Leyland will honor pace of game memo
Tigers manager not happy about new orders but will obey
DETROIT -- The Tigers will comply with Major League Baseball's attempts to speed up the pace of the game. But that doesn't mean manager Jim Leyland is happy about doing it.
A conference call with Major League general managers earlier this week brought about a memo from MLB Commissioner Bud Selig instructing umpires and club officials to follow existing rules to speed up the pace of the game. The enforcement starts Friday, and president/general manager Dave Dombrowski will brief players before the game on what to expect.
Leyland has already heard the details. And while he stated his respect for Selig and his efforts, he doesn't agree with the focus.
"Don't get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for the Commissioner," Leyland said. "I like him. He's a friend of mine, and I know he's doing what he thinks is best for the game. But at the same time, I don't have to agree with it."
He certainly understands it's a sensitive topic, but he doesn't agree that pace of game is an issue. His point was that the result and the quality of a game determine a lot about how it feels to go along, not just the pace.
"You know what?" Leyland said. "It's a no-win situation when you talk about it. I don't like it. I've always said, and you can quote me on this, that to me, a baseball game is like a movie. If it's a good movie, you stay. If it's a bad movie, you leave."
Among the measures detailed in an MLB release is a request to umpires to break up conferences on the mound more quickly, "especially when the visitor is not prompt to the mound."
Leyland interpreted that as an order for managers to be prompt as they come out to the mound. Coincidentally, he was jogging out to the mound at a brisker pace than normal as he made his pitching changes Wednesday night, a point which he made to reporters Thursday morning.
Still, he has his limits.
"They want me to run on and off the mound," Leyland said. "I smoke three packs a day."
It was an up-front discussion that Leyland had on the matter. He went on to talk about the many moves that managers make to slow down a game as part of a strategy, whether it's to get a pitcher ready in the bullpen or to quiet a rally. Those weren't specifically mentioned in the release, but Leyland made a point to say he'll continue to do them.
"I'm going to throw over to first base," Leyland said. "If I think a guy's stealing, I'm going to mess with him. Well, that takes time. Sometimes you'll see the umpire and fans [react], but my job is to try to win the game. I'm not on a time scale. We don't have a clock like football and basketball. I'm out here to try to win the game. That's as simple as it is.
"Every once in a while, all managers get a guy up [when] a guy gets in a little trouble real quick and you have to get a guy going, so you might send Pudge [Rodriguez] out to talk to him. There's no secret about that. Or I might walk out once real slow to give him extra time and come back. That's all part of the strategy of the game, and I think they're taking away from that when they do that. I don't think it's good."
Also among the recommended changes was to enforce the eight-pitch limit a pitcher is allowed to throw before an inning and when a reliever enters the game.
"You can't fight City Hall," Leyland said. "But you know what, then? When the pitcher goes out between innings and throws his eight [warmup] pitches, forget the two minutes and all that when you're waiting for television [to get out of a commercial break] and start the game, if you want to know the truth. But obviously they pay the bills, so you can't fight City Hall. TV's going to pay the bills, and I understand that, so I'm not looking for trouble."
He repeated that part about not seeking trouble later.
"I'm not looking for trouble," he said again. "I honor whatever the Commissioner does. If he wants me to do jumping jacks on the way to the mound, I'll do it. I'll do a cartwheel. I'll be glad to do it. I might look like a fool.
"Sometimes it's best to just leave well enough alone. And if the Commissioner feels that it's not well enough, that we could be doing something else to make it better, I'll respect it fully and I'll honor it."
That said, he reserves his right to disagree.
"You know what?" he said. "And you can quote me on this: Basically, it's silly stuff. That's what it is, silly. And I have the utmost respect for the Commissioner trying to do what he believes is best for baseball, and I honor it. And I will honor it, and I will jog to the mound. I'll trot out."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.