With just about a month remaining in the regular season, the Detroit Tigers are trying to capture their first ever AL Central crown. It looks like this might finally be their year. After getting off to a slow start and trailing the Indians by seven and a half games earlier this season, the Tigers have clawed their way back into first place and have shown to be the best team in the division.
After sweeping AL Central foe Cleveland, Detroit carried that momentum into Tampa Bay and they increased their lead over the Indians to six and a half games with 32 more left to play. The Tigers have the best pitcher in baseball this year with Justin Verlander, they have one of the best offenses in the American League, and the moves that they have made to address their weaknesses have worked extremely well.
The Tigers have been in the driver’s seat before and haven’t been able to get through the finish line, but they are better than the Indians and they are better than the White Sox. The only team that can stop the Tigers from their first division championship is themselves because barring a collapse they will be able to put up their first AL Central Championship flag in Comerica Park.
Jim Leyland joined WXYT in Detroit with Stoney and Bill to talk about whether or not he feels good about where the Tigers are right now, how he keeps from going crazy in the dugout with some of the close games the Tigers play, and whether or not he plans to campaign for Justin Verlander to be the MVP.
Whether or not he feels good about the way things are going for his team at this point:
“Yeah I do. I think we’re playing pretty good Stoney. We came into a hornet’s nest here. If you watch this pitching that we have faced the few days, it’s tremendous. It’s the best starting staff in the American league in my opinion. One thru five is probably the best starting staff and I was concerned about this. I think we have done what we had to do down here. This was a real danger. This is a team that is very good; this is a team that has handled the Red Sox and Yankees a little bit too. I mean they’re good. To come in here after an emotional series against Cleveland and scratch and claw like we have I’m awful proud of them. We have a long way to go. You have to keep grinding and every series is a new series and a new challenge but so far I’m pleased with the way we responded down here because we could of come into a place like this and gotten swept very easily believe me. They just swept the team here before us so I’m pretty satisfied but you just gotta keep playing.”
On staying calm in the dugout and how much eating sunflower seeds helps him with that:
“I think to be honest with you it’s more habit than anything else. I think it’s just become a habit. I don’t know if it replaces my bad habit of smoking or not. Usually one pack lasts a whole game. I think when you talk about the blood pressure, the adrenaline is going and the heart is pumping. The heart is supposed to be pumping. That’s what we do. You’re supposed to be into it and the day that is not happening I’m gonna go home because if you can’t get excited about that. You also have to keep your cool because you’re making decisions. I’ve always said anybody that looks over there and says well you just sit there and you’re pretty calm. Well inside believe me that heart is pumping. It is for everybody if they are into the game the way they are supposed to be. That’s just the way it goes.”
Whether or not he will petition for Justin Verlander to be the MVP:
“I have a different viewpoint than that. I think there should be a Most Valuable Pitcher and Most Valuable Player. I don’t think a pitcher should be the Most Valuable Player. I’m not looking for arguments or controversy I just think when a guy goes out there 158 times or 155 times and has a big year, an MVP type year I don’t think the guy that goes out there 35 times should be named over that guy. To me right now if you really wanted to look at it who is our Most Valuable Player? Is it Verlander or at this point today under all circumstances is it Alex Avila? You can make a case for what this kid has gone through. I’m certainly not taking anything away from Verlander and I’m not trying to change the voting I just think there should be a Most Valuable Pitcher and a Most Valuable Player. I think that will eliminate the talk about a pitcher being MVP.”