Friday, June 26, 2009

Once occasional adversaries, Leyland, Pudge now share mutual respect

        Jim Leyland and Pudge Rodriguez didn’t always see eye to eye during their nearly three seasons together in Detroit. They had a major blow-up in 2006, Leyland’s 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 wasn’t 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 Leyland’s 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 Pudge’s new team, the Astros.
        At his first opportunity, Leyland phoned Pudge back. “I’m looking forward to seeing him, too,”  said Leyland, who planned to congratulate Rodriguez on breaking baseball’s all-time record for games caught last week.
        “I think there’s 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 that’s because we both are passionate about what we do. 
        “I’ve never seen anybody work like he did. The guy is a first ballot Hall of Famer, there’s no question about. To do what he has done is amazing.
        “Some people felt he was selfish,” Leyland added. “But I’ll tell you what: I wouldn’t 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.


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