Make no mistake about it, this is a crucial week for both our
nation, and our Philadelphia Phillies. Both
will be making decisions about the skipper of the ship for the next several
years. In the case of the Phightins',
a vote for Leyland appears to me to be a vote for a "commitment to winning"
in way that should be quite obvious to all.
Keep in mind, this is Jim Leyland we are talking about, a
manager who was talked about in the hushed tones of a Tony Larussa or Joe Torre.
This is a manager who will bring instant credibility to Philadelphia, for
he will not accept the position unless he is sure of the organization's
commitment to win.
No other manager being interviewed can demand this
commitment. Not Don Baylor or
Grady Little. Not Charlie Manuel or
Jim Fregosi. Certainly not John Russell, Buddy Bell or Terry Pendleton. Only
Leyland comes with a money back guarantee to win, and win immediately.
Think about for one moment.
Baylor, Little, Manuel and Fregosi have already made it clear how much
they would love to manage this team. They
have already bought into the company line about the strength of this team, and
would probably back whatever decisions management made.
In the case of Russell, Bell and Pendleton, this would be
even more so as they either have no experience at all, or no experience at
winning. Only Leyland is in a
position to say that the team needs him more than he needs the team.
This is a powerful force for change…and for success.
It seems to me that every Phillie fan longing to experience
what Red Sox fans are feeling this week should be rooting for Leyland to get the
job. This is a man who is well
respected by players, coaches and agents alike.
Even the dreaded Scott Boras thinks highly of this man, and don't
minimize that fact when talking about pursuing the likes of Carlos Beltran, JD
Drew or Jason Varitek as potential free agent acquisitions.
Let's take a look at Jim Leyland, the manager.
He was so well liked and respected in Pittsburgh that players like Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla almost gave up millions in free agent money to stay with
him. Even as free agents to be,
they never complained about being underpaid, and always played hard and well.
Once they left, Leyland's teams always played competitively
and when he was given a top notch club in Florida, he won a World Series despite
having a wild card team. Not only
did he win with a wild card club, but he won despite some major setbacks during
Few people remember that Leyland lost his top starting
pitcher, Alex Fernandez, during the playoffs, and also had to make due for a
while without his other top righty, Kevin Brown. Instead of complaining or making excuses, Leyland merely
plugged rookie Livan Hernandez into the rotation, and with tremendous results.
Another point about that team was way that Leyland molded a
strong group of independent minded thinkers into a team of one.
Players like Bonilla, Gary Sheffield, Brown, Al Leiter and Moises Alou
sacrificed their own individual success for a team championship, and it paid off
in a World Championship.
It is interesting that several of Leyland's cast of
characters from that team are about to become free agents.
Players like Alou, Leiter, shortstop Edgar Renteria and catcher Charles Johnson will be available this winter, and all loved playing for Leyland.
While not necessarily advocating any of these players, it would be nice
if players of this stature were pursuing the Phillies instead of the other way
Only with Leyland would this happen.
Not with Manuel, nor Baylor, nor Little.
Fregosi's cast of characters from the 1993 club are long since retired
and Bell, Pendleton and Russell have no such allegiance from players.
Jim Leyland has that rapport and we would see it instantly.
There are rumors swirling again of the Phils possible pursuit
of outfielder Carl Crawford from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Crawford has his warts, but his upside is huge, and at 23 years of age,
is likely to improve as he matures. The
price would likely include Chase Utley. At
this point in time, the Phils are likely to balk, and rightly so.
However, with Leyland as manager, then the possibility of
being reunited with shortstop whiz Edgar Renteria becomes not such a far fetched
dream. With Renteria in tow, the
Phils could shift Jimmy Rollins to second base and then include Utley in a swap
for Crawford. As much as Utley
might be missed, a Phillie lineup with Crawford and Renteria added to the mix
becomes a juggernaut of Cardinal and Red Sox proportions.
This can only happen with Leyland on board.
He changes the equation in all directions, not the least of which in the
direction that GM Ed Wade goes. With
Larry Bowa no longer on board, this team and it's standing in the league
become of utmost concern to Wade as he is now the most responsible for making
sure it does well.
It behooves him to hire well, and only Leyland can guarantee
that. It becomes a win-win
situation for Phillie fans. On one hand, we have a manager who will demand
accountability from management before he accepts the job, and on the other had,
we will have a general manager who will see to it that this accountability takes
With Jim Leyland, we may get the best of both worlds, as
Leyland becomes the skipper and Charlie Manuel probably takes the job as hitting
coach, a position he is well suited for. If Manuel gets the job, then we watch Leyland probably end up
in New York with the Mets, and watch the New York media once again say that they
beat Philadelphia to the punch.
So, fellow Phillie faithful, as the campaigns come to a close
this week, and the ballots are soon to be counted, here is a resounding vote for
Leyland as Manager of our beloved Phils. Only with him are we assured that the team will the correct
steps necessary to ensure success in 2005.
Only with Leyland are we assured to take our rightful place
among the respected teams in baseball, be it from Boras or Broadway.
And only with Leyland are we assured that the Phils will soon become the
pursued instead of the pursuers, be it free agent players or Eastern Division
The choice seems clear; the decision should be forthcoming
soon. From out here on the Left
Coast, count me as raising a Big Hand for Leyland.
Let us hope Ed Wade feels the same …
Columnist's Note: Please send any comments or suggestions to email@example.com and I will respond. Thanks! Allen Ariza aka CD from the Left Coast