they went just slightly differently, then his Hall of Fame candidacy would not even be in question.
GAME 6, 1990 NLCS. Carmello Martinez hit a line drive that looked like a game tying, potential elimination avoiding home run. Glenn Braggs leaped above the line to bring it back in. Had that ball cleared the fence, the Pirates would have tied Game 6 and had a chance to force a Game 7.
GAME 6, 1991 NLCS. With the tying run on third in the bottom of the 9th of a 1-0 game against Atlanta, Andy Van Slyke hit a deep drive to right field. It hooked foul. He then struck out to end the game. If the ball didn’t go foul, it would have been a 2 run homer and the Pirates would have won the pennant.
GAME 7, 1992 NLCS. Francisco Cabrera, third string catcher, came up against Stan Belinda with 2 outs. If he did ANYTHING else, like pop up or ground out, the Pirates would have won the pennant. Instead… well… you know.
GAME 2, 2013 ALCS. The Tigers had won Game 1 against Boston and held a 5-1 lead in the 8th inning of Game 2 and had Verlander ready to go in Game 3. Then Big Papi tied the game with the grand slam and Saltalamacchia (sic) won the game with a walk off single. Had they taken the 2-0 lead back to Detroit, the 2013 pennant would have been in the bag.
GAME 6, 2013 ALCS. Another late lead, another sloppy inning. This time it was Shane Victorino who hit the grand slam that put the Red Sox up for good. Winning that game would have forced a Game 7.
A Pirate pennant and a Tiger World Series title would have made his resume undeniable.
There is another aspect of his career that is interesting. Consider about once a decade, a complete fluke World Series winner takes home the trophy. By that I mean a team that is slapped together with parts of other clubs and within a few years the team is disassembled. The 1987 Twins are an example of that. So would be the 2001 Diamondbacks.
Once Leyland was benefited from one of those teams and another time he was the victim of one.
The 1997 Marlins were cobbled together for a quick win. Even Leyland being brought in from Pittsburgh was part of the quick fix. They gobbled up Kevin Brown, Bobby Bonilla, Moises Alou, Darren Daulton, Al Leiter and a bunch of other veterans for one run at it. It worked. They beat San Francisco, upset Atlanta and won the wild 7 game series over Cleveland and won it all.
When Craig Counsel scored on Edgar Renteria’s hit, Leyland poured out of the dugout, gave a long emphatic point at his wife, jumped in Bobby Bonilla’s arms (his star from 1990 and 1991) and marched around the field waving the Marlins flag.
By the next year, virtually the entire team was playing elsewhere and by the end of 1998, Leyland himself was gone.
In 2013, he was on the bad end of it. The Tigers, consistently one of the super powers in the AL but without a World Series title, had their best shot. But a Red Sox team cobbled together with short term contracts and vagabonds, shocked them with a pair of grand slams and domination from Koji Uehara.
The one year wonders giveth and they taketh away. But all that being said, Leyland is an all time great and should eventually be enshrined in Cooperstown.
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