Jim Leyland started out as a minor league catcher in the Detroit Tigers organization. After barely hitting above the Mendoza line in the minor leagues he began to make his impact as a manager. After an apprentice under Tony La Russa as a third base coach with the Chicago White Sox. Leyland took over as the Pirates coach in 1986. Leyland managed 22 of the next 27 years, with stop in; Pittsburgh, Florida, Colorado and back where it all started in Detroit.
With what looks like Leylands final stand I wondered what an ALL time Jim Leyland team would look like. Over the years Leyland has coached All-Stars at every position, Cy Young Award winners, Silver Sluggers and several MVP’s. When Leyland took over in 1986, the Pirates had a young non-roid’d up Barry Bonds emerging.
In his first year in Florida was the only World Series team that Leyland would manage. After the win the Marlins team was quickly sold off and another rebuild project was started in Florida. After losing 198 games (with the Marlins and Rockies) in the two years following the World Series stepped away as a big league manager for 5 years before coming back with the Tigers.
With the Detroit Tigers, Leyland won another two pennants but didn’t win another World Series title.
POS: Player BA/OBP/HR/RBI/TB/OPS+
LF – Barry Bonds – .311/.456/34/103/295/204 – Bonds won his second MVP in three years for the Pirates in 1992 before leaving for Balco er … I mean San Francisco.
RF – Larry Walker – .379/.458/37/115/311/164 – This might have been Larry Walkers second best season. Larry Walker was not only a good hitter but had a rocket arm. He was also Canadian so there is a big plus there.
3B – Miguel Cabrera .348/.442/44/137/353/187 – In 2012, Cabrera became the first triple crown winner since Yastrzemski in 1967.
DH – Magglio Ordonez .363/.434/28/139/354/166 – In 2007 Ordonez finished second in MVP voting while leading the league in hitting.
1B – Prince Fielder .313/.412/30/108/307/152 – In 2012 Prince Fielder signed with the Tigers, the team his father Cecil played for during the 90’s, although he was in the shadows of league MVP Cabrera. Fielder put together a strong season finishing 9th in MVP voting.
CF – Andy Van Slyke .324/.381/14/89/310/150 – 1992, was arguably Andy Van Slykes best season as a MLB ball player. He finished 4th in MVP voting (teamate Barry Bonds won) and he also won a Gold Glove as well as a Silver Slugger award. Van Slyke would only play 4 more seasons before retiring at the age of 35.
SS – Carlos Guillen .320/.400/19/85/282/136 – Carlos Guillen was an underrated baseball player. In 2006, he finished 10 in MVP voting.
C – Alex Avila 2011 .295/.389/19/82/235/142 – Alex Avila is a career .254 hitter but in 2011 he put together a strong season, where he finished 12th in MVP voting and won a Silver Slugger award.
2B – Omar Infante .318/.345/10/51/204/113 – It was between Johnny Ray & Omar Infante for the 2B postion. I gave it to Infante for this past season.
The Pirates lineup also featured the other half of the killer B’s Bobby Bonilla. There were several other players that were All-Stars during his tenure in Pittsburgh; Jay Bell, Jeff King, Johnny Ray & Tony Pena, remember him and his weird stance behind the plate.
With his championship team in Florida he had; Moises Alou who drove in 113 runs, Bobby Bonilla, Gary Sheffield, Charles Johnson behind the plate & Edgar Rentaria at short.
His lone season in Colorado he coached the underratedTodd Helton, Dante’s (Peak) Bichette & my cousin Vinny Castilla.
When he finished off in Detroit he had Ivan (Pudge) Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield again, Curtis Granderson before he was dealt to the Yanks and the power hitting catcher/1B/DH Victor Martinez.
When someone retires the first question is will he go in the Hall of Fame. So let’s take a quick look at his credentials. I am going to assume La Russa, Torre & Bobby Cox all go in the Hall of Fame.
His 1769 Wins – Rank 15th. Only two outside the above three mentioned are not in the HoF; Gene Mauch & Lou Pinella.
His 8 playoff appearances – Rank tied for 7th. Including the three managers mentioned above all members are in the HoF.
His 3 pennants rank him tied for 23rd. Again including the above mentioned managers, everyone who has 4 pennants is in the HoF. Of the managers that have three pennants that are no longer active half are in the Hall of Fame (Bill Terry, Hughie Jennings, Whitey Herzog) and half are outside the HoF (Jim Mutrie, Charlie Grimm, Ralph Houk). Another manager Bruce Bochy is still active.
There’s a couple of issues; i. He’s a borderline candidate ii. He’s retiring at around the same time as some great managers. Lou Pinella, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre & Tony La Russa have all retired in 2010 or 2011. Pinella is going to be greatest comparison. Pinella has more wins (1835) & winning percentage (.517 vs. .506 for Leyland) and Leyland has more pennants (3 versus 1 for Pinella) and playoff apperances (8 versus 7 for Pinella) and both Pinella & Leyland have both one a World Series title.
In my opinion there are managers that are managers that may be more deserving.
Danny Murtaugh was manager of the Pirates during the 60’s and 70’s. He has 1115 wins, 5 playoff appearances (when less teams made the playoffs) and won two world series. His winning % .540 is significantly higher than Leyland’s. In his 15 years managing he only had 3 losing seasons. I’m not going to get into the details, but if you want to learn more about Murtaugh’s legitimacy please read. Bruce Markusen from HardBall Times argues Markusen’s point.
Ralph Houk in his first three seasons won two world series in three world series appearances. He has more wins (1619) and a better winning percentage (.514) than Leyland.
Other managers in the Hall of Very Good should include Tom Kelly 2 World Series wins, but a .478 winning percentage. Cito Gaston was manager for 12 years with a .516 winning percentage. He has two world series wins.
Leyland was a good manager and if I had to guess he’s probably going to eventually be enshrined in Cooperstown.