All Tiger fans owe Leyland a big thank you for bringing Detroit baseball back from the dead

It seems everybody had an opinion on Detroit manager Jim Leyland after the Tigers were beaten by the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.

From my perspective it seemed as if the majority of Tigers fans didn’t want Leyland to return as manager next season.

Shawn-Livererance-Column-logo-Well, all that speculation was put to rest on Monday when Leyland announced his retirement, at least from managing.

I might be in the minority on this one, but I am sad to see the Old Skipper walk away.

As a life-long Tiger fan, I couldn’t have been happier that October day in 2005 when general manager Dave Dombrowski hired Leyland.

The Tigers were coming off possibly the worst stretch in franchise history, averaging 100 losses from 2001-2005, including the infamous 2003 season when they lost an American League record 119 games.

For the first time in my life, I really became disenchanted with the Tigers.

Yes, I was a huge Alan Trammell supporter and hated to see him fired before Tigers owner Mike Illitch opened up his wallet.

But Illitch gave Leyland the tools and he got the job done, getting the Tigers to the World Series in his first season and winning consistently since then.

We’ve just completed one of the most successful eras (if not the most successful) in Tigers history, thanks in large part to the old man.

Even a loss to the Cardinals in five games in 2006 didn’t damper my renewed love for my Tigers, and that continued throughout the eight seasons under Leyland, in which the Tigers went 700-597 (.541) in the regular season.

There were three straight trips to the American League championship series and another trip to the World Series in 2012 when they were swept in four games by the San Francisco Giants.

Leyland also had a hand in shaping the last great Tigers era, as well.

People forget (or are not old enough to know) that Leyland helped develop the likes of Lou Whitaker, Trammell, Kirk Gibson, Lance Parrish and Jack Morris, all members of that 1984 world championship team, in their formative years, while a minor league manager in the Tigers system.

The disappointment of losing a second World Series in six years resonated with me last winter, but my passion was renewed this year with another great season.

It was magical summer watching Miguel Cabrera once again show why he is the best player on the planet, while watching a starting pitching staff that is as dominant as some of the best rotations of the past 50 years.

I know there are many Leyland haters out there who questioned his every move.

Yes, he was loyal to a fault with players like Don Kelly and Ryan Raburn, and on many occasions I questioned his bullpen moves and the resting of his regulars.

That was magnified in the recently completed series with Boston.

But the overwhelming positive results of the past eight seasons can’t be ignored.

Yes, the pain of the Boston series is still fresh in all our minds.

But he won two American League pennants, three AL Central titles and made the playoffs four times.

Say what you want about Jim Leyland and his retirement, but he brought legitimacy back to the Tigers and that is something I will never forgot.

So, enjoy retirement Skip, and thank you for making our Tigers relevant again.

 

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