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Leyland's third playoff berth ties Detroit record for skippers

The SportsXchange

He may look gruff and crusty and old-school, but for the second year in a row, Jim Leyland teared up while his players celebrated a division-clinching victory.

Leyland found out Monday night after Detroit's 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals that he's just the second Tigers manager to take his team to postseason play three times. The other was Hughie Jennings in the early part of the last century.

Like all managers, Leyland feels he's been criticized more than he should. A team he said he felt in the spring would win 90-95 games stood at 87 victories after clinching the AL Central crown.

"In this business, you gotta be able to take some hits," he said. "Some justified, some not. But I'm a tough old bird, and I can take some hits.

"We lost some games and we probably underachieved until (Monday night). Now we've achieved. We don't have to listen to the underachieving anymore. We got the postseason. Now it's a crapshoot."

The latest criticism was that his team was too unemotional, too laid-back, didn't have enough fire. Octavio Dotel said some 10 days ago, when the club started its tear, this team wasn't as pumped up as the St. Louis Cardinals team he was on last year, a team that won the World Series.

"Last year's (Detroit) club was a little more of a rah-rah club because of Victor Martinez," Leyland said. "The personalities on this club are not that way. We're not a rah-rah team.

"As a manager, you have to know that that's your team's style. For me to have been kind of a rah-rah guy with this team would have been a mistake. I don't think that's their personality.

"That's one of the things you have to do as a manager, you don't have to only learn what your players can do physically and talent-wise on the field, but you have to know what kind of people they are. I think that's very important. I thought that if we hung in there long enough, we could get it done -- and we did."

General manager Dave Dombrowski said, "Jim's done a fantastic job, what with all the expectations."

As of now, Leyland is without a contract to manage the team next season, something that will take on national importance as the postseason extends. However, he will try to deflect that issue as much as he can.

"This is all about the players. This isn't about Jim Leyland or the coaches," he said. "This is about the players. You don't win unless you have them. We won because we have good players. A lot of guys could have managed this team and done well.

"I'm fortunate to have had the true privilege to have managed the Detroit Tigers for as long as I have."

After Wednesday, he'll have at least one round of postseason play to add to that.
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