MLB: Tigers say it's Jim Leyland's choice to return or not
Detroit • Amid the celebration of their American League Championship Series victory just outside the clubhouse, Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski reveled in the success of the team's first trip to the World Series since 2006.
Dombrowski, who constructed the Tigers club for the long haul with the only uncertainty being manager Jim Leyland's future revealed that the decision on bringing Leyland back may be a done deal.
Leyland is on a one-year contract and with the struggles the Tigers had during the regular season, there was some question whether the Tigers would have him back next season.
"Jim Leyland is welcome back here and he knows that," Dombrowski said. "He's in a situation where we want him back and I'm sure that he wants to come back and I would think that would be the way.
"There's a time and a place for that it's not right now."
Dombrowski indicated that the choice is Leyland's whether he wants to return and that there won't be any further discussions between them until after the World Series.
"It was really his personal preference in the situation," Dombrowski said. "We've known each other so long, so it's a situation that we'll get to this when we need to."
Dombrowski lamented the close scrutiny and criticism by fans Leyland has been under all season for some of his managerial moves and lineups and the team's struggles.
"I have to say [the heat] is not deserved," Dombrowski said. "First, you have expectations and I understand that. Secondly, if anybody knew how hard he worked day in and day out and trying to make this thing successful and somebody that takes it to heart more than him.
"He's really done a fantastic job and there's nobody that's more prepared than him."
Despite the criticism Leyland has taken, Dombrowski realizes it's part of the business, no matter who is in charge and that staying the course helped get the Tigers to this point.
"We're in a time of second-guessing with so much media and social media. The day that Jim Leyland is no longer the manager here and Lloyd McClendon is no longer the hitting coach and I'm no longer the general manager, [the fans] will be in a position where after a couple days, they'll start talking about the things the person did wrong too, the things they don't like."
Following the Tigers' acquisition of slugger Prince Fielder in the offseason, many experts shifted the team's outlook from contenders to American League favorites.
But the Tigers struggled midway through the season, trailing in the Central Division by six games in early June. They erased a three-game deficit in the final two weeks and outlasted the White Sox by a three-game margin to make the playoffs.
"When the expectations are there, I think it's also one where we're all expecting when we could we get on a roll and it wasn't easy," Dombrowski said. "For some reason, we never took off for a lengthy period. We played OK and we just never took off for a lengthy period. â¦ We never got buried either, so there was that combination.
"For [Leyland], he's the one that made that happen with the players. He's the leadership and you can't crumble at that time. You've got to be in a position where you stay strong and stay in your beliefs."