After former Tigers pitcher Jason Grilli was among those dissecting what's wrong with the Tigers in a Tuesday piece by Bob Nightengale in USA Today, Leyland fired back, saying Grilli should worry about Colorado. Then he turned his attention to his current players.
Grilli was quoted in the USA Today article calling the clubhouse atmosphere in Detroit "stale and stagnant." He also said that not re-signing Sean Casey had affected them.
"It seems like they kind of broke up our team chemistry when they got rid of Sean Casey and good people like that," said Grilli, who was traded to Colorado at the end of April after two-plus seasons in Detroit. "You wanted guys like that around. You wanted a guy like [Brandon] Inge playing behind you, knowing he would go through a brick wall.
"Talent-wise, on paper, that is one of the greatest teams assembled, but the atmosphere was stale and stagnant. You kept losing, losing and losing, and everybody became distant. I have good friends over there, and I feel badly for them."
Leyland has never been a big believer in clubhouse chemistry affecting a team, and those remarks didn't sit well with him.
"I find that hard to believe that that has anything to do with somebody not getting a run in," Leyland said Tuesday afternoon. "I mean, would I like this to be a little more close-knit? Yes. A lot of people when they start talking about that, and some of it comes from players, I think they ought to look at themselves in the mirror. I think it's diversionary tactics, and I really take offense to Jason Grilli's thing about not having Sean Casey.
"You have to be kidding me. I mean, please. Jason Grilli ought to just worry about Colorado. Jason Grilli's not here any longer because Jason Grilli didn't pitch good under pressure situations and didn't pitch very well in Detroit. You want to tell it like it is? When players want to start talking, I'll start talking. But I'm very reserved about stuff like that. Jason Grilli ought to worry about Colorado, not Detroit.
"Don't misunderstand what I'm saying. I miss Sean Casey. But Sean Casey doesn't have anything to do with the fact that the Tigers are where we're at. Now let's get that straight right now."
Grilli was surprised by the response when he was presented with Leyland's comments.
"To get comments from Leyland thinking that I was bashing the Tigers is not what I was saying," Grilli said. "It's pretty interesting, because I try to stay fair and objective in my statements. I'm very cautious in what I say. I'm not the GM. I'm not the manager. I don't know everything. All I was simply saying was I was asked to make a comment about where the Tigers were.
"I was there for the whole experience, from the end of '05 to when I got traded over here. All I was doing was making a comparison of what I've seen and what I've been through. All I was basically saying was the balance and the camaraderie and stuff that I saw in '06 slowly faded out. That's all I said. That's basically, in a nutshell, summarizing it. I wasn't throwing anybody under the bus. I love everybody over there."
Leyland's comments about Grilli were just the beginning of a longer discussion. He also took offense to remarks from current players, notably a quote from third baseman Carlos Guillen.
"We never said we were going to win 100 games," Guillen told USA Today. "All we said was that we have a good team with good players. That was the [sports] media and fans doing the talking. You don't win games looking good on paper. You've got to do it on the field. That wasn't fair to us."
Without mentioning Guillen by name, Leyland scoffed at that notion.
"It isn't fair all of a sudden for people to have expectations?" Leyland asked. "Well, why wasn't it fair? What are you talking about, it wasn't fair? You're supposed to love the expectations. You're saying it wasn't fair to have expectations? What are you talking about? I'm a grown man. I can take my heat, and I deserve some for the performance of this club. But you better be careful when you're a player. If you're hitting .200 and .220 and striking out or hitting .200 and .215, you shouldn't be popping off, in my opinion, about other situations. You ought to be taking care of your own business.
"If they want to play games, I'll play games, and it won't be long [before] I'll put names to it, if they want me to. I'm not quite to that point yet. They want to play games, I'll play games. I'll quit protecting some of these guys night after night after night after night. And I'll put some names to it."
When asked what kind of effect that would have on a club, Leyland went on.
"I don't give a [care] what [effect] it has," he said. "When people start making weak excuses in the newspaper, diversionary tactics and [stuff], that rubs me wrong. I don't give a [care] what effect it has. It can't have a bad effect, because we've been as [bad] as you can be. So it can't hurt. I'm not looking for problems here, but I'm a man. I look in the mirror. When I'm [bad], I'm [bad]. And there's a few [players] in that clubhouse right now that are [bad] too. And they need to look in that mirror. Don't look at mine, look at theirs. And don't look at the guy next to them. Look in the mirror yourself. Don't be pointing fingers over here and why we're not doing well. That's all weak [stuff]. Grilli's [stuff], some of that other [stuff] I read in the paper today, that's weak [stuff]. Weak."
The Tigers began a six-game homestand on Tuesday with the American League's worst record at 17-27, having lost 12 of their last 15 since sweeping the Yankees at the end of April. Their offense struggled to score 12 runs over their just-finished six-game road trip to Kansas City and Arizona, and he has bemoaned the struggles pointedly in recent days, saying he's out of answers for why they've been shut out seven times through 44 games.
"We're stagnant between the lines," Leyland said. "The clubhouse hasn't changed a bit. We come to the clubhouse and do everything we've always done in the clubhouse. They sit in the lunch room and [talk] with each other. They walk around and do whatever ... they do. They look at film. They look at tape. They hit extra. They do the same thing they've always done.
"Grilli should worry about Colorado. I mean, if Jason Grilli had done a better job, he'd still be here. I don't want to hear any weak [stuff] from Jason Grilli. But that's not any concern of mine now either, because he belongs to somebody else. My concern is the guys out there that are talking weak [stuff]. And they'll know about it today."
After talking with the media, Leyland had a closed-door meeting with his players before batting practice.
"What's wrong is we haven't hit, we haven't pitched, we haven't managed good enough," Leyland explained after Tuesday's 12-8 win. "I told the players that when I look in the mirror right now, I'm mad at myself because I think I stink. And we all have to look in the mirror and say, 'How are you doing?' Don't look for all this other silly stuff."
It comes down to personal accountability, Leyland said.
"We're all held accountable. I told the team that we've played [terrible], but I don't ever say that to a team before I say that I'm [terrible]. We're all in this together. I don't mean individual players are [terrible]. I mean our performance has been [terrible]. It starts with me. That's reality."