Jim Leyland always said he'd know when it was time to stop managing.
That time is now.
Citing a lack of energy, the 69-year-old Leyland announced Monday morning he will no longer manage the Detroit Tigers but he will remain with the organization in a position yet to be determined. Leyland has served the team's manager since 2006 and has during that time compiled a 700-597 record, guided the team to two World Series, four American League Championship Series and three Central Division titles.
"Somewhere, probably in June, I started thinking this was getting a little rough, the fuel was getting a little low," Leyland said during a nearly 40-minute press conference Monday at Comerica Park. "I knew I'd get through it. Cleveland actually helped me out, playing so good and getting so close, it kept me going, kept me pumped up. [But there were] signs, getting off long trips, getting pretty tired -- I'm healthy by the way, I'm fine. I could see things were starting to happen. I've had several people tell me you'll know when it's time. I could see some signs."
Numerous players were on hand to view the announcement and speak to the press after the game.
"He said this is it," Torii Hunter told Fox Sports Detroit. "For him to say this is it, you knew that it was done. We're not thinking about this loss anymore, we're worried about him. He was very emotional, he should be. Fifty-one years in professional baseball and to walk away from it, which all of us are going to do, how tough that is going to be on him."
Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski thanked Leyland and said his time in Detroit will be looked at as one of the great eras in franchise history. "It has truly been an honor to work with one of the great managers in the history of the game."
Owner Mike Ilitch, through a press release, also thanked Leyland for his work the past year years and for the "exciting times" that he has brought to Detroit. "Jim has been instrumental in the franchise's most recent success on and off the field, and we are forever grateful," Ilitch said. "We wish the best to Jim and his family in the future."
Leyland will consult with Dombrowski about various topics, though specifics were left a bit unclear. Leyland simply stated he'll answer questions if Dombrowski has them and do what Dombrowski needs, but otherwise he won't insert himself where he's unwelcome. If Dombrowski has questions about what qualities might make for a successful future skipper, Leyland will answer those, too. Otherwise: " In no way shape or form I'll never be the voice of the Detroit Tigers," Leyland said.
Though Leyland has been thinking about the decision since June, he said he decided on Sept. 7 to make it official with his boss. So he asked Dombrowski to have coffee the next morning and told him the time had come.
"There were probably three people who knew about this," Leyland said, later listing off his wife, bench coach Gene Lamont and his friend, Tony La Russa, as the three. "We didn't tell any players because we didn't want to upset the apple cart, we were trying to win a championship."
Dombrowski, too, kept it under wraps, only telling Ilitch because he did not want the news to slip out if too many people in the front office knew it was coming.
So the players were not told until after they ALCS. Leyland said you could hear a pin drop, though he joked, "I didn't know how to take it when they clapped."
Leyland was happy with what he was able to do as the team's manager. With multiple deep playoff runs and the opportunity to manage several hall of fame caliber players, Leyland has joined the pantheon of Tigers managers. But he knew he fell short of the ultimate goal, and again and again Monday spoke about how much missing that in 2013 hurt him personally. But he kept perspective: "We'll never get it quite to the top of the special list because we didn't win the World Series. We've won a lot of games, had a lot of no hitters, an MVP, Cy Young. ... This doesn't just happen, so enjoy it."
Leyland had a last message for members of the organization, for fans and even for the media:
"I'm going to close and say so long," Leyland said. "It's not goodbye because I will remain in the organization doing something. Form the bottom of my heart to the fans, to this organization, thank you for having me."