Jim Leyland has stepped down as Detroit Tigers manager after eight seasons.
Leyland informed the team of his decision after the Tigers’ ALCS loss to the Boston Red Sox on Saturday, adding that it is time for someone younger to do the job.
"I’m going to be 69 years old," he said at Monday’s news conference. "I’m not ashamed of that. I’m proud of it. The fuel’s getting a little low."
Leyland has been working under one-year contracts the last couple years, saying he was content to wait until after the season to address his status. He was a bit reflective late this season, mentioning to reporters that he had already managed the Tigers longer than he had expected they would keep him — but he also said in September that he still loved the atmosphere, the competition and his team.
Leyland said he’d decided earlier in September that he wouldn’t be back as manager.
"On Sept. 7 in Kansas City, after we shellacked the Royals Friday night, I asked (general manager Dave Dombrowski) if I could meet him for coffee in the morning," Leyland said. "The conversation basically went like this: I said, `Dave, I don’t know what your plans were for next year.’ He said, `Well, you’re my manager.’ I said, `Well, I’m not going to be the manager.’"
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."
He went 700-597 during his eight seasons with the Tigers, and the team won three AL Central titles and two AL pennants. Prior to his arrival in 2006, the team hadn’t had a winning season since 1993.
However, Detroit lost both times in the World Series — in 2006 to the St. Louis Cardinals and in 2012 to the San Francisco Giants. And the Tigers fell two games short of another trip to the Fall Classic this season, being eliminated in six games by the Boston Red Sox after winning the ALCS opener.
"This one hurt bad, because I thought we let one get away. We did it collectively, there’s no one culprit," Leyland said. "This is one that’s going to stick with me."
Leyland managed in the major leagues for 22 years, compiling a 1,769-1,728 overall record with the Tigers, Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates. He won the 1997 World Series with the Marlins.
Leyland has also been part of some of baseball’s most memorable games — Pittsburgh’s loss in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS at Atlanta, Florida’s victory over Cleveland in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series and Detroit’s loss to Minnesota in a one-game playoff for the AL Central title in 2009.
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, 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."