Thursday, the Tigers announced that manager Jim Leyland would have his full coaching staff back with him next season, which is the last on his contract.
Leyland acknowledged the pressure is now on all of them in 2011 to win or go home. He told reporters (quoted by MLB.com):
"We're all aware that our [tail] is on the line next year, and that's fine. I'll put my [tail] on the line with those guys."
"We've got a one-year contract, all of us. We know what that means, but that doesn't bother me one bit."
If this all sounds somewhat familiar, it's because it is. But if you think you notice a few changes in the lyrics, that's there, too.
At the end of a disappointing 2008 season, Leyland had just one season remaining on his contract. Not wanting to be perceived as a lame-duck manager, he took his desire to get an extension public. GM Dave Dombrowski shot it down, essentially. Given an All-Star team, Leyland could only finish in last place in the division. He was going to have to come out and prove something.
Prove something he did, and against all (media) expectations the Tigers found themselves in first place in 2009. Dombrowski saw what he needed, and that June tacked the years 2010 and 2011 to Leyland's tenure. (Why 2011 by the way? That's actually when Dombrowski's time in Detroit expires, too, unless his contract is extended by the owner. So even if Leyland earns it next year an extension may only flow after Dombrowski himself receives one.)
So here we are at the end of 2010. Some find it disappointing that the Tigers are no where near first (or second) place and are sitting at exactly .500. I am not one of them. Before the season, I saw a .500 or so team. Not enough pitching, not enough hitting. A few lucky bounces and they'd finish a few games above, bad luck and they'd finish below. Despite all the marquee injuries and some exceedingly disappointing performances out of multiple positions, the team can still finish .500. The manager did his part.
Again from MLB.com, Leyland:
"I've said that all along. I'll believe that until the day I die. If you've got somebody better, get him."
He learned his lesson from 2009. Now he's setting the tone for 2011. Like his players, he knows his job is on the line. He's not going to whine about it. Next year is an important year for the team. Management and player alike will have an increase in the heat on their butts. Some people from this edition of the Tigers just aren't good enough if this team is to win a division. Some new faces will have toe be welcomed in. Confident in his ability, Leyland welcomes the outside competition. So should the players.
This is professional sports. This is exactly the way it should be.