Leyland gets his wish: Two more years in Motown
DETROIT -- The man who helped restore the Detroit Tigers' roar will be with the team for an extra year.
Manager Jim Leyland got what he wanted Tuesday when the Tigers extended his contract by one year, keeping him in the dugout through the 2009 season.
Leyland said last week he planned to meet with Tigers president Dave Dombrowski the day after the season and hoped to drive home to Pittsburgh knowing he had two years on his deal.
"We are very happy with the outstanding job he has done and with the leadership he provides our organization," Dombrowski said in a statement. "We look forward to Jim managing the Tigers for a long time."
During the final homestand, Leyland said he wanted to manage "for a while," but didn't want to have more than two years on his contract, giving the Tigers and him flexibility.
A year after reaching the World Series in Leyland's first season, the Tigers finished 88-74, eight games behind Cleveland in the AL Central. Ahead early in the wild-card race, they did not threaten the New York Yankees down the stretch.
"I have enjoyed my first two seasons as the manager, and I appreciate the tremendous fan support from all the great Tigers' fans," Leyland said in a statement. "I look forward to managing the Tigers for a long time."
Leyland's Detroit debut was tough to top.
He helped baseball's losingest franchise for more than a decade reach the World Series for the first time since 1984.
The Tigers were hit with injuries this season from spring training, when standout starter Kenny Rogers discovered a blood clot in his shoulder, through September, when designated hitter Gary Sheffield tried to play with a shoulder injury.
Sheffield is scheduled to have his shoulder examined on Thursday to determine whether surgery is necessary.
Leyland said he was more proud of this team than last year's ballclub in some ways because it had to overcome more obstacles, and the players didn't readily make excuses as they stayed in contention for the wild card until the final week of the season.
Detroit has had a winning record in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1987-88.
The Tigers signed Leyland to a three-year contract shortly after the 2005 season -- replacing fired manager Alan Trammell -- and he helped them make the playoffs for the first time in nearly two decades with their first winning season since 1993.
"He wants to be back, and we want him back," center fielder Curtis Granderson said last week. "That's a great combination."
Detroit's record is 183-141 during Leyland's first two seasons as manager. The 183 wins are fourth-most by a Tigers manager during his first two seasons with the club.
Leyland was Florida's manager when the Marlins won the World Series a decade ago and was a two-time NL Manager of the Year with the Pittsburgh Pirates when they won three division titles in the early 1990s.
He quit his previous managing job after the 1999 season in Colorado, then was a major league scout for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Leyland, who turns 63 on Dec. 15, left the Rockies because he was burned out. The fired-up manager has plenty of enthusiasm for his current job.
"I'm pumped up," he said during the final homestand. "I'm attacking the fires that you need to attack. As long as I'm doing that, I know I'm where I'm supposed to be."
After starring as a prep athlete 70 miles away from Detroit in Perrysburg, Ohio, and rooting for the Tigers, his first 18 years in professional baseball were in the Tigers' farm system -- six as a player, one as a coach and 11 as a manager.
Leyland began his managing career at Bristol of the Appalachian League in 1971. He also managed four other minor league clubs for the Tigers, taking teams into the postseason six times. After Sparky Anderson chose not to include Leyland on his coaching staff in 1979, Leyland left a few years later.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press