For Leyland, the hard part is over

For Leyland, the hard part is over
October 24, 2012, 11:24 pm
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Hours before the scheduled start time of World Series Game 1, Tigers manager Jim Leyland took care of what he described as his most difficult task.

"I think the hardest part is meeting with the media," Leyland said. "I don't mean that disrespectfully. It takes a lot of time; you're answering a lot of questions."

The fact the Tigers' manager is more concerned about talking to a bunch of scribes than watching his team take the field after a routine-ruining five days off might be attributed to the fact he has the best pitcher in baseball on the mound, reigning American League Cy Young winner and MVP Justin Verlander.

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Verlander has been virtually un-hittable in the postseason. He's only allowed two earned runs in 24 13 innings and has won all three of his starts. If that's not reason enough for confidence, all Leyland has to do is look toward his corner infielders. Miguel Cabrera won MLB's first Triple Crown since 1967, and Prince Fielder has eclipsed 30 homers and 100 RBI in five of his last six seasons.

Knowing you have those guys on your side must make facing the media feel daunting in comparison to managing the actual game.

"We're blessed," Leyland admitted. "We have three superstars on our team."

Two of those three Leyland mentioned look more like WWE Superstars than baseball players. Cabrera is listed at 6'4" and 240 pounds, and Fielder is 5'11" and weighs in at 275 pounds. Call them the "Natural Disasters," because they resemble Earthquake and Typhoon when in the batters box and the on-deck circle.

Cabrera and Fielder, have mastered hitting almost as well as they've perfected the art of the celebratory handshake. The Giants will have to hope they don't give them a reason to show off their elaborate succession of hand slaps that precede a strange sprinkling motion before ending in a hug. Leyland says he hasn't quite figured out what his two sluggers are doing with it.

"They say I'm old school, I'm really not," he said. "I don't get into that whether it's our team or the other team. I kind of don't really look to be honest with you."

With all the attention payed the three superstars, as Leyland called them, it's the supporting cast that's getting it done. Tiger's DH Delmon Young is leading the team with eight postseason RBI. The way he's swinging it right now the Tigers can't afford to take him out of the lineup and that could hurt them. With Games One and Two being played at AT&T Park under NL rules, Young will have to play defense.

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Another weakness for Detroit could be their bullpen. Closer Jose Valverde has been demoted after allowing seven runs in his three postseason appearances. Leyland broke the news to him the only way he knows how.

"Honesty is the best policy," he said. "Tell it like it is."

Leyland will play the match-ups as he navigates late inning situations. Two of the first three spots in the Giants lineup feature switch hitters, but Marco Scutaro, Buster Posey, and Hunter Pence all bat right-handed. The five through eight spots in the Giants' lineup bat left-handed. That could make Leyland's decisions awfully easy.

Assuming Verlander allows a reliever to take the mound.