From those who consider "old-school" a derisive term, Jim Leyland tends to get a pass because he's just plain old. He's the guy who took advantage of the power outage in Game 3 to light up a Marlboro Red in the dugout. He's the guy who, after Detroit fell 1-0 to go down in the ALCS, laid down on his couch to figure out what to do. He didn't have splits, or video, or past performance vs. Jake Peavy on hand. He had a pen and a pad of paper, and he puzzled out a new lineup based on what felt right.
Austin Jackson, for just the third time in the past two years, would no longer bat leadoff. He'd be bumped down to eighth, and everyone else would just move up. That meant Torii Hunter hit leadoff for the first time this century, and Miguel Cabrera, robbed of most of his power by nagging injuries, hit second for the first time since 2004. Because Leyland is a players' manager and he believes it's the way you do things, he made sure everyone in that lineup knew about the changes before coming to the ballpark. And because he's busy and old, he had hitting coach Lloyd McClendon do the texting.
It woke Austin Jackson up. (Literally, and maybe the other too.)
“That’s kind of weird to wake up to that text message,” Jackson said. “But actually, I didn’t really have too much of a reaction. I was thinking it’s probably going to come sooner or later. And I think it worked out for the best.”
Jackson didn't say it, but he had to be relieved. Hitting .091 this postseason with 18 strikeouts in 33 at-bats, he must have figured he'd be benched instead of just bumped down in the order. Leyland said he did consider swapping in Don Kelly for Jackson, "but I didn’t think that was the answer."
We'll never know if the lineup change was the answer. If the psychological shakeup helped Jackson (2-for-2 with two walks) draw a bases-loaded walk that opened the floodgates in the second, an inning capped off by RBI hits from Hunter and Cabrera. Or if Jake Peavy, who'd been shelled in two of his three previous postseason appearances, was going to turn in a stinker either way.
But this is occasionally the outcome of managing by gut—sometimes it works, and you're a genius. (And when it doesn't, the player still tends to take most of the blame.) It helps when you've got the personnel, like Jose Iglesias batting ninth, pushing Jhonny Peralta into left and sparing you the need to start Don Kelly.
Unsurprisingly, the Tigers will keep the same lineup for tonight's Game 5. But what of last night's lineup card? Shouldn't it be bronzed? Put in a museum somewhere? Nah. Leyland's got no truck with that.
"I'll throw it away. Unless I can sell it at some bar on the way home."