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A few weeks ago I suggested it was time for Tigers manager Jim Leyland to kick over the spread. The spread, to review, is the post-game buffet set out in the clubhouse for the baseball personnel to feast upon. Irate mangers have been kicking over the spread for generations. It's a mangers way of making a delicate, complicated, nuanced point after his team has suffered a particularly galling loss or a long string of losses which have become particularly galling in the aggregate. Kicking over the spread is to baseball what the angry news anchor is to Network: a managers way of sticking his head out the apartment window and screaming, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"
Finally, today, Leyland took my advice and kicked over the spread, at least metaphorically. While he didn't physically send food flying in all directions, he did go postal in front of reporters which is almost as good and I was glad to see it. Or, more accurately since I caught his act on the radio, I was glad to hear it. I only wonder why it took him so long. After all, I've been observing baseball people my entire adult life. Longer, really, so I know when it's time for the man in charge to stop being nice and start challenging the manhood of his players. Which is what Leyland did today.
It happened late this afternoon before the Tigers played Seattle and I was therefore not surprised in the least to tune into the game broadcast tonight and see the Tigers, the Last-in-the-American-League Tigers, pounding the Mariners 11-1 at Comerica Park in the 5th. I hope they were able to hold the lead.
I mentioned I'd heard Leyland's tirade on the radio. All of the horsebleeps and f'ing this's and f'ing that's had been, per FCC rules, horsebleeped right out of there. After playing a 20-second clip, about six bleeps worth in other words, the sportscaster mentioned that Leyland's rant could be heard in its entirety on the station website. Since there is no better listening in all of sport than the sound of a manager or coach absolutely losing it (it's almost worth sitting through the six weeks of crappy baseball your team has to play to go 17-27 and set the manager off in the first place) I typed in the appropriate www.what ever and clicked on the link to listen.
Even in the web version they had covered all of Leyland's filthy, nasty language with the electronic beep sound we've all come to know. Believe me, somebody had to do a lot of bleeping. It could not have been easy.
Leyland was carping about how the object of his ire--former Tiger Jason Grilli, traded to Colorado in April and the source of a comment the upshot of which was that Detroit wouldn't be in the fix they are in now had they not inexplicably released the lovable but weak-hitting Sean Casey in the wake of his breathtaking 4-homer campaign of '07 cause he's such an all-round great guy and such--saying Grilli would still be a Tiger had he "thrown more fastballs on the c--k".
"Somebody," I thought to myself, "just missed a bleep".
Now, I'm sure Leyland meant to say was that Grilli needed to throw more "fastballs on the inside part of the plate just below belt high," in order to remain in a Detroit uniform, but it came out, "fastballs on the c--k."
When I heard Leyland say that, the memories came back to me so thick I had to swat them away from my face like moths. It's been decades since I heard somebody use that particular phrase..
When I was only 22, just a baby reporter, I was working for some podunk country radio station which I had talked into letting me cover the Tigers. There I was, just a kid, talking to real major leaguers as though they were regular humans, or something.
One day, with tape rolling and eyes wide open, I asked Dave Rozema how to pitch to Jim Rice of the Boston Red Sox expecting him to say something heavy like, "slider away" or something equally baseball-savvy, but instead he responded with, and I've never forgotten it, "Fastballs on the c--k," and I thought to myself, "I can't use that!"
The only thing that compares was after a game one night when I asked Rusty Staub about what would have been a three-run game-winning homer off the facade of the third deck at Tiger Stadium if only it had not been about 2 feet foul. As a radio guy, as someone who traffics in the aural, I was disappointed in Staub's lack of a verbal response. He didn't speak at all. As I stood there, microphone at the ready for whatever insight he might offer, Staub silently pumped his fist up and down, the international sign for, well, you know. At least the guys reading this do. I wondered how in the hell I was going to get that on the radio.
But, back to Leyland. He also said today that if they (the Tigers) keep it up, and by "it" I presume he meant losing, he's going to "stop covering for guys night after night". All that means is that he's been lying, in public no less, about his players all season. That's another thing baseball managers have been doing for generations, just in case you haven't noticed. The only thing that surprises me is that no reporter, upon hearing a manager defend a player who's 1-for-his-last-35, has ever begun silently pumping his fist up and down. It wouldn't be professional. But it would be a hell of a release. Just sayin'