Oct. 16 Jim Leyland pregame interview

THE MODERATOR:  Jim Leyland is here and we'll take the first question for Jim.

 

            Q.  Jim, the closer situation, I know that you were going to update us on Valverde.  But where does it stand?  Where do you see yourself going with it?

            JIM LEYLAND:  Well, I think I updated you the other day on the situation.  As far as tonight, I don't know how it's going to play out.  I am going to look at their lineup.

            Number one, I hope I have to make a decision as far as the closer goes; that would be number one, that would be the first good step.  Then I think I'm going to look at their lineup, see how it looks, see who's coming up, and go from there.  So I have two or three plans in place to be honest with you.

            I can tell you right now I don't have a definite closer etched in stone for tonight, so I'm just going to wait and see how the situation develops.

 

            Q.  Is Valverde part of one of your plans?

            JIM LEYLAND:  Yes, he's part of the equation.

 

            Q.  Jim, can you talk about your comfort level being back at home and the importance of closing this out in the next two games?

            JIM LEYLAND:  Well, I just think you have to take it one step at a time.  I mean, everybody is always obviously more comfortable at home, but it really doesn't mean as much as people think.  And I think it's a good time to remind everybody of that because we just beat the Yankees twice at Yankee Stadium.  That's hard to do.  So that part is a pretty big advantage for them.  It did not work for them the first two games.

            So I don't take anything for granted.  It is nice to play because of our fans.  It is nice to be home for possibly three games obviously in front of our own fans because they deserve it.

            But other than that, I don't take anything for granted.  It is nice to be home, back in your own condo.  And you are obviously off the road and out of the suitcase, that part is comforting, but not necessarily playing the Yankees tonight is not comforting.

 

            Q.  Jim, the four managers still left in the playoffs are all former catchers.  Anything particular about that position you think lends itself to being a manager?

            JIM LEYLAND:  I don't think so.  I think the game's changing a little bit.  I think there's more people getting involved in the game.  I think catchers, I think for a long time the catchers, everybody thought that the catchers would make good manager because they had a pretty good feel for pitching, and a lot of people think that handling your pitching is the most important part of managing.

            So maybe that's why it's happened that way, but I don't really have any other explanation.  There has been some great managers certainly that haven't been catchers.

 

            Q.  Jim, it's been three seasons now since the trade where you traded Granderson and got four players in return.  With all that time to assess and evaluate, how are you feeling about the players you received in the deal?

            JIM LEYLAND:  I've always been one that wants trades to work for both teams, and I think they have.  That is the best way to sum it up.  Because then you have the ability maybe to trade with that team again when it works out.  You're talking about a guy that hit 40-some home runs this year for the Yankees.

            So when trades work out for both teams, that's the best kind of trade there is.

 

            Q.  Just curious if you have any changes to your lineup tonight.  If so, what were the reasons for them?

            JIM LEYLAND:  I do not.  My lineup is the same.  It's a little bit tricky because left-handers have only hit .211 off Phil Hughes opposed to right-handers hitting .308.  I think it depends on who the right-handers are that you would be putting in there, you know.

            We obviously would be putting a young guy like Garcia in there and Gerald Laird, and that's not being disrespectful, but those are not normal, everyday players.

            So I am staying with the same lineup I have been playing, and I most likely will throughout this entire playoff.  We have been platooning Berry and Garcia and Laird and Avila, and most likely it will stay that way throughout the playoffs.

 

            Q.  When you look at these last four weeks, is it safe to say this is the best baseball you played this season?  If so, is it one of those it's-about-time things?

            JIM LEYLAND:  We obviously played pretty good.  We played in spurts during the season really.  And I said all along during the season it was a good team that at some point was going to play good, and we are playing pretty good right now.  And we also caught a couple of breaks, and that goes with it as well.  And I say that Peralta is playing probably the best baseball of the season for him.  I don't think there is any question about that.

            So we're playing good right now.  We caught a couple of breaks, and that usually spells good stuff.

 

            Q.  Jim, bear with me on this question.  1993, Moises Alou broke his ankle, snapped it.  The Expos left St. Louis, Pittsburgh came in.  You were the first person to visit him in the hospital, and then later on he signed with the Marlins and cited that as a reason.  How much of your success is genius and how much is personal relationships?

            JIM LEYLAND:  I am not a genius by any means.  There are some Detroit writers here that can guarantee you that (laughter).  But I think that's the human element.  I mean, I think that's what you do.  I mean, hopefully I will be able to talk to Derek Jeter.  I doubt very much whether he's going to sign here or I will be here down the road, but the Moises story was a great story he was one of our 97 heroes in the World Series.

            No, I think you have respect for people.  And it's sad to me, to be honest with you -- I find no pleasure at all; trust me when I tell you this -- in the fact that Derek Jeter is not playing in this series.  I mean, I wanted him to play in this series.  The whole nation wanted him to play in this series, and it's a sad thing.  But it is what it is.  And at the right time I will find my moment to talk to him.

 

            Q.  Jim, bullpen management has been talked about so much.  I was wondering in your experience how much of that element is part of your job?  And how has it changed, I guess, since you first started managing?

            JIM LEYLAND:  Well, there's been times during my career that I had to mix and match and go by committee.  So do you that to the best of your ability.  It's kind of a second-guesser's smorgasbord, really, because when you pick this one you should have picked that one, and why did you pick this one and why didn't you pick that one.

            The reason I love a closer that is a definite closer and a good one, like Valverde has been and Mariano Rivera has been, it takes a lot of pressure off the manager.  My mom never even used to second-guess me when I brought in a top-notch closer.

            So it is nice to have that guy, because it takes a lot -- and people think I am kidding, but I am not.  It takes a lot of stress off a manager.  When you explain why you brought this guy verses that guy, it is a nightmare for you.
But when Joe Torre or Joe Girardi bring in Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning with a one-run lead, there is no human being that has ever questioned that.  That is a delight for a manager.

 

            Q.  Jim, you have gone on record saying the Tigers in order to win a big game or get a big out you need Valverde.  Talk about that fine line of managing a guy when he does blow up a little bit.  Phil Coke kind of the same way, struggled throughout the season and now gets a two-inning save.  Not get too down on them, but at the same time knowing that you will need them sometime later in the season.  Peralta probably another example.

            JIM LEYLAND:  It is kind of a touch-and-feel thing, and there is a little luck involved to be honest.  I didn't know for sure if Phil Coke would close the game out the other game, so there is a little luck involved.

            And I think it is a touch-and-feel thing, and you have got to -- I am a firm believer that we definitely, without question, need Jose Valverde to win.  I truly believe that.  And I think it's also important that you're kind of making a plea to your crowd, and maybe it sounds a little selfish or whatever, but to just not have too short of memory and remember, like I told the media that was there in New York, this guy saved 110 out of 118 games in three years as a Detroit Tiger, the best percentage in baseball.

            So I know the old what have you done for me lately stuff, but this guy's good.  And I'm just going to have to play this one with managerial instincts.  I may be right; I may be wrong.  I don't really have any answer.

 

            Q.  Jim, we all know Verlander's bulldog instincts.  Do you think it will be difficult to pry the ball out of his hands at any point tonight?

            JIM LEYLAND:  Once again, I think you have to watch the game.  You have to see what goes on early and see to what extent he had to max out, how early he had to max out.

            It is really a commonsense thing, you know.  He can throw 130 pitches.  There is no doubt in my mind about that.  And that's another touch-and-feel thing.  What is the score of the game, how is it going, how stressful has it been.

            He is not going to want to give the ball up, I understand that.  But that's why you have a manager.  People have to make decisions.  Sometimes they are popular; sometimes they are not.

            THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Jim.