Jim Leyland will announce at 11:30 this morning he is ending his time as the manager of the Detroit Tigers, Ken Rosenthal reported on Twitter. Leyland was 700-597 in Detroit. He won two American League titles and three consecutive division titles. Though he never won the ultimate prize, he is still among the most successful managers in Tigers' history with that track record.
He may be best known for his first year, 2006. Leyland took over for Alan Trammell, who managed the 2005 club to a 71-91 record. These Tigers seemed better, but followed five wins to open the season with four losses. After the third such loss, 10-2 to the Indians, Leyland blew up in the clubhouse and gave his most epic postgame speech outside it soon after.
Leyland: We Stunk. Next question.
Reporter: What bothered you the most?
Leyland: It was lackluster, the whole ball of wax was lackluster. We had a chance to take the series, take 3 out of 4, and we came out like we brought our luggage to the park like we had to play a game before we went on the road. That's not good enough.
Reporter: It seems like this was your worst loss...
Leyland: Yeah we stunk period. We stunk and that's not good enough. This stuff has been going on here before and it's not going to happen here. We had a chance to take a series. I'm not talking about anyone in particular. I'm talking about the team, myself, the coaches, and everybody else included. It's my responsiblity to have the team ready to play today, and they weren't ready to play. They were ready to get on the plane and go to Oakland. If they won it was okay and if they lost it was okay. That's not good enough
It took a game or two, but the Tigers were a changed team. They went 59-29 in the first half, beat the Yankees in the ALDS, swept the A's in the ALCS and lost in the World Series. It ended wrong, but it was clear at that point: The Tigers were back, and the grumpy gray-haired man embodied them.
No succession plan is truly in place. In the past, Tom Brookens, a Tiger from the famed '80s club, was thought to be the heir apparent. Brookens coached first base before moving across the diamond to coach third. However, the Tigers may find it better to search outside the organization for a manager who has major league experience. Brookens managed only in the minor leagues for the Tigers organization.
Replacing Leyland's in-game tactics shouldn't be that difficult. The Tigers' skipper was often criticized for his bullpen usage and his adherence to lineup positions -- not that he was much different than most. But fans might like to see a manager who gets a little more creative in those areas. What will be more difficult to replace is Leyland's clubhouse management. A man respected by his players, he was able to balance the egos that come with a club of high-salaried, veteran players. No word of clubhouse discord ever leaked out and free agents often spoke of a desire to play for him.