Tigers extend Dombrowski, Leyland
The Tigers headed into the season with pressure to win, and with everyone from the coaching staff to the front office on their contract years to do it. Now that they’re in first place with little more than seven weeks left in the season, they’ll head into the thick of the pennant race with renewed job security for president/general manager Dave Dombrowski, manager Jim Leyland and much of the front officed.
The Tigers took the uncertain futures out of the background on Monday by announcing contract extensions for Dombrowski, his assistants and Leyland. Dombrowski received a four-year contract extension through 2015. Leyland received a one-year extension through next season.
Vice presidents Al Avila, David Chadd, Scott Reid and John Westhoff also earned contract extensions.
The extensions ensures that Dombrowski and his support team will go into a second decade running the club both on and off the field. Together, Dombrowski, Avila, Reid and Westhoff have overseen a rebuilding process that took the Tigers from back-to-back 100-loss seasons and 119 losses in 2003 to a team expected to contend every year. Detroit leads the AL Central in August for the fourth time in the last six years, and has potentially its best chance for the Tigers’ first division title since 1987.
Dombrowski has also been in charge on the Tigers’ business side, which has seen a turnaround of its own. What was once a difficult task to draw fans after the first season at Comerica Park has become one of Major League Baseball’s better success stories, with consistently strong attendance figures over the last six seasons. The Tigers have sold out eight games this year, including three on their recent seven-game homestand.
“Dave has built a solid foundation for this organization and assembled competitive teams that give us a chance to win year in and year out,” team owner Mike Ilitch said in a statement. “We have a lot of confidence in his continued leadership of the Detroit Tigers.”
Those last six seasons have been under Leyland’s leadership at manager, the longest run by a Tigers skipper since Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson’s tenure. Leyland led the Tigers to the World Series in 2006, losing to the Cardinals, and has put them in contention to get back to the playoffs ever since. He owns a 485-440 record as Tigers manager, including 61-53 this season.
“I know Jim shares our desire to deliver a winner,” Ilitch said in the same statement. “We’re pleased to have him continue leading the Detroit Tigers on the field.”
Leyland is in his 20th season as a Major League manager and looking for his sixth spot in the postseason. The 66-year-old former Tigers farmhand, who got his managerial start in Detroit’s farm system in the 1970s, has said he would like to manage for several more years.
Though the Tigers have been at or near the division lead for much of the season, the contract years for Dombrowski and Leyland — and the accompanying pressure to win now — have been an underlying theme all season. The Tigers made a midseason coaching move last month by changing pitching coaches from Rick Knapp to Jeff Jones, trying to get more production out of a pitching staff that had its ups and downs aside from Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander.
Detroit also has had its share of trades aimed at this year, from the May swap of Scott Sizemore for David Purcey to the Trade Deadline acquisitions of Wilson Betemit, Doug Fister and David Pauley. After all that, the Tigers head into a crucial three-game series at Cleveland Tuesday with a four-game lead in the division.
“I am grateful for the continued opportunity Mr. Ilitch has given me to run this franchise, and I am equally appreciative of the unwavering support he has demonstrated the past ten seasons in our efforts to bring a World Championship back to Detroit,” Dombrowski said in a statement.