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Soup of This Day #222: Sure As The Turnin’ Of The Night Into Day

August 2, 2012

The Gobi Desert in Central Asia is 1 of the planet’s most inhospitable places, with ridiculously low rainfall. This would make it ideal for baseball, although you would have to dodge the local wildlife, such as this silhouetted Khulan. The Khulan gets a mention here primarily because it is otherwise known as the Mongolian Wild Ass and that is just a whole lot of fun to write out – Photo: Qfl247, 2009. Qfl247 is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I’ve always liked Jim Leyland.

I probably shouldn’t – He’s never managed the Red Sox and nor did he play for them. More than those bald facts – Leyland’s career trajectory has never seemed likely to do anything more than to come into mild conflict with the Red Sox, and for most of the time not even that.

Jim Leyland spent the 1st 14 years of his managerial career in the National League (NL), with Pittsburgh, Florida and Colorado. All destinations that barely register on this introverted Sox fan’s radar and none of them in a way that is offensive. Even Florida, who now irk me no end, were ok with Jim Leyland at the helm. I’m glad they won him a World Series.

But then in 2006 Jim Leyland stepped from the realm of somewhere else and became a more regular opponent as he took on the manager’s role with American League (AL) rivals Detroit.

At which point I should have developed an irrational dislike of him. Like I feel for Buck Showalter.

But I didn’t.

And now, if the Sox somehow get up for a wild card slot, they will most likely have to claw their way past Leyland’s Detroit to get there. Given that kind of scenario I figure it would be ok for me to not like Jim Leyland. Just for a bit.

Except that even with all of that to play for I can’t find a way to suspend respect for Jim.

See, I’m a Red Sox man through and through but if I grow old in my work I want to be like Jim Leyland. Not for me Tito Francona’s softly-spoken friend routine, even if it did yield 2 World Series, the 1st of which has to be the most cherished of all Red Sox accomplishments. Nope, I would want to be showing up each and every day like Jim Leyland.

He just seems to work for a living in a way that is admirable – Driven without being an ass.

I mean no disrespect to the Mongolian Wild Ass there. I’m referring to more disagreeable asses. Jim Leyland is not like the bad asses.

Take Monday’s game against the Red Sox at Fenway. The game began in wet conditions and barely made it through to the top of the 6th when the rain got to be too much and the tarps came out. To that point the Red Sox had eked out a 4-1 lead, thanks in no small part to some shoddy infield work from Omar Infante, who tried to bare-hand a Carl Crawford bouncer and only ended up grabbing fresh air while 2 Sox runners crossed home plate.

Still, right before the rain became an insurmountable problem the Tigers had loaded the bases with 2 outs and Infante was at the plate for a shot at redemption.

Not so much.

Crucially, that was the moment that the umpires called for a rain delay. That decision became a whole lot more momentous a couple of hours later when, with no chance of a timely restart, the game was called complete with the Sox taking the win.

Given that they had a reasonable shot at working back into the contest Jim Leyland could certainly have been forgiven for opining that the situation was at least cosmically unfair.

He didn’t. Instead he gave an equitable and phlegmatic response to his team being denied a chance at a win:

‘You got the bases loaded and you’re a little bit excited because you got a shot, but the umpires do the best they can with that stuff. We had been playing in some pretty heavy rain and I think [umpire crew chief Jerry Layne] just decided at that point he needed to stop it and he gave it a good shot to try to get it in, but from what I hear it wasn’t supposed to stop raining around 1 or 1:30. So certainly to call the game at this point was the right call. So be it.’

Later Leyland elaborated further:

‘Who knows what would have happened, but we put ourselves in that situation. You could tell from his (35) pitch count in the first inning that Justin wasn’t sharp from the beginning. That’s just kind of a freak thing — something we haven’t seen at all this year.’

There’s a phrase I love in baseball – ‘Defensive indifference.’ I saw it most recently just the other day with Toronto at Seattle. I was tracking the game out of deference to Brother of Longworth72 – A Blue Jays man. It was the top of the 9th and Toronto were 1-4 down with 2 outs and a runner on. At this point the runner, Kelly Johnson, advanced to second on defensive indifference.

Which reads at 1st glance like the Mariner’s just couldn’t give a @#$% about what the Jays were doing – They were an out away from the win and the tying run was at best a bat away from the plate. If Johnson wanted to waste energy on taking a meaningless steal then so be it – Nobody from the M’s was gonna waste an iota of energy on that stuff.

The reality though is more nuanced. Of course the M’s care about that steal. Sure it’s a 2 out rally that barely raises a pulse but it could be the start of something bigger. I’m guessing that there’s no way that Seattle lets the steal by because they don’t think the game is swinging on it – Professionals play it out to the end.

I think instead that Seattle lets the steal happen without a hue and cry because it’s not worth doing anything about it – A throw to 2nd runs the risk of being off the mark, and then a steal for 2nd becomes a runner on the corner, eyeing off home. Nerves get a little more frayed and hands get a little harder.

Nope, the play at 2nd is high risk, low reward. It’s a low percentage play and you’re better off just letting him take the base. In this light it’s not so much about not caring as it is about caring about what matters.

That’s how Jim Leyland approached the rainout. He’s caring about what matters and that is not precipitation. What matters is Justin Verlander having an off day and little things like Omar Infante’s bare-handed bloop.

So that’s why I like Jim Leyland. Managerial indifference – There should be more of it in baseball. More caring about what really matters.

Oh, and the Mongolian Wild Ass is endangered. Someone should get some serious indifference together around that fight.

Sure As The Turnin’ Of The Night Into Day

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