The Detroit Tigers got themselves back into the win column on a chilly Saturday night at Comerica Park, taking a 5-2 decision over the Cleveland Indians.
But the main storyline of the day was the abrupt retirement of manager Ron Gardenhire, who decided to call it a career due to health reasons.
Interim manger Lloyd McClendon, who will take Gardenhire’s position for the remainder of the 2020 season, explained afterwards the difficulty that Gardenhire had in explaining to the team of his decision, but that they showed professionalism in their ability to rebound from the less than ideal news to go out and win a ballgame.
“It was very difficult for him to talk to the players, but he made it through. The players are resilient, they’re tough. They were sad, but they bounced back and were ready to play,” he explained.
“This is something that obviously Gardy had been contemplating, but I don’t think anyone thought it would happen this soon. I think the important thing we all have to realize in this matter – and we tried to convey this to Gardy – the the most important thing was his health and family. It was time for him to go home and take care of his family and take care of his health.”
How did he find out about the news? According to McClendon, Gardenhire got everyone together – and it was an emotional meeting.
“Obviously we had a meeting – he called the entire staff together and explained what was going on and how he felt, and what he was planning on doing,” he said. “It was sad news – probably a tearful meeting, not only for Gardy but for the rest of us as well. Out of respect I won’t go into everything, but it was a touching meeting.”
When asked what he appreciated most about Gardenhire’s time in Detroit, McClendon likened Gardenhire to former Tigers manager Jim Leyland – certainly a high compliment.
“Gardy in a lot of respects was like Jim Leyland,” he said. “One thing he would always remind us was that we didn’t work for him, but worked with him. I thought that was pretty extraordinary coming from a guy with 1,200 wins in his career. He wanted us to make sure that we felt part of what was going on.”
“Absolutely. Look at the last three years and the struggles and battles – but the one thing that was constant was his leadership in the clubhouse. The guys in the clubhouse were upbeat and had fire in them every day. That speaks volumes as to what kind of leader that Gardy was….the players left it out on the field every day.”
As far McClendon’s plans beyond this season?
“Do I want to manage again? Obviously yes,” he answered. “I would definitely have interest in this job.”