Published on: 21st October, 2013
by Scott Mandel
New York — Jim Leyland won’t return as manager of the Detroit Tigers next season, a decision he made on his own in September, when he met with Dave Dombrowski and told the team’s general manager “it was time,” Leyland said Monday morning during a news conference.
Leyland, 68, whose Tigers’ season ended Saturday night after they lost Game 6 of AL Championship Series to the Boston Red Sox, said he would remain with the team in some capacity.
“I’m not totally retiring today, I just don’t want to be in the dugout anymore,” an emotional Leyland said.
Leyland was managing the Tigers under a one-year contract extension he signed a year ago, after the San Francisco Giants swept Detroit in the World Series.
Detroit’s players found out about Leyland’s departure after Saturday night’s game in Boston.
“You’ve got your head down, you lost and the season’s over, and then Jim dropped that bomb on us,” outfielder Torii Hunter said. “I just had a feeling that it could have been his last year. All year, he was kind of emotional, and I just felt it.”
Leyland, who also managed in 2012 on a one-year deal, led the Tigers for eight seasons, which included three division titles and two trips to the World Series.
Leyland made it clear that stepping down was his decision and that he wasn’t being forced out. He said that after a game on Sept. 7 he asked to speak with Dombrowski. At that meeting, Dombrowski said Leyland would be his manager next season, but Leyland told him that he didn’t think he should continue.
“The fuel was getting low, and that’s the way it went,” he said.
Leyland said he was happy with the work he did in Detroit and thanked the organization for creating a winning atmosphere.
“This one hurt bad, because I thought we let one get away. We did it collectively, there’s no one culprit,” Leyland said about the Tigers’ loss in the ALCS. “This is one that’s going to stick with me.”
When Leyland arrived at the Tigers’ training camp this year, it marked 50 seasons since he first showed up there as an 18-year-old prospect. His playing career never amounted to much, but his accomplishments as a manager over more than two decades have been impressive.
He is 1,769-1,728 overall during managing stints with the Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies. He won the World Series in 1997 with Florida.
When he took over the Tigers, they had gone 12 years without a winning season. Under Leyland, they finished under .500 only once.
“What’s gone on here has been unbelievable. We’ve won a lot of games, we’ve had a lot of seats filled,” Leyland said. “I came here to make talent a team, and I think we did that.”
Detroit has become one of baseball’s glamour teams of late, with stars like Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer helping the team win games and draw fans. The Tigers should be able to keep their core of players mostly together for next season, but now they’ll need to find a manager to replace Leyland, who always earned high marks for his ability to keep his veteran team focused.
“I truly think this is going to be a very good team next year,” Leyland said. “This job entails a lot more than people think.”
Reporting for this story came from Associated Press