Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland worked through the final season on his contract in 2012 and now will discuss his future with the club with the Tigers brass over the next couple of days. At that point, Leyland said following the end of the Tigers’ season, the team will likely have an announcement to make.
Leyland has guided the Tigers to a pair of division titles, a wild card appearance, and two American League pennants over his seven seasons at the helm of the Tigers. While he and general manager Dave Dombrowski were both seeing their contracts come up at the end of the 2011 season, the Tigers awarded Dombrowksi with a four-year extension at that time while Leyland got only one year. Whether or not Leyland preferred to go year-to-year at his age (he’ll turn 68 in December), the implication was that Leyland’s job was only as safe as his next playoff appearance.
During the tumultuous 2012 season, Leyland’s head was on the public chopping block numerous times throughout the season, even if it may not have been within the organization.
Surely, one would have to figure, had the Tigers failed to make the post-season in a year where expectations were so high on the heels of the Prince Fielder signing, Leyland would not have been invited back for 2013.
As it stands, Tigers ace Justin Verlander has publicly gushed about playing for Leyland, as has many of his teammates. Three playoff appearances in seven seasons is a fine accomplishment for a franchise that didn’t sniff the post-season, not once, in the previous 19 seasons before Leyland arrived in Motown.
Ian Casselberry of Bleacher Report wondered today if Leyland may consider retirement following the disappointing end to the World Series and, while I agree with Casselberry’s assertion that Leyland has earned the right to go out on his own terms, I have my doubts that Leyland is ready to hang ‘em up. By all accounts, Leyland still has a passion for the game and appears, at least, to be in good health. When asked about his status going forward, Leyland noted that he doesn’t plan to manage anywhere but Detroit.
With that, the ball is in Dombrowski’s court. The Tigers president and general manager desperately wants to bring a World Series Championship to owner Mike Ilitch. Could it be that Leyland’s 1-8 record in World Series games with the Tigers might give the organization pause before offering a new deal to their manager?
The problem with removing a manager, especially one with Leyland’s track record and popularity with his players, is you’d better have a better option ready to take over, and I’m not sure the Tigers have that. Hitting coach Lloyd McClendon is one possibility, and a good one as far as I’m concerned, as is first base coach Tom Brookens, who, at least a couple years ago, was being viewed as a manager-in-waiting for the Tigers.
Dombrowski is the man in charge and that much hasn’t been questioned in the least bit since he came aboard in 2001. There is virtually no chance he’d hire a superstar manager that might bring that hierarchy into question. Leyland knows the game and he knows the system and the two, publicly at least, have maintained a strong working relationship going back to the days when Leyland managed Dombrowski’s Marlins to the 1997 World Championship.
The expectation here is that Leyland will be back in Detroit’s dugout in 2013 at the very least. Whether that’s on a one or a two year deal will tell us more about how much pressure the organization is placing on the manager to bring home a championship.