Written By: S Holmes | www.stonesdetroit.com
This morning, an emotional Jim Leyland announced that after eight seasons, he would be stepping down as manager of the Detroit Tigers. He made it clear that it was a decision that he made on his own and informed GM Dave Dombrowski early in September. During Leyland’s time here in Detroit, I have heard fans rant about his managing style, often referred to as old-school. I have also seen people go to bat for him until the end, (pun intended). When I look at his 22 year career, I think that I have been lucky enough to watch a likely Hall of Fame manager in action. Love him or hate him, his accomplishments cannot be denied.
Leyland has spent 22 years managing with the Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Florida Marlins and the Colorado Rockies he is 1,769-1,728 overall. That’s good enough to rank him 15th in wins. He has finished first or second, 11 times in his division and took the Tigers and the Pirates to three straight League Championship Series. He was with the Tigers during their two World Series Appearances since 2006 and won a World Series Championship with the Florida Marlins in 1997. All in all, Leyland has been to the playoffs eight times with three different teams. His overall winning percentage is .506. Some may turn their noses up at that number but keep in mind that he resigned in 1999 and spent six years away from the game. We’ll never know what his win column would look like had he stuck around.
Before Leyland came to Detroit, the Tigers had gone 12 years without a winning season. They had lost as many as 119 games in 2003 and 106 games in 2002. In 2005, the season before Leyland became a Tiger, Detroit’s record was a dismal 71-91. His first season wearing the Olde English D was a complete turnaround. Their record was 95-67 and they had earned an appearance in the World Series. Not too shabby, huh? If you’re not impressed by his career numbers, then perhaps you can give credit to his occasional dust ups with the umpires.
As far as Leyland’s replacement, the rumor mill has been busy. Former Tigers Tom Brookens and Brad Ausmus have been mentioned. Brookens was this season’s third base coach and also played on Detroit’s beloved 1984 champion team. Ausmus’s only managerial experience is with Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic. Dombrowski said at the press conference that his preference is with someone who has managerial experience, not necessarily at the big league level.
Three-time National League Manager of the Year, former Cincinnati Reds manager, Dusty Baker has the most experience of anybody else that’s being talked about but he has a propensity to overuse pitchers. With Detroit’s starting rotation serving as the Tigers’ bread and butter, that could be a massive red flag that is unlikely to be overlooked.
Kirk Gibson’s name has been thrown into the mix as well. His contract with Arizona is through the 2014 season. It’s no secret that Gibby has not had the best relationship with Detroit’s upper management so he seems like an unlikely candidate.
Whoever gets the thankless position of managing Detroit’s cats, he will have some big shoes to fill. Thank you Jim Leyland for eight memorable seasons, I am grateful that I got a chance to watch your last seasons in the dugout.