Jim Leyland is the definition of a “baseball lifer”. He has been involved in the game in one position or another since he played in the minor leagues as a catcher in 1963. He currently serves as a special assistant to the Detroit Tigers. His time in the game has spanned the terms of eight different commissioners from Ford Frick to current commissioner Rob Manfred.
Since Manfred took over the job from previous commissioner Bud Selig, he’s earned mostly rave reviews from people within the sport and on the outside of it. Leyland says the biggest thing that he likes about Manfred is the fact that he has a passion for the game.
“He cares about the game and that’s the most important thing to me,” said Leyland on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones show. “Rob truly loves the game and he wants to make it as good as he possibly can and that’s for the fans. Those are the people that pay the tickets. We have so much respect for them. They spend their hard-earned money with us. People have so much vacation money or luxury money or whatever you want to call it and we want to get them to spend that money with us as much as we can. And Rob cares about the game and he cares about the people in the game and I think that’s the most important thing.”
Leyland was recently named as the manager for Team USA for the 2017 edition of the World Baseball Classic. He made waves when he stated that Team USA hasn’t taken the WBC as seriously as some of the other teams. He expanded on those comments with Gio and Jones.
“I think the timing of it is very tough,” said Leyland. “The guys are just getting to spring training they’re not in playing shape yet. They’re in pretty good physical shape but there’s a difference between looking good in physical shape and being in baseball shape. And at that point they’re really not at that point yet. So, we’ve got to be careful about that. Some of the guys prefer not to play because they’re not ready and they’re afraid of getting injured or whatever it may be. Some organizations promote it a little bit more than others. But, I understand all that. We’re not going to force anybody to play, we’re going to try and get as many of the good players as we can. Hopefully, everybody would cooperate: the general managers, the agents, and the players and everybody. I think it’s going to be fine.”
With Leyland taking the manager job for Team USA, the question has been raised of whether he would think about managing again. He quickly dispelled that notion in his press conference after taking the job. That said, Gio wondered what Leyland misses the most and what he misses the least about managing.
“I miss the competition number one, because I think that’s what motivates all athletes,” said Leyland. “I miss the competition, I miss the personality of all the guys in the locker room. But, I miss the travel the least.”