Jim Leyland, who led the Detroit Tigers to two pennants in eight seasons and got them to the verge of a third this season, will not return for a ninth.
Leyland announced in a press conference Monday that he is stepping down as Detroit’s manager.
“I’m going to be 69 years old,” he said. “I’m not ashamed of that. I’m proud of it. The fuel’s getting a little low.”
Leyland will be accepting another position with the club, which is yet to be determined.
“I want to retire a Tiger,” Leyland said. “So long. It’s not goodbye. And from the bottom of my heart thank you for having me.”
Leyland was without a contract for 2014.
Detroit was Leyland’s fourth and most successful stop in a managerial career that likely will conclude with his enshrinement in baseball’s Hall of Fame. He posted a 700-597 record with the Tigers, and has 1,769 wins in a 22-year career. He won a World Series with the Florida Marlins in 1997 and led the Pittsburgh Pirates to three consecutive NL East titles from 1990-92.
This season, the Tigers won 93 games and a third consecutive AL Central title. They defeated the Oakland Athletics in the AL Division Series before losing the AL Championship Series in six games to the Boston Red Sox.
“This one hurt bad, because I thought we let one get away. We did it collectively, there’s no one culprit,” Leyland said. “This is one that’s going to stick with me.”
His final season was the culmination of a decade-long rise of the Tigers, a franchise that bottomed out in 2003, when it lost an American League-record 119 games. Leyland replaced Alan Trammell after the 2005 season, at a time Tigers owner Mike Ilitch began aggressively acquiring veterans such as Magglio Ordonez, Pudge Rodriguez and Kenny Rogers.
The next season, rookie Justin Verlander arrived along with Leyland, and he guided them to the AL pennant before a five-game loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Subsequent off-seasons brought Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister via trade, and the Tigers have made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons.
Such success also bred outsize expectations in Detroit, and Leyland noted this spring that he no intention of retiring, “whether we win or don’t win.”
“If I went out tomorrow, I wouldn’t care how any of you guys felt, I would feel like I went out on top,” he said in March. “I was a backup Double A catcher who hit (bleeping) .222. I’ve managed in the big leagues 22 years, with a world title, division titles, American League championships. Now, what the (heck)?”
Monday, he took the longer view, realizing the franchise was still well-positioned.
“What’s gone on here has been unbelievable,” he said. “We’ve won a lot of games, we’ve had a lot of seats filled. I came here to make talent a team, and I think we did that.”
Leyland’s departure creates a whopping five managerial openings: the Tigers, Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds and Seattle Mariners.
Courtesy of USA Today