People are calling for Jim Leyland to be fired? Um, OK

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When you give a talk radio dude a column, it’s always a safe bet to assume that he’s going to use the column to advocate for things that would make his talk radio job more fun and easy. To that end I give you Bill Simonson:

I think, if the Tigers fall to 8-10 games out of first place before the end of June, Leyland and his staff should be fired. It would be a move with no risk involved. He has no contract beyond this season. If he was as highly thought of by management as some Leyland lovers think, then why wouldn’t he have years left on a deal? You can’t fire a team, but showing Leyland the door might be the move this franchise needs.

I know managers get fired simply for losing all the time, but my view of things is that, among the handful of reasons to fire a manager, a poor won-loss record, standing alone, is the dumbest reason.

You fire a manager if he makes a lot of dumb decisions. You fire a manager if he bucks the authority of the front office in a way that prevents the team from carrying out the organization’s plans. You fire a manager if he loses the confidence and respect of the players or his authority over them is otherwise undermined in such a way so as to make his continued leadership untenable. You fire a manager if the composition of the roster radically changes and you suddenly have an awful fit in terms of temperament (i.e. the old vet-friendly manager suddenly finds himself in a rebuild. You fire a manager when a new owner and/or GM comes on board and the team wants to reset.

Now, a lot of those things cause poor records, and the subsequent firing may be chalked up to the poor record.  But if none of the above things are present and the team is simply losing, firing the skipper is kind of pointless.  He’s the same guy the GM had confidence in before the season. He still has the clubhouse under control.  All that has changed is that his players are underperforming. Absent a clear link between things the manager has done and that losing, firing him is a pointless gesture.

Leyland has done none of those things. His team is underachieving. That’s on the players. Some of the players he’s had to work with don’t really belong on a major league roster. That’s on the GM.  There is absolutely nothing which suggests to me that firing Leyland would turn the Tigers around because there is nothing that suggests to me that Leyland has done much if anything to make this team lose.

Jim Leyland has managed in the big leagues for 21 seasons. He didn’t suddenly forget how to do it.  And getting rid of him isn’t going to suddenly make the Tigers a better team.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.