stepping down


all images by Samara Pearlstein

Jim Leyland announced today that he is stepping down from his position as manager of the Tigers.

Obviously we have all had our moments of doubt, exasperation, annoyance, and so on with decisions Leyland has made. His use of pitchers was often what might be charitably termed curious. His lineup decisions were sometimes hard to figure out. He was loyal to coaches and players, sometimes, some might say, to a fault. If there is any one among us who has not at some point over the past 8 years shaken a fist at the field or TV or radio dash of a car while screaming, “LEEEYYYYYLAAAAND!”, I would argue that that person is lying or apathetic about baseball or both.

But there is also no denying the good that Leyland did here. As that previously linked article points out, 6 of the 8 years Leyland was here, the Tigers had winning records; they went to the postseason 4 times; and they made at least the ALCS the past 3 years in a row. That’s not an insignificant record, and even all the talent the Tigers have socked away on their roster is hardly a guarantee of that kind of consistent success.

And, of course, there has been much to love. There’s his penchant for smoking in the dugout and clubhouse, and his secret amazing singing voice, and his baseball socks, and his dislike of things that are horsesh!t, and his intense war with all MLB umpires, and the fact that he was never really even mad at Gene Lamont for running over his foot with a golf cart, and his affection for Don Kelly, and the time he said that Phil Coke was rowing with one oar.

All these things and more made us love him, and we had many reasons to enjoy his tenure as manager. He is not entirely retiring– he says he will be remaining with the team in some as-yet unspecified capacity– but I, for one, will miss him.

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12 responses to “stepping down

  1. Although I think it’s probably time for new blood in the dugout, I will definitely miss Smoky Jim. A class act and you can’t expect the manager to make your million dollar guys hit the ball. The one guy he did toy with ended up being their best hitter in the series…

  2. Oh, God, who can forget shirtless Jim down there at the bottom? Wow.

  3. I’ll miss him too. Feels like a family member just announced he wasn’t throwing the ball for us to catch anymore.

  4. I got more teary eyed reading this with your pictures than listening to his conference… happy trails to you, Mr. Leyland. Hope we’ll see you around.

  5. I’d like to add one more thing I’ll miss: the tough guy act that he put on that we all knew was an act, because there may not be any crying in baseball… but somebody forgot to tell Smoky Jim. :( Sad day. He should have been able to go out on top.

  6. The league is worse for having another old-schooler leave the game.

  7. I think I’ll miss your drawings of JL as much as I miss his news conferences! Love seeing him on camera and that droll manner!

  8. We should be jealous of the life he’s led. Come seven years I only hope I can say the same. Thanks, Jim, for all you’ve given us.

  9. He had me at 2006. Feels like the end of an era. I will miss him and I am forever grateful for him for his role in bringing baseball fun back to Detroit.

  10. It does feel like the end of an era. He did a great job, and obviously commanded the respect of the players. I am glad he is staying in the Tigers organization.

  11. Amen to all the praise above, plus this: In a mercenary game where people change uniforms & allegiances at the drop of a hat, he identified totally with the much-maligned D –how lucky he was to be here, how badly he wanted to win for the city and the fans. While our politicians let us down he & his teams exemplified our best qualities and aspirations. Sure, they’re from Venezuela, the Dominican, even such foreign lands as California and Texas, but you always felt that “Detroit” was more than just a word on their baseball shirts. They were ours, and that smooth cat running the show made it easy to be passionately theirs.

    Glad he’ll still be around. We can track the progress of his ongoing transformation, until he morphs completely into Yoda.

  12. Apart from Samara’s usual brilliant art work, this is one of the most concise, well written articles on Leyland’s departure that I’ve read.

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