DETROIT — A new manager will roam the dugout for the Detroit Tigers in 2014.
Jim Leyland has decided to step down as manager, saying “the fuel was starting to get low” during an emotional press conference today at Comerica Park.
“I came here to make talent a team,” he said. “We did it.
“We’re just changing the guard a little bit. Somebody’s going to inherit a good team.”
Leyland was 700-597 in his eight years with the Tigers, a .540 winning percentage. He guided the team to the American League Championship Series the past three seasons and the World Series in 2006 and 2012.
Leyland announced his departure two days after the Tigers were eliminated from the ALCS by the Boston Red Sox in six games. He said he told the players about his decision in the clubhouse following the Game 6 loss: “I didn’t know how to take it when they clapped,” he said.
Starting pitcher Justin Verlander tweeted today: “What an honor playing my first 8 years with Jim Leyland. A great manager and an even better person. Thanks for believing in me. #HOF”
Leyland said Saturday’s Game 6 loss, which turned out to be his final game as Tigers manager, “hurt real bad.”
“I thought we let one get away. We did it collectively, there’s no one culprit,” he said. “This is one that’s going to stick with me.”
Overall, in 22 years as a major league manager, Leyland is 1,769-1,728, for a .506 winning percentage. He previously managed the Pittsburgh Pirates, Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies.
“I’m going to be 69 years old,” he said. “I’m not ashamed of that. I’m proud of it. The fuel’s getting a little low.”
Leyland is 14th all-time in games managed with 3,499. He ranks third on the Tigers all-time games managed list with 1,297.
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.
“It has been a huge honor to have been the Tigers manager for the past eight seasons, so many wonderful days and nights at Comerica Park with almost every seat filled. I can’t thank you enough for your support,” Leyland said in a released statement. “When I came here all I wanted was a chance and you gave me that. I hope you do the same for your next manager. My goal coming here was to turn talent into team, and with the help of the entire organization, we did that. This is not a good bye, it’s a so long, as I will be accepting another position in the organization yet to be determined. I hope you enjoyed me as much as I enjoyed you.”
“On behalf of the entire Detroit Tigers organization, we thank Jim for everything he has done for this franchise over the past eight seasons,” Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said in the statement. “Jim’s tenure will be looked back on as one of the great eras in Tigers history; an era that included two World Series appearances, four ALCS appearances in eight seasons, three division titles and two American League pennants. It has truly been an honor to work with one of the great managers in the history of the game.”
“We want to thank Jim for everything he has done over the past eight years to steer the ship, and lead our ballclub to some exciting times in this town,” added Tigers owner Mike Ilitch in the statement. “Jim has been instrumental in the franchise’s most recent success on and off the field, and we are forever grateful. We wish the best to Jim and his family in the future.”
Detroit has become one of baseball’s glamour teams of late, with stars like Miguel Cabrera, 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 new 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.”