After eight seasons, three AL Central titles and a pair of American League pennants, Jim Leyland has stepped down as manager of the Detroit Tigers. Few skippers in the game were as well liked and respected as Leyland, who, at 68 years old, may have managed his last game in the major leagues.
Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal was the first to break the news:
As if general manager Dave Dombrowski didn't have enough to deal with this offseason—including whether to entertain the idea of trading probable AL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, as reported by Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com—he now has to replace a man who led the team to the division crown in each of the past three seasons.
Who might Dombrowski look to as a replacement? Let's take a look at some of the top options, both in-house and outside of the organization.
Sandy Alomar Jr.: Bench Coach, Cleveland Indians
The longtime catcher served as Cleveland's interim manager at the end of the 2012 season after the Indians fired Manny Acta, going 3-3 over the final six games of the season.
While that's Alomar's only managerial experience, that hasn't stopped him from interviewing for multiple openings over the past few years with teams like the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays.
They say that former catchers make the best managers, and given the recent success of former backstops in the dugout like Joe Girardi and Joe Torre, it's hard to argue against that thought. However, Alomar's ties to the Indians run deep, and even with Terry Francona blocking his path, he may not be comfortable jumping ship to one of the team's division rivals.
Another former catcher, Ausmus has been regarded as a future big league manager since he retired following the 2010 season.
While he doesn't have any major league coaching or managerial experience, Ausmus did serve as the manager for Israel in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, though his squad failed to advance past the qualifying round.
According to the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore and James Wagner, the 44-year-old Ausmus is in the mix to replace Davey Johnson as manager of the Washington Nationals. Whether the Tigers are interested in hiring someone with no experience remains to be seen.
Dusty Baker: Free-Agent Manager
Dismissed as manager of the Cincinnati Reds after six seasons, 64-year-old Dusty Baker is the most experienced skipper available, having gone 1,671-1,504 over a 20-year managerial career that has seen him make stops in San Francisco, Chicago and Cincinnati.
A three-time National League Manager of the Year (1993, 1997 and 2000), Baker has five division crowns on his resume, winning two with the Giants, one with the Cubs and two more with the Reds. His 2002 Giants squad made it to the World Series, losing to the Angels in seven games.
Baker has plenty of critics, but for a team that is built to win now and may be looking for another experienced skipper, Baker could quickly become one of the front-runners for the position.
Tom Brookens: Third Base Coach, Detroit Tigers
Detroit's starting third baseman under the legendary Sparky Anderson from 1979 to 1988, it has long been speculated that Brookens was the heir apparent to Jim Leyland and would take over once Leyland retired.
Brookens spent five seasons managing in Detroit's minor league system before joining Leyland's staff in 2010, leading the Single-A West Michigan Whitecaps to the Midwest League championship.
While minor league success as a manager is just like minor league success as a player in that it doesn't guarantee success in the major leagues, Brookens is incredibly intelligent and knows the game inside and out.
FanGraphs' David Laurila recently spoke with Brookens about what his managerial style would be with the Tigers, and it's quite an interesting read. One thing that's for sure is he isn't afraid of being chastised for his decision-making abilities:
You open yourself up to criticism sometimes, but you can never manage a game worrying about what someone is going to question after the fact. You have to manage by what you think is the right call at that particular time. If you make decisions based on knowing you might be crucified after the game if something doesn’t work, you’re not going to be much of a manager. You go with what you feel is best for the team, and then you answer for it.
For me, Brookens is the early favorite to replace Leyland, though his lack of big league managerial experience may ultimately outweigh the relationships he has with the players on the roster.
Gene Lamont: Bench Coach, Detroit Tigers
His ties to Detroit run deep, as he spent the bulk of his 13-year playing career in the Tigers organization after the team made him its first-round pick in the 1965 Amateur Draft. A member of Jim Leyland's coaching staff in Detroit since 2006, 2013 was the first year that he served as bench coach.
Lamont has spent eight years as a major league manager, four with the Chicago White Sox (1992-1995) and four more with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1997-2000). He guided the White Sox to a pair of division titles in 1993 and 1994 and owns a career managerial record of 553-562 (.496).
While Lamont has deep ties to the organization and has had success as a major league manager before, it's been more than a decade since he last ran a clubhouse—and at 66 years old, the team may be looking to bring in someone younger who has a better chance of sticking around for a while.
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