DETROIT, Michigan –
After the miserable start to the 2000′s, if you told me that the Tigers could find a manager who would take them to 4 American League Championship Series and advance to 2 World Series, I probably would have laughed in your face, right after I checked you in to the local psych ward.
Jim Leyland officially retired on Monday morning just a few months before his 69th birthday and after 8 great seasons as Manager of the Detroit Tigers. Leyland thought the “fuel was getting a little low in the tank”. At a press conference at Comerica Park, he thanked the fans, members of the media, the entire Tigers organization, and most of all the players.
After having contemplating retirement earlier this season, Jim met with Tigers President Dave Dombrowski on September 7th in Kansas City and essentially told him that he would not be returning as manager next season. The secret was kept, and after a crushing Game 6 loss in Boston, Leyland announced to his players that he was stepping down.
In my years of covering and watching sports, I don’t think there has ever been a coach more criticized by the fans than Jim Leyland. Tigers fans owe this man so much more than just a thank you. Leyland helped revive baseball in Detroit. In his 1st season, he took the team to the World Series. That was just 3 years after Detroit lost a record 119 games. 4 trips to the ALCS, and 2 to the World Series trips later, the Tigers are still prime to be one of baseball’s best teams next season. From the daily lineup card, to the bullpen decisions, and everywhere in between, Leyland’s choices were always under the microscope. There will always be Leyland haters, but on this day, we should be acknowledging him for what he did to bring baseball back to the City of Detroit. Leyland and Dombrowski both stated that Jim will stay with the organization in some way, though an official title hasn’t been decided on. One thing is clear though, Leyland wants to retire a Detroit Tiger.
The focus now shifts to who will take the reigns in the dugout for the Tigers. Dombrowski refused to speculate who will be the candidates. They could decide to promote from within the organization, with Lloyd McClendon and Gene Lamont’s names being tossed around already. Or they could look at outside help. Dusty Baker is a name that has come up in some circles. Whoever it is, has some big shoes to fill. Detroit is arguably the best managing job available in baseball, with the team still on the cusp of a World Series championship.
That topic will be heavily debated in the coming weeks and months, but our focus today should be thanking the man who made it all possible. We’ll certainly miss Jimmy Smokes calling the shots for the Detroit Tigers, and thank him for all he’s done in his 8 seasons, to make baseball relevant again in the Motor City.