I suppose his act can get old when you have to deal with him day after day – and breathe the amount of second-hand smoke that routinely fills his office – but Tigers manager Jim Leyland plays the crusty grouch role so well that it’s hard not to fill your notebook.
I’ve seen Leyland in the regular season, when he’s at his ribald, smoky and profane best. And I’ve seen him in the postseason, when he can sit in the front of the room sans cigarettes, keep virtually everything G-rated and still charm a few hundred national reporters.
Here’s one caution we all know: Do not under any circumstances get him started about new-wave stats. He doesn’t want to hear it and it can be pretty hysterical to listen to him go off. Such was the case last week in Fenway Park, when Max Scherzer lost a 2-1 decision to the Red Sox to fall to 19-2 and Leyland got hit with questions about how legitimate a Cy Young candidate Scherzer was. Really? Yes, really.
The reason is that the Tigers have averaged 5.79 runs in Scherzer’s starts, the most in the big leagues.
Cracked Leyland: “Some people could find a flaw in Bo Derek,” referring to the former ’70s and ’80s starlet.
It would seem Scherzer would be an easy Cy Young choice, given the fact he hit the weekend second in the AL in ERA (2.88) and strikeouts (209) in addition to leading the big leagues in wins.
But there’s forever going to be the spectre of 2010 in the Cy Young race, when Felix Hernandez won it with a 13-12 record even though CC Sabathia (21-7), David Price (19-6) and Jon Lester (19-9) all had wildly better records. For the record, so did Clay Buchholz (17-7), Trevor Cahill (18-8) and Justin Verlander (18-9).
But King Felix had by far by the best WAR that year (7.12) and the best WHIP (1.057) as well (that’s Wins Above Replacement and walks-hits per innings pitched for the non-SABRmetric crowd). Some wonder if Scherzer could find himself in a similar situation against the likes of Yu Darvish, Bartolo Colon, teammate Anibal Sanchez and even King Felix again, although he’s struggled lately.
For the record, I’m with Leyland on all this. I was completely against Hernandez’s victory in ’10.
“I don’t believe in any of that stuff,” Leyland said. “I won’t listen to any of it and have no interest in talking about it. You can figure out whatever you want. My view of pitchers’ stats is this: Did he give us a chance to win? If he did that on any kind of consistent basis for me, then he’s a very good pitcher.
“But I also like guys that win. I’d rather have a pitcher nobody is talking about who has won 15 games than somebody everyone is raving about who has won five. I’m a baseball manager, not a statistician. I’m wasting my time talking about it.”
Leyland was apparently challenged about Red Sox pitcher John Lackey, who is 8-12 but has a 3.22 ERA and solid WHIP (1.17). Lackey, however, has had only 3.28 runs per start entering Saturday’s game against the Yankees.
“Is it Scherzer’s fault that they’ve scored runs for him, but Lackey hasn’t gotten any? I don’t care about all that stat stuff,” Leyland said. “Scherzer has been great for us, and Lackey has been outstanding for them.
“If you really want to simplify it, it’s just been Scherzer’s year, but don’t make it sound as if he hasn’t pitched good. I don’t believe in any of that stuff. I won’t listen to any of it and have no interest in talking about it.”
Ex-Bisons manager Wally Backman won a division title in his first year in Las Vegas, but Terry Collins is likely getting an extension on his deal to run the Mets, so the speculation out of New York is that Backman will look elsewhere in 2014.
The New York Post reported Backman is not staying in Triple-A next year and will likely leave the organization if he does not land on Collins’ staff. Backman nearly left in 2011 and opted to come to Buffalo on the advice of Nationals manager Davey Johnson, his longtime mentor and manager on the 1986 World Series championship team.
The Mets made no changes on their coaching staff after last season and there’s a good chance there will be no room for Backman again after this year is up.
Remy takes leave
Beloved Red Sox television analyst Jerry Remy, the team’s former second baseman, announced Thursday he will not return to the NESN airwaves the rest of the season in the wake of the murder arrest of his son, Jared.
Remy has not called a game since Aug. 15. His son was arrested that night and charged with murdering his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel.
“I am full of grief for the Martel family,” Remy said in a statement released by NESN. “My thoughts and prayers continue to go out to them. My wife and I are sick about this senseless tragedy. It’s clear this isn’t the time for me to return to broadcasting Red Sox games. It’s my hope that I can do so in the spring. I thank NESN and the Red Sox for their support through this nightmare.”
NESN expressed support for the return of Remy next season. Dennis Eckersley has been filling in for him on the broadcasts and will work the bulk of the remaining games. Former big-league pitchers Dan Petry, Derek Lowe and Mike Timlin will also be used on broadcasts.
Win or weep
Is there a cooler dude in the dugout than Rays manager Joe Maddon? Wicked cool Twitter feed (@RaysJoeMaddon) that takes quotes from fans to put on the lineup card corner and is a great beer and wine connoisseur.
Here’s what Maddon tweeted Tuesday before his team’s win over the Angels in Anaheim: “Everybody wearing Rays gear tonight at Legends on 2nd Street in Long Beach gets a free beer. It’s our Win or Weep party.”
The explanation to the Tampa Bay Times by Maddon goes back to his high school days in Pennsylvania: “Hazleton vs. West Hazleton, back in the day, Thanksgiving Day football – after the game, there was the Win or Weep Dance. Three years, Hazleton Win Dance.”
Local draftee update
After a rough start, Amherst High product Jonah Heim finished strong in his first year in the Gulf Coast League for the Orioles. Heim batted just .185 in 27 games – but hit .293 in his last 12 games after starting the short season just 3 for 40. Heim was drafted in the fourth round of the June draft by the Orioles.
Meanwhile, Clarence pitcher Mark Armstrong pitched three scoreless innings over two appearances for the Arizona League Reds. Armstrong, Cincinnati’s third-round pick, was held off the mound after his heavy high school workload last season.
The best season at the plate for a local was by former UB catcher Tom Murphy, who hit .290 in 20 games at Double-A Tulsa in the Colorado chain after batting .288 with 19 homers and 74 RBIs at Class A Asheville. Murphy, a third-round pick in 2012, is playing for Tulsa in the Texas League playoffs.
Around the horn
• A Milwaukee television station reported that Brewers slugger Ryan Braun is personally calling selected longtime season ticket-holders to apologize for his 65-game PED suspension. Here’s hoping more than a few of them hang up on the liar.
• Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, when I asked him how much the team needs to reevaluate its strength and conditioning program after a second straight year of heavy losses: “Normally you can say one year is an anomaly but there’s certain type of injuries that we need to look at why they’re happening. It’s not always an easy thing to explain. Depth is important but injury prevention is more important than depth.”
• Hall of Famer Tom Seaver to the New York Daily News on the babying of pitchers in the wake of Matt Harvey’s injury: “These kids today, they want to be men, they want to be foxhole guys but they’re not being allowed to do that. Imagine if these computer geeks who are running baseball now were allowed to run a war? They’d be telling our soldiers, ‘That’s enough. You’ve fired too many bullets from your rifle this week!”