Jim Leyland's Top 5 Managerial Moments
With over 3,500 games and 22 years as a Major League Baseball manager, Tigers’ skipper Jim Leyland is extending that total right now in the ALCS. His 1,769 wins as a manager through the end of the 2013 regular season rank him as the 15th winningest manager in MLB history. This slideshow takes an in-depth look at Leyland's career and pinpoints his top-five managerial moments of all time.
5. Leyland’s Tigers Win First Division Title in 24 Years: Sept. 16, 2011
With a 3-1 win over Oakland, Leyland’s Detroit Tigers secured the franchise's first division title in 25 seasons. It was also Detroit’s first championship in the American League Central, which they joined in 1998 after spending 30 seasons in the American League East. The Tigers went on to beat the New York Yankees in a five-game ALDS before losing to the Texas Rangers in the ALCS.
4. Leyland Leads Pirates to Third Straight NL East Title: Sept. 27, 1992
With a 4-2 win over the New York Mets, Leyland’s Pittsburgh Pirates clinched the team’s third straight NL East Division title and finished the 1992 season with a record of 96-66. The Pirates’ starting rotation included Doug Drabek (15-11, 2.77 ERA), Randy Tomlin (14-9, 3.41 ERA), Zane Smith (8-8, 3.06 ERA), Bob Walk (10-6, 3.20 ERA) and Tim Wakefield (8-1, 2.15 ERA); while relievers Roger Mason (5-7, 4.09 ERA), Denny Neagle (4-6, 4.48 ERA), Bob Patterson (6-3, 2.92 ERA) and closer Stan Belinda (6-4, 3.15 ERA) headlined the Pirates’ bullpen. Leading Pittsburgh in hitting was Andy Van Slyke (.324, 14 HR, 89 RBI), Barry Bonds (.311, 34 HR, 103 RBI), Jay Bell (.264, 9 HR, 55 RBI), Mike LaValliere (.256, 2 HR, 29 RBI) and Steve Buechele (.249, 8 HR, 43 RBI).
"This one is No. 1 to me," Leyland said about the division title, according to the Los Angeles Times. "We lost (Bobby) Bonilla and (John) Smiley, people were laughing at us...this is awful special to me."
The Pirates lost for the third straight season in the National League Championship Series, and the second consecutive year against the Atlanta Braves in seven games. The 1992 season would be the franchise’s last winning season until 2013.
3. Leyland Goes Crazy on Tigers' Players After Early-Season Loss: April 17, 2006
In his first season with Detroit, Leyland set the tone early for the Tigers in a postgame rant after a 10-2 home loss to the Cleveland Indians. Before speaking with reporters, Leyland could be heard from outside the locker room unleashing an expletive-laden tirade at his team. His conversation with reporters afterward was terse, according to a popular Tigers' Blog:
Leyland: We Stunk. Next question.
Reporter: What bothered you the most?
Leyland: It was lackluster, the whole ball of wax was lackluster. We had a chance to take the series, take three-out-of-four, and we came out like we brought our luggage to the park like we had to play a game before we went on the road. That’s not good enough.
Reporter: It seems like this was your worst loss…
Leyland: Yeah we stunk. Period. We stunk and that’s not good enough. This stuff has been going on here before and it’s not going to happen here. We had a chance to take a series. I’m not talking about anyone in particular. I’m talking about the team, myself, the coaches and everybody else included. It’s my responsibility to have the team ready to play today, and they weren’t ready to play. They were ready to get on the plane and go to Oakland. If they won it was OK and if they lost it was OK. That’s not good enough.
The Tigers went on to win 28 out of their next 35 games en route to a 95-67 record, the franchise’s first playoff berth since 1987, and the franchise's first World Series berth since 1984.
2. Leyland's Tigers Clinch First Playoff Berth Since 1987: Sept. 24, 2006
Rookie Justin Verlander pitched five innings as the Tigers defeated the Kansas City Royals 11-4 to clinch the franchise’s first playoff appearance in 20 seasons.
After over a decade of living in the MLB cellar, the Tigers playoff-clinching win put the baseball team back on the national landscape. The Tigers had not had a winning season since 1993, and eventually went on to play in the 2006 World Series.
1. Leyland Wins World Series with the Florida Marlins: Oct. 26, 1997
Just five years after debuting as an expansion team, Leyland led the Florida Marlins to the organization’s first World Series title in his first season as manager. With a starting rotation featuring Kevin Brown (16-8, 2.69 ERA), Livan Hernandez (9-3, 3.18ERA), Alex Fernandez (17-12, 3.59ERA) and Al Leiter (11-9, 4.34 ERA); and a bullpen that included Jay Powell (7-2, 3.28 ERA), Dennis Cook (1-2, 3.90ERA), Felix Heredia (5-3, 4.29 ERA), and closer Robb Nen (9-3, 3.89 ERA, 35 SV), Leyland’s Marlins rolled through the San Francisco Giants and NL East champion Atlanta Braves before taking down the AL Central champion Cleveland Indians in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 1997 World Series.
At the plate, Leyland’s Marlins were led by Edgar Renteria (.277, 4 HR, 52 RBI), Moises Alou (.292, 23 HR, 115 RBI), Gary Sheffield (.250, 21 HR, 71 RBI), Charles Johnson (.250, 19 HR, 63 RBI), Bobby Bonilla (.297, 17 HR, 96 RBI) and Jeff Conine (.242, 17 HR, 61 RBI). Renteria hit the game-winning single in Game 7 of the World Series with two outs and the bases loaded, scoring Bonilla and cementing Jim Leyland’s place in history.
"I guess every little boy dreams that this will happen to him one time," Leyland said, according to the Baltimore Sun. "It's all a fantasy to me. These guys haven't quit all year, and this wasn't the night to quit."