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Leyland defends staff, accepts blame

Leyland defends staff in slow start

KANSAS CITY -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland knows the yin and yang of glory and blame in the baseball business.

"Players deserve the credit [when the team plays well]," Leyland said, "and the manager accepts responsibility for the team not going well. That's just the way it works."

As such, Leyland has said publicly to hold him responsible for the Tigers' struggles. To him, though, that doesn't mean he accepts the notion that coaches should be scapegoats. He sees that not so much as a fix but as a superficial measure.

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"I think that's all normal talk," Leyland said. "That's radio show talk. That's bar talk. That's an opinion, and I disagree with that, obviously."

Both hitting coach Lloyd McClendon and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez have received their share of public scrutiny as far as what their message is, and how players are receiving it, as the Tigers continue to hang under .500 and struggle in various statistical areas. Leyland, however, believes that's the wrong direction to start pointing at this point in the season.

The Tigers entered Tuesday with the highest earned run average in baseball. Leyland acknowledged those problems, especially when it comes to starting pitching, but countered that by noting that two years ago under Hernandez's tutelage, the Tigers had the lowest ERA in baseball.

"That's the thing that goes along with our business -- you're looking for someone to blame," Leyland said. "There's not a thing wrong with the pitching coach, but we do have to start pitching better. There's no question about that."

As for McClendon, Leyland said the role of a hitting coach is one of the toughest on a team because of the work involved -- not just working with so many hitters every day, but watching video every day.

Sometimes, Leyland said, it's not that the teaching is wrong, but the message isn't getting through. In that case, the solution could involve repeating the message in different ways, and reinforcing it, until a player gets it.

"I think different people can interpret things differently," Leyland said.

Later, he added, "We're not 16-22 [entering Tuesday] because Chuck Hernandez isn't good. He's an excellent pitching coach, as good as I've been around. But we are all in the same boat."

In other words, they'll sink or swim with this team as a group.

"I'm working just as hard as I did in 2006," Leyland said. "My staff's working as hard as it did in 2006."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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