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Leyland Returns to Tigers in 2013: Fan Reaction

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Much to the delight of a large portion of the Detroit Tigers fan base, after their dismal and horrendous collapse in going from paper-doll juggernauts to being swept by the San Francisco Giants in the World Series, general manager Dave Dombrowski was quick to offer answers and fixes, rather than apologies. In an October 30 press conference, Dombrowski was unapologetic and vented an urgency rarely shown by the usually close-vested GM. He and owner Mike Ilitch are upset and they're not about to let this unsettling, championship demise happen again.

The most glaring piece of information offered by the Tigers' management, however, was that fan-polarizing skipper, Jim Leyland, would be back in uniform in 2013.

Many people, including myself and WBBL sports radio host, Bill Simonson, have gone on record with the view that Leyland's managerial skills have been lacking and, at times, detrimental to the good of the team. However, Simonson went on to say in his October 30 program that Leyland had earned the right to return, based on his American League pennant victory and reaching the World Series for the second time in his seven-year tenure with the Tigers. I, however, am not so sure it would have been in Detroit's best interest.

Despite holding the most wins of any active professional baseball manager, Leyland's career managerial record encompasses a mediocre 1676 wins and 1659 losses. Though he does have three pennants and a World Series title under his cap (he won in 1997 with Florida), his two championship defeats and pennant loss in 2011 stand out as monumental failures, as they came against what many feel to be teams to which Detroit was vastly superior.

In 2012, a star-studded lineup that was projected to reach the 95+ win total fell short with an 88-74 record. The team was expected to win the lackluster Central Division by double-digits, but barely squeaked out the lead by season's end. Throughout the season, most of the criticism fell squarely upon Leyland's shoulders as he was routinely scuffed by the fans and media for his penchant for managing games based on player loyalty, rather than performance. We saw the drawn-out fall of Ryan Raburn and others, which directly cost the Tigers several numerals in the "win" column. His love and friendship for his friends has led to the staying-power of hitting coach Lloyd McClendon who, almost single-handedly, found ways to not fix the team's hitting ills. Leyland also delivered a game-by-game thrill-ride, as fans sat, with dreaded anxiety, to see which hot hitters he would keep on the bench in crucial moments.

With another season granted, no doubt the criticism will continue, as Leyland is one of the old-school thinkers and highly unwilling to chance his managerial style. With a, hopefully, upgraded lineup, Detroit will need a completely "Leyland-proof" roster to which, even with his "gut feelings" and value of loyalty over performance, even he could not derail their eventual goal of a World Series championship.

The author, D. Benjamin Satkowiak, is a successful entrepreneur and published, freelance author, who has tailored works on various sports, health and fitness topics. He currently serves as a Yahoo! Contributor Network "Featured Contributor" and writes on the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Lions, Great Lakes Loons and Notre Dame football.

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