Jim Leyland is a funny guy

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I’ve learned to more or less ignore the managerial availabilities here at the Winter Meetings because, let’s be honest, they’re 30 slightly different exercises in saying nothing. At least they are now that Ozzie Guillen is gone. Just the offseason version of “we gotta take ’em one day at a time” ManagerSpeak.

I went to Jim Leyland’s just now, though, because he makes me laugh.  And he didn’t disappoint.  The highlights:

  • Leyland was asked about Miguel Cabrera playing in the World Baseball Classic. Leyland said he’s not a fan of the WBC but “I support it because the Commissioner gets mad when I say I don’t support it.” Mr. Leyland, Commissioner Selig is on line two. I think you had better take it.
  • He was asked about the Tigers’ closer situation and didn’t tip the Tigers’ hand, but he did say “One thing you can say about Jose Valverde, he knows how to turn the page.”  After watching him pitch late in the season, I think that book is “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
  • Asked about the future of the Tigers, and how long until Avisail Garcia or Nick Castellanos may become regulars, he said “you know, that’s a very good question.” He didn’t answer it, but he did acknowledge that it was a good question.
  • Leyland asked who the team to beat is in the AL Central: “Hopefully the Tigers.”
  • On an actually substantive topic, he was asked about Gene Lamont becoming the bench coach. He said that Lamont’s knees were going and it’d be easier on him to be in the dugout rather than couching third. Color me dubious. Leyland has never had a need for a bench coach and you don’t move an effective third base coach if you can avoid it. Gotta figure this was devised to get a better third base coach without firing Leyland’s longtime compadre.
  • Leyland, when asked about getting over the World Series, said “you can’t chew yesterday’s breakfast.” People who follow Leyland closely are mostly surprised that he only used that phrase once.
  • Leyland apparently just attended his 50th high school reunion. He said he had a good time. He was asked about the women at the reunion: “They looked pretty good to me. I wonder how they thought old Jimbo looked.” When people laughed he noted that, back in high school, he was voted “Most Popular Boy” and said that if we didn’t believe him we could go look in his yearbook.
  • Finally, as Leyland’s presser was ending, Terry Francona walked over and hovered, waiting to sit down for his own press conference. The reporters flocked to Francona, leaving old Jimbo with a much smaller crowd than he started with.

“Most Popular Boy” my foot.

OK, back to the rumors and stuff.

Giants remove pitching coach Dave Righetti

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After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.

According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.

Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.

Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.