It was as relaxed as Jim Leyland had appeared since Spring training. Leaning back in his office chair inside the Tigers clubhouse, just an hour after President and GM Dave Dombrowski confirmed that the two sides had agreed to a one year extension, talking about a season that culminated with a loss in the World Series to the San Francisco Giants. Leyland credited the Giants with being the better team and attributed much of the Tigers short comings to the fact that his club just "Didn't hit" like he thought they would. But by no means did he make any apologies for the fact that his team was swept by a club that out played them - it's just not his style, nor is it his style to wallow in the disappointment - he prefers to move on.
You see Leyland is as even keeled as they come, never getting too high or too low - no matter what the circumstances, and in a roller coaster season that many believed would end with the Tigers on the outside looking in, that's a necessity. It's just one of the many reasons he's coming back as the Tigers skipper on a (mutual choice) one year deal through the 2013 season. Another reason he'll be back is because his 8th season in Detroit will mark his 22nd as a big league manager and that along with his 1,676 wins (the most for any active manager) and a World Series Title, are track record enough for Dombrowski and owner Mike Ilitch to stick with the winning formula.
Certainly Leyland comes with his flaws - like his determination to juggle line ups and stick with a guy like Ryan Raburn through a variety of challenges - both offensive and defensive - this season. But Leyland showed some signs of letting go of his dogged determination by admitting Tuesday that the insistence to stick with Raburn this season was a miscalculation in judgement on his part. You don't get many apologies from Leyland nor should you, he's thick skinned and knows that he has to be to survive as a Big league manager. After all, he welcomes the scrutiny of the fans in Detroit - because he knows they care and just want to see their team win.
You'll never hear him make a "Win One for the Gipper" type speech, nor will he publicly throw a player under the bus. It's his easy going demeanor that has endeared him among players in the clubhouse, especially the Biggest stars on his team - and at the end of the day, those are the guys whose endorsement matters most. Leyland has an undying passion and energy for the game saying Tuesday, "I've never cheated Mr. Ilitch out of a hard days work." He also has an endless love for the city of Detroit and commitment to the fans (3 Million plus this season) that come to watch his team play. Sure, there are those fans who have seen enough after two failed trips to the World Series under his watch but I've got news for you - in a game like this, that's a good problem to have.
While there will be many detractors who debate keeping the soon to be 68 year old Manager around for another season, he has plenty more supporters. Upon the announcement of his decision to stay another year, Leyland said he received many calls and texts welcoming him back (including one from me). But it was classic Leyland during his news conference Tuesday, when he painted a calculated smirk on his face and grabbing a fictitious name from a sports radio caller said; "I'm sure Tony in Royal Oak isn't very happy ....but guess what Tony, I'm back!" Classic Leyland, at his best and he's here for one more year. Say what you want about the guy, he knows how to win, and in a 'what have you done for me lately' business that demands results - I'd say getting to the World series is good enough for me.
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