And so it is official. After much speculation over the weekend and earlier this morning, Detroit Tigers Jim Leyland has announced his retirement from the field. According to the press conference with Jim and GM Dave Dombrowski (which is continuing as I type), he will remain with the organization in some sort of still to be defined front office capacity.
After 8 years, two American League pennants and two World Series appearances, Leyland indicated that, at 69 years of age, he’s ‘running on empty’ – ready to leave the travel and pressure behind. A clearly emotional Leyland also showed a bit of humor at the media gathering the morning, sharing a ‘funny’ involving his wife, church, flatulence and a faulty hearing aid. It was welcome comedy relief from a man with a typically stoic if not, as he put it ‘grumpy’ demeanor with the press.
Leyland’s rare showing of personality, no doubt borne of relief and coping necessity, stood in sharp contrast to his typical stone faced approach over the years during pre- and post-game interviews (tears aside). It almost begs the question: What will the Tiger’s new skipper be like and what would we, as fans, like to see in that individual?
Besides managerial competence, which Leyland clearly has possessed during his successful 22 year run, a more day-to-day personable approach would be a welcome change. Baseball is serious business yet isn’t it also supposed to be fun? At the same time, while Leyland often cites his appreciation of the fans, his loyalty to certain players over the years did not always guarantee the best on-the-field product for those fans.
Through it all, Jim Leyland always exhibited class, decorum and almost a sixth-sense with knowing what strategic player moves to make between the white lines and when. One would hope, then, that his replacement, while bringing a new background and personality to the Tigers equation, will also possess at least some of Jim Leyland’s attributes that many of us admired so much.