Detroit Tigers Debate: Are the Tigers Making a Mistake Retaining Jim Leyland?
After the Detroit Tigers got swept out of the World Series on Sunday night, suffering a 4-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants, which capped a miserable Fall Classic, the Tigers have a lot of questions to answer.
One of the biggest questions has already been answered as Leyland and the team announced on Tuesday that he will return to manage in 2013.
General Manager Dave Dombrowski put his cards on the table in early October, stating that Leyland was welcome to return if he so chooses.
And it appears that's exactly what he will do.
The Tigers made back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time in 77 years this season, and advanced to the World Series for second time in six years, but despite all the success, dozens of analysts and members of the media have questioned whether Leyland is the right man for the job.
From the outside looking in, it's obvious that a manager with the resume that Leyland boasts, should return, but in recent years, the Tigers have increased their payroll, and the expectations have gotten higher each year.
And the Tigers haven't produced a World Championship.
Here are the four reasons why it's the correct decision to keep Leyland, and five reasons he should've gone:
Why He Should Go: He Hasn't Won a World Series
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Leyland has had the payroll and the talent at his disposal to win a World Championship, and after seven years, the Tigers don't have any rings.
Postseason appearances are good, and trips to the World Series are great, but no one remembers second place, and if you don't win a championship in a seven-year tenure, it has to be considered somewhat of a disappointment.
This season, the Tigers had the fifth-highest opening-day payroll in MLB, paying their players $132.3 million, and Detroit has been among the top 10 in payroll every year since 2007.
The Tigers have the opportunity to compete with the big-market teams, and can obtain big-name free agents, but for one reason or another, Detroit hasn't gotten the ultimate prize.
The Tigers have been to the postseason three times in Leyland's tenure, but considering how bad the AL Central has been at times, a postseason berth isn't a whole lot to hang your hat on.
With the potential the Tigers have had with Leyland on the bench, they should have at least one World Championship.
Why He Should Stay: The Tigers Have Been Better Than Average
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Leyland stepped onto the scene in Detroit with a bang, leading his team to the World Series in 2006, his first year as manager.
Despite losing the AL Central by one game, the Tigers won 95 games in 2006, and after beating the Yankees and the Oakland Athletics to advance to the World Series, Leyland was named AL Manager of the Year.
After falling to the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2006 Fall Classic, the Tigers had decent success the next season, going 88-74 in 2007. The Tigers outscored their opponents by 90 runs, but failed to make back-to-back trips to the postseason.
The Tigers flopped in 2008, going 74-88 and finishing last in the division, but rebounded in 2009, going 86-76, with a chance to win the division. Detroit was tied with the Minnesota Twins after 162 games, but lost in a one-game playoff at the Metrodome.
Detroit finished a mediocre 81-81 in 2010, before making its playoff run in 2011, when the Tigers lost to the Texas Rangers in the ALCS.
Leyland said he knows he's not always the fan-favorite, but he loves the city of Detroit, and has a great passion for managing the Tigers.
"I like to manage, you know?" Leyland said to MLive.com's Chris Iott:
"Contrary to what some people think, I think I'm pretty good at it. A lot of people don't agree with that. I'm not the best, and I'm not the worst. I think that since 2006 we've changed the culture around here. We've been in two World Series in the last seven years. That's not bad."
Leyland is 607-528 in seven regular-seasons with Detroit, and is 20-18 in the playoffs. He's guided the Tigers to two AL Championships, and back-to-back division titles, and led the team to back-to-back postseason berths for the first time since 1935.
Why He Should Go: His Own Uncertainty
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Despite Dombrowski's volition that Leyland could come back if he really wanted the job, Leyland himself said he was unsure whether that would be the case.
"I don't really know that," Leyland said to MLive.com on Sunday when asked whether he'd definitely be back in 2013. "We're going to talk about some things in a day or so and I'm sure they'll have some type of an announcement. But tonight's not the night for that."
Leyland will be 68 at the beginning of next season and has been an MLB manager for 21 years with four different teams. He just finished his eighth season in Detroit, and at times appeared to lose interest in dealing with the day-to-day grind of a 162-game MLB season.
In order to be fully effective as an MLB manager, your heart has to be 100-percent into everything you do. It's a seven-month season preceded by over a month of Spring Training.
Now that Leyland has said he will come back in 2013, he needs to be completely certain he can handle everything that comes with being the manager for the Tigers—for the whole season.
Why He Should Stay: His Players Love Him
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People don't realize that Leyland is a players manager, and his players would run through a wall for him.
Leyland runs a great clubhouse and rarely allows off-field issues to affect play.
Unlike some other MLB managers, Leyland develops personal relationships with his players and puts his heart and soul into his team.
He's been reduced to tears several times during his tenure in Detroit when forced to make tough decisions about trades, or moves within the system.
The Tigers' ace was the first one to jump on the Leyland bandwagon when questions arose about the manager's return after the World Series loss.
"I, for one, am extremely glad he’s coming back," Justin Verlander to MLive.com. "I love playing for him. It’s an honor. In my opinion, he’s going to be a Hall-of-Fame manager. Being able to play for a guy like that, not a lot of people get to say they did."
It's rare in this day and age that a team can be together for seven months straight and not have any kind of in-house issue become public, but that's what you get with Leyland as manager.
His players love and respect him, and he feels the same about his players.
All of them.
Why He Should Go: Poor Lineup, in-Game Decisions
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The biggest criticisms Leyland faced this season, and in the past, were his head-scratching decisions about the lineup.
Leyland stuck with poor players because he 'had a feeling,' or because "they were due," or "they're a second-half player," and Leyland drew the ire of fans because of it.
He allowed Ryan Raburn, who hit .171 with one home run and 12 RBI's in 66 games this season, to play day-after-day, before finally removing Raburn from the roster in August.
Even after Raburn struggled so badly all year, and didn't get much better for Triple-A Toledo, Leyland wanted to give Raburn one more chance, bringing him back during the September call-ups and inserting him into the lineup.
Raburn played three games, going 1-for-7, and Leyland finally pulled the plug.
Leyland made several curious decisions about the lineup this season, opting to go with righty-lefty matchups versus putting the best team on the field—one that gave the Tigers a chance to win every day.
He also elected to allow Danny Worth and Don Kelly to be on the postseason roster, keeping power-hitting Brennan Boesch off.
Boesch had a miserable year in 2012, but his numbers were better than both Worth and Kelly, and could've given the Tigers a power-option to come off the bench in late-game situations.
Worth and Kelly combined for one home run this season.
Why He Should Stay: Front Office Wants Him Back
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Dombrowski has made some crucial decisions in his tenure as GM for the Tigers, and has seemed to have pulled off the right moves when it matters.
So if Dombrowski said Leyland is the right man for the job, his opinion holds a lot of water.
"Jim Leyland is welcome back here," Dombrowski said to MLive.com after the Tigers' sweep of the Yankees. "He knows that. He's in a situation where we want him back, and I'm sure that he wants to come back. He has really, really done a fantastic job. There's nobody that's more prepared than him."
The man in charge, owner Mike Ilitch, has also backed Leyland this season and in the past.
Ilitch, who also owns the successful Detroit Red Wings (and about half of Metro Detroit), seems to know what he's doing at the top of the totem pole, and seems to know the right people to hire.
Why He Should Go: Tigers Need to Focus on the Future
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If Leyland is uncertain about his status for next season, the chances of him staying in Detroit for several years are slim-to-none.
The Tigers have a lot of decisions to make with their lineup and prospects in the farm system, and they need a manager who's going to be there for the long haul.
For the most part, the Tigers have a very young lineup, which will get even younger next year with the probable insertion of 21-year-old Avisail Garcia and 20-year-old hotshot Nick Castellanos at some point.
The Tigers' starting pitchers are all under the age of 30, and at 26 years old, Andy Dirks will probably be the elder statesman in the outfield.
Leyland is very much an old-school manager and at times can be stuck in his own ways, playing an outdated brand of baseball.
Why He Should Stay: Tigers Won't Improve Next Year Without Him
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The purpose of firing your manager is usually so a team can improve right away.
With their trip to the World Series this year, the Tigers can only improve next season by winning it all.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Las Vegas already has The Tigers as World Series favorites next season, giving them 6-to-1 odds to be crowned champions.
So it'd be smart to keep most of the same nucleus from 2012, starting with Leyland, at least for one more year, and make another run at a World Championship.
Why He Should Go: Coaches Are a Package Deal
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Leyland hand-picked most of the coaches on his staff, and some of them take the blame for the Tigers' struggles and historic collapse in the 2012 World Series.
And if Leyland goes, hitting coach Lloyd McClendon and third base coach Gene Lamont go with him.
With the offensive lineup the Tigers boasted this season, there was no reason Detroit should have finished the regular season 11th in the AL in scoring, and there is no excuse for the dreadful performance in the World Series.
The Tigers were fourth-worst in the League this season, scoring 4.48 runs per game, and while you have to hold the players accountable for that mediocrity, a lot of the blame has to be placed on McClendon.
Another coach that took some heat this year was Lamont.
As the third base coach, Lamont often looked lost during crucial situations, and more often than not made an incorrect decision as to whether or not to send a player home from third.
Lamont was a candidate for the Boston Red Sox opening before the 2012 campaign and lost out to Bobby Valentine, who has already been booted out the door in Boston. So obviously there was something the Red Sox front office saw in Lamont that they didn't like.
If the Tigers get rid of Leyland, they rid themselves of two coaches who frankly underperformed in their roles this season.