Enter the name Jim Leyland into your mind’s version of Google, then hit search – or “I’m feeling lucky” if you’re feeling lucky. What comes to mind is probably a variety of descriptive terms. “Old” “short” “chain smoker” “mustache” “old school” and so on. All of which are accurate. Leyland was born about three years and a week to the day of the Japanese’s attack on Pearl Harbor. He stands all of six feet tall. He does seem to enjoy a cigar or three on a daily basis. And yes, his mustache enjoys a few puffs too. Leyland’s appearance is everything that Hollywood would seek in casting an old-timey baseball manager.
But the word “progressive”? Sure, it might pop up; much in the way that searching for any female name will return a link or two to some obscure and random adult entertainment video or website. Yet, when speaking to the Washington and Detroit media staffs about Ivan Rodriguez and his impact on the Nationals, Leyland sounded less like a man born before the invention of bar codes, bikinis, and microwaves and more like someone born after the creation of Baseball Primer. Take this notable quotable from Adam Kilgore’s Nationals Journal for example:
“Take all that clubhouse [stuff] and all that, throw it out the window. Every writer in the country has been writing about that [nonsense] for years. Chemistry don’t mean [anything]. He’s up here because he’s good. That don’t mean [a hill of beans]. They got good chemistry because their team is improved, they got a real good team, they got guys knocking in runs, they got a catcher hitting .336, they got a phenom pitcher they just brought up. That’s why they’re happy.”
This isn’t some kind of victory worthy of a collective “Huzzah!” from the anti-chemistry crowd because one could just as easily find a quote from an opposing manager who suggests chemistry is vital for winning. Chemistry is like the baseball version of the chicken/egg argument. The only reasons I’m sharing the quotes are 1) Kilgore’s profanity edits are fantastic; and 2) how amusing it is to see someone who doesn’t buy into chemistry turn around and reference batting average and pitcher wins as the statistics of value.