Back in April of 2006, Iván Rodríguez singled late in a game with a runner on second base. Gene Lamont was the Tigers’ third-base coach, and he did not wave the runner home.
From across the diamond, Rodríguez started waving his arms. Tigers manager Jim Leyland did not take kindly to the display. He viewed it as Rodríguez showing up a coach.
Rodríguez was making more than $10 million that year, a result of a surprise signing two years earlier that helped spark a baseball rebirth in Detroit. Leyland was in his first year as the team’s manager. It was getaway day, but before the team headed to the airport, Leyland sat his players down for a meeting. It was one of his first big moments in front of the team.
Former Tigers closer Todd Jones recalled to The Athletic in 2020 that Leyland delivered a message, one that was aimed directly toward Rodríguez. It went something like this:
You got the money, but I got the lineup card, and you will never play again if you do that. You’re never going to treat my coaches that way, I don’t care who you are. It’s gonna be you or me because I’m not gonna put up with that.
Leyland has talked about that meeting before. He has always wanted to make it clear that Rodríguez responded well and handled it like a pro.
But the message Leyland sent that day resonated with the rest of the club.
The story seems especially relevant after current Tigers manager A.J. Hinch benched Javier Báez after a baserunning mistake — forgetting how many outs there were — last Thursday in Toronto.
Hinch indicated afterward he would have benched any player displaying a lapse in concentration. The Tigers had been playing sloppy baseball, highlighted by two boneheaded mistakes on the bases the day before. But because it was Báez — the team’s second-highest-paid player behind Miguel Cabrera and a star who has struggled to find his footing in Detroit — the benching feels different. Like with Leyland and Rodríguez, the rest of the team takes note when a big-name player is held accountable.
But when such a player gets benched or otherwise called out by the manager, another question arises: What happens next?