Leyland announces retirement from managing

It’s time, Jim Leyland said.

“It’s time to step down from the managerial position of the Detroit Tigers,” Leyland announced at a Monday morning press conference, “and accept another position yet to be determined.”

He made up his mind on Sept. 7 after a blowout loss in Kansas City, and told team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski. He told the players of his plans after Saturday’s loss to the Red Sox in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. He made it official on Monday, ending his eight-year tenure leading the team he grew up with, and a 22-year managerial career that ranks him among the most accomplished of his most generation.

Leyland said he sensed the energy waning at age 68, and didn’t feel it would be fair to stay on the job if the fire wasn’t there. They were similar sentiments to what led him to step back from managing after the 1999 season in Colorado.

“I don’t feel it would be fair for the organization, Mr. Ilitch, the front office, the players and the coaches for me to go on,” Leyland said. “The fire has gone low.”

This time, it appears to be for good. With front-office members, coaches, and players Torii Hunter and Don Kelly in attendance, Leyland announced his retirement from managing.

“We want to thank Jim for everything he has done over the past eight years to steer the ship and lead our ballclub to some exciting times in this town,” Tigers owner Mike Ilitch said. “Jim has been instrumental in the franchise’s most recent success on and off the field, and we are forever grateful. We wish the best to Jim and his family in the future.”

Leyland didn’t want to call it goodbye, saying he’ll remain involved. His career in professional baseball, which reached 50 years this season, will continue. For someone who hit .222 as a minor-league catcher and thought he might have go back to the factories of Perrysburg, Ohio, it was quite a career.

He worked his way up to the big leagues on a long, hard path. After more than a decade managing in the Tigers farm system and helping develop prospects such as Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker and Kirk Gibson, he finally got his shot as a big-league coach under Tony La Russa with the White Sox in the early 1980s. He was a relatively unknown candidate managerial opening in Pittsburgh when Chuck Tanner stepped down.

Once Leyland finally got his shot, success came relatively quickly. He built the Pittsburgh Pirates into a perennial contender on a small-market budget in the early 1990s, winning three consecutive National League East titles from 1990-92. He was Barry Bonds’ first manager, forging a relationship that was fiery at times but fiercely loyal, and until this year remained the last Pirates manager with a winning season.

His resume was strong enough that Dombrowski looked to him when he wanted a proven manager to lead a win-now Florida Marlins team in 1997. With a cast of stars that included Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Moises Alou, Al Leiter, and a pressure of title expectations, Leyland led the Marlins into the playoffs for the first time ever, then through the postseason to a world championship.

That team was dismantled soon after the parade, leaving Leyland to manage a 1998 team comprised largely of prospects and role players to 108 losses. After a disappointing 1999 season managing in Colorado, he stepped down and seemed ready for retirement.

For years, however, he dreamed about a chance to manage Detroit. He took the job after the 2005 season and led a Tigers team that hadn’t had a winning record since 1993 to heights it hadn’t seen since its World Series-winning season of 1984.

The 2006 Tigers, Leyland’s first team, won the AL Wild Card and went to the World Series, falling to the Cardinals in five games. It was a Cinderella story for a franchise that had seemed mired in mediocrity, but it was the start of a team that contended just about every year.

“The thing I’m proudest of is … I came here to make talent a team. I think we did that,” Leyland said.

Six of Leyland’s eight Tigers squads finished with a winning record. Four of them went to the playoffs. The last three won the AL Central title and advanced to at least the ALCS. The 2012 team returned to the World Series, losing out to the Giants. Leyland joined Hughie Jennings from a century ago as the only managers to lead the Tigers to three consecutive postseason berths.

“Jim’s tenure will be looked back on as one of the great eras in Tigers history, an era that included two World Series appearances, four ALCS appearances in eight seasons, three division titles and two American League pennants,” Dombrowski said. “It has truly been an honor to work with one of the great managers in the history of the game.”

He managed a Cy Young winner in Justin Verlander, and back-to-back league MVPs in Verlander and Miguel Cabrera. His team this season might well end up sweeping the major postseason awards between Cabrera’s candidacy to repeat as MVP, Max Scherzer’s emergence as a Cy Young favorite, and Rookie of the Year candidate Jose Iglesias.

“I’m proudest to have the privilege of managing the Detroit Tigers,” Leyland said. “But really I’m being selfish, the number of wins, the number of postseason appearances. I just feel so blessed. I don’t want to slight anybody, it’s been just as much fun for me to manage the Ramon Santiagos as the Miguel Cabreras or Justin Verlanders.”

Fitting, then, that the two players on hand were a superstar like Hunter and a role player like Kelly.

In each of the three seasons, Leyland worked without a contract for the following year. He had decided to go year-to-year with his deal, he said, following the example of his good friend, former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, to avoid a long-term commitment if he didn’t want to manage anymore or if the Tigers wanted to go in a different direction. La Russa was among the few people Leyland consulted while coming to his decision to retire as a manager.

There had been no outward signs that Leyland was ready to call it quits. As recently as this summer, he talked about wanting to manage beyond next year, and he said that his energy level was good.

As the year went along, however, that apparently changed. He started thinking about his future as early as June, and became more serious about it as the summer went along.

“This job entails a lot more than people think,” he said. “There’s a lot more than writing out the lineup and pulling the pitcher. Like I said, I was low on fuel and I could see it coming. The trips were starting to get tough. If you look at what we just did in the postseason, we went out back and forth twice, then flew into Boston and got in at 9 o’clock in the morning.

“Like I said, I’m going to be 69 years old, I’m not ashamed of that, I’m proud of that. But my fuel is getting a little low. That’s the one thing I’m really happy about. I think I still have a chance to get a World Series ring here — at least I think they’ll give me one if they win it next year. We’re just changing the guard a little bit. That’s all we’re doing.”

Leyland’s 700 regular-season managerial wins are the third-most in Tigers history, trailing only Sparky Anderson (1,331) and Jennings (1,131). His .540 winning percentage as Tigers manager ranks only behind Steve O’Neill (.551 from 1943-48) among managers with at least 500 wins.

Leyland’s 1,769 wins overall rank 15th all-time among Major League managers. His eight playoff appearances tie him for seventh on the all-time list, a group that includes La Russa, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Hall of Famers Casey Stengel, John McGraw, Joe McCarthy and Connie Mack.

26 Comments

Evan, are you commenting on M-live? I can not understand the comments about being at a game that is boring. Sitting at home alone maybe, watching on TV. I go to 2 or 3 games a year. If I lived around Detroit instead of Grand Rapids and saw 20 games a year maybe if would become boring. The only boring trip to Detroit was on Al Kaline day when there was an accident on the freeway and cars were stopped for 2 hours and we missed the opening ceremony. I will not always agree with the new Tigers manager but I am a die hard Tiger fan.

I have posted a few comments there – not as many as here. MLB traderumors usually has smarter comments than MLive. I guess I’m just pissed off today about all this and the seasons end.

Maybe I am just ready for something new. Does a really good manager even stay around 8 years these days?

Madden just completed his 8th in TB. If we didn’t have the worst farm system in the MLB I would suggest trading Nick C for Madden.

Thank you Jim Leyland.
I thought he would go for broke in 2014 with one more year of Scherzer.

One ending is also a beginning. A new manager may ask for different things from DD and Illitch. We already know the weak spots. We also have to wonder how this will affect the coaching staff.

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20131021&content_id=63202488&vkey=perspectives&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

.
“ask a dozen general managers to describe their prototype of what a Major League manager ought to be, there’s a good chance they’ll mention one name. Jim Leyland.”

I think Mr. Justice is pretty strong on the hyperbole. “Leyland never used the media to send a message.” That is patently false.

Sounds to me like they already have a succession plan in place and that has Jim’s stamp of approval.

guesses?

OK, Evan/evan. There are 3 comments from Evan/evan on here. Is Evan/evan the same person? That’s all I’m asking so I know whom I’m responding to and/or reading posts.

yes same person, i think the capitalization is a function of browser I was using at the time of comment.

Detroit is a plum job. How about the best manager in baseball? What is Joe Maddon’s contract status?

TB through 2015, 6 mill a year

You guys get all upset about crazy lineups madden has crazy ones and no 2 the sane. And do you all really think these guys would get on board with his juvenile road trips and penguins in the locker room? That would never fly here.

How do you know how Maddon would act in the Tigers clubhouse? You don’t think he would adapt?

I don’t know, I doubt it. …..but to me he treats grown men like children, instead of adults. And if you have to have guys dress as nerds or in their pj’s on a plane trip to get them motivated I don’t know. I don’t doubt he’s a good manager but not with an veteran laden team.

You should not have to trade a player for a manager. I kinda see Detroit staying close to the organization for this, directly or indirectly.

Maybe they go with McClendon. Hope not.

And that is why people say be careful what you wish for. Could you imaging McClendon or Lamont as the next manager? Good God.

*imagine

GK, I don’t think that Maddon has to do that to keep them motivated. The ones that are motivated would probably be motivated anyway, whether or not he did that, and those that wouldn’t be motivated wouldn’t be helped by that. I think it’s just a fun thing that they do to keep things loose in the clubhouse. I don’t see anything wrong with doing fun stuff as long as they do their jobs. Just because maybe we don’t do it on our jobs or other teams don’t do it, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it as long as it doesn’t distract from their playing baseball.

Now if he were to come to the Tigers (which I kind of doubt will happen), if he felt that the guys didn’t like it or didn’t respond well to it, he probably wouldn’t do it.

IMHO, t’s just one of those things that isn’t necessary, but is fun to some people.

Sorry about the TL;DR.

Maddon’s bulldog has a twitter account. A talking dog. With an accent (New York?).
I’m also not sure athletes in their 20s qualify as grown men. :-)

The Tigers should take a long look a Don Mattingly. He’s not real happy in L.A. and hasn’t been shown much respect by the organization. I handles the super stars well and works well with the young players.

What would you guys and gals think of hiring a college head coach?

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