09 Feb An Inside Look At Who Is Managing Team USA at the WBC
By: Chris Northrop
I lived in Pittsburgh from 1983-1990 and was privileged to watch Jim Leyland manage the Pirates and admired his energy, his skill and his determination to win. His teams in Pittsburgh were gritty and hard-nosed, just as he was throughout his career. You know you love a team when you know every player even after 30 years. Sid Bream, 1B, when’s the last time you came across his name? I loved those Jim Leyland teams in Pittsburgh. It’s surprising to learn that Leyland managed to a .496 winning percentage while in Pittsburgh; however, he more than proved his managerial prowess when one year after leaving the Pirates, he managed the Marlins to a World Series win. While he did not win a World Series with the Detroit Tigers, he managed the team twice through pennant winning seasons.
I liked Leyland right away when I saw him in the Pittsburgh dugout, pacing and smoking and because he was a tough guy from the Midwest, a native of Toledo, OH. I loved that he was a throwback to the managers of the past, rebellious, hard-nosed and wily. MLB network featured “Jim Leyland: A Life in Baseball” on January 31st of this year and one of the video clips of Leyland shows him responding to the question of naming a captain for the Pirates. He said, “Only one captain around here and it’s me.” To this day, Barry Bonds still calls Leyland “Skip.”
Known as a player’s manager and at the same time as a tough, hard-line manager, Leyland garnered the respect of players, baseball smart guys like Tony LaRussa and fans. Barry Bonds is shown saying in “Jim Leyland: A Life in Baseball: “I would have went through a brick wall for that man.” High praise from a player not known for expressing his opinions lightly. Tony LaRussa is quoted as saying that Leyland is …”the deepest, most knowledgeable baseball man that is still living.” Fans are looking forward to his eventual inclusion in the Hall of Fame.
Now retired from managing MLB but currently managing Team USA in the WBC, Jim Leyland is sure to continue motivating and managing these players to success in the games. There is no doubt that even under a brief tutelage with Leyland, young players, such as Alex Bregman, and even veteran players, such as Buster Posey, will improve their play just being around him and watching the way he conducts his business and will respond with great games in the WBC. Who knows, Team USA could bring home the trophy!