Once occasional adversaries, Leyland, Pudge now share mutual respect
Jim Leyland and Pudge Rodriguez didnt always see eye to eye during their nearly three seasons together in Detroit. They had a major blow-up in 2006, Leylands first year here, when Rodriguez typically tried to see how far he could push his new manager and the skipper, also typically, put Pudge in his place. Their second flare-up came last season when Rodriguez let Leyland know he wasnt at all pleased by his lack of playing time.
Before long, Rodriguez was gone, traded to the New York Yankees. And the Tigers made it clear Pudge, who is undoubtedly headed for the Hall of Fame, no longer figured in their plans. Many assumed there might be some lingering bitterness, particularly on the part of Rodriguez, who has long been accustomed to getting his way.
Nevertheless, on Wednesday, when Leylands cell phone rang, it was Rodriguez calling, out of the blue, just to say hello and to let his former manager know he was looking forward to seeing him in Houston this weekend where the Tigers play Pudges new team, the Astros.
At his first opportunity, Leyland phoned Pudge back. Im looking forward to seeing him, too, said Leyland, who planned to congratulate Rodriguez on breaking baseballs all-time record for games caught last week.
I think theres a mutual respect there, Leyland said. I care about Pudge and I think he cares about me.
We had a couple of pretty heated disagreements, Leyland admitted. But thats because we both are passionate about what we do.
Ive never seen anybody work like he did. The guy is a first ballot Hall of Famer, theres no question about. To do what he has done is amazing.
Some people felt he was selfish, Leyland added. But Ill tell you what: I wouldnt give a nickel for a player who is not a little bit selfish.
Which is certainly not to suggest Leyland or the Tigers have ever regretted letting Pudge go.