CD's Connect the Dots... Big Hand For Leyland

In just a bit less than 18 months of writing this column, I have curtailed my desire to campaign except in rare cases. I did openly campaign for the return of Curt Schilling, but have not spoken of it since he was traded to Boston. However, this is election week, and campaigning is in full force, so let me make it quite clear that I am openly hoping for the arrival of Jim Leyland as the next manager of the Phillies, no ifs, ands or buts about it. Read with me as I state my case for Leyland.

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 the playoffs. 

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 around? 

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 place. 

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 rivals. 

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 connectthedots@earthlink.net and I will respond.  Thanks!  Allen Ariza aka CD from the Left Coast


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