|Photo credit: toledoblade.com|
They say all good things must come to an end. I'm not sure who "they" are, but "they" are probably wiser than I am. As is Jim Leyland, but now Leyland and I have something in common: neither one of us is managing the Detroit Tigers.
In the past 24 hours, you've probably experienced all sorts of emotions regarding Leyland's retirement; it could be shock, it could be sadness, it could be excitement for the future.
Leyland retired Monday, walking away from a team that probably should still be playing if not for Boston's grand efforts. But they aren't. As surprising (or not) as it is, the Tigers season is over, as is Leyland's illustrious managerial career.
Call him old, call him senile, call him grumpy...all are probably fair points. But his career was illustrious. He may one day have a home in Cooperstown, he may not. But he restored the roar in Detroit as well as anyone. He presided over perhaps the most successful time period in Detroit sports to never yield a title; certainly the most successful in recent memory.
FailureLeyland did a lot for the Tigers. He took a perennial loser and turned it into a perennial winner. He had help, yes. He had great players, yes. There are few in the game of baseball who are quicker to point out that players make managers look good, not the other way around. But Leyland made his players look good.
Adoration has come pouring in for Leyland from all avenues, Woodward to Twitter. Rightfully so. Leyland earned that. He managed the Tigers for eight great years, took the team to four American League Championship Series, and won two pennants.
Yet when it came to the ultimate task at hand, the ultimate goal, Leyland failed. He'd probably say the same thing. He got all the questions right leading up to the final question, but he missed that one. It's not his fault. But while players play the game, managers get the credit and, in this case, they take the blame.
That's what I'll remember most about Leyland, fair or unfair. The Tigers never won the title that Mike Illitch (and a bunch of fans) so desperately wanted, needed almost.
That's not to say Leyland won't get his ring with the Tigers. He's staying on with the organization in a TBD role. That's the right move. It won't be the same without the Marlboro man in the dugout, but he'll still be around, as he should be.
Jim Leyland was baseball in Detroit. The polarizing figures in recent Tigers memory are polarizing because Leyland made them so.
He was the one who kept running Brandon Inge out there, and finding a spot for Ryan Raburn, when everyone else thought his spot was next to the crate of Dubble Bubble in the dugout.
He gave the ball to a tall lanky kid from Virginia and allowed him to become a dominant force on the mound, and got the most out of a Venezuelan infielder who had some troubles in his early Detroit career.
He did all of it with a mumbling voice and a cigarette.
If the next manager in Detroit can win a title, Leyland won't be in the spotlight. It's not his style. But he'll be on my mind. And I'll smile, knowing that a good thing isn't over just yet.