A picture of Jim Leyland’s face stared out from the video board at an empty Comerica Park, next to that familiar Olde English "D" and a message that said simply: "Thank You Jim."
After eight seasons managing the Tigers, including three division titles and two American League pennants, Leyland stepped down Monday. His voice cracking at times, wiping away tears at others, he announced his departure two days after Detroit was eliminated by Boston in the AL championship series.
"It’s been a thrill," the 68-year-old Leyland said during a news conference at the ballpark. "I came here to change talent to team, and I think with the help of this entire organization, I think we’ve done that. We’ve won quite a bit. I’m very grateful to have been a small part of that."
Leyland made his managerial debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986, and from Barry Bonds to Miguel Cabrera, he’s managed some of the sport’s biggest stars and been involved in some of baseball’s most memorable games over the past quarter-century.
In 1992, his Pirates lost Game 7 of the NLCS when Atlanta rallied in the bottom of the ninth inning. Five years later, Leyland won his only World Series title as manager when his Florida Marlins beat Cleveland in an 11-inning thriller in Game 7.
He’s experienced some of the highest highs the game has to offer, but he also endured difficult rebuilding periods in both Pittsburgh and Florida.
After one season with the Colorado Rockies, Leyland didn’t manage at all from 2000-05 before Detroit hired him. Leyland led the Tigers to the World Series immediately after taking over in 2006, losing to St. Louis in five games. The Tigers went to the World Series again in 2012 but were swept by San Francisco.
Leyland worked under one-year contracts the last couple years, saying he was content to wait until after the season to address his status. He was reflective late this season, mentioning to reporters that he had already managed the Tigers longer than he had expected they would keep him, but he also said in September that he still loved the atmosphere, the competition and his team.
In fact, he’d actually told general manager Dave Dombrowski in early September that he didn’t want to return as manager. He expects to remain with the organization in some capacity after going 700-597 as a manager.
"I’m not totally retiring today, I’m just not going to be in the dugout anymore," Leyland said. "I hope and pray that you give the next manager the same respect and the same chance that you gave me."
Leyland says his health is fine, but it’s time to stop managing. He said he started weighing his decision around June.
"I started thinking this was getting a little rough. I thought that the fuel was getting a little low," Leyland said. "I knew that I’d get through it because I knew we’d be playing for something."
Mattingly unsure about return to Dodgers
Don Mattingly said Monday that his 2014 contract option vested with the Dodgers’ first-round playoff victory over Atlanta, but he isn’t sure he’ll be back as manager next season.
He said that the organization put him in a difficult position with his players by not exercising a team option going into the final year of his three-year deal.
"It’s been a frustrating, tough year, honestly," he told reporters while sitting next to general manager Ned Colletti.
"It puts me in a spot that everything I do is questioned because I’m basically trying out and auditioning, ‘Can you manage or can’t you manage?’ That’s not a great position for me as a manager."
Mattingly’s option worth $1.4 million would allow him to return, but the team has yet to say anything about his future.Next Page >
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