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.
Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.
Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.
Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.
It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.
After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.
The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.
Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.
The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.
Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.
Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.
After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.
According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.
The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.