COMMENTARY | With his next victory as manager of the Detroit Tigers, manager Jim Leyland will notch his 650th regular-season victory with the team. That total is third all-time on the team's career victories list behind Sparky Anderson and Hughie Jennings. Love him or hate him, Leyland has been the leader of the Tigers' return to prominence since taking over on Oct. 4, 2005.
Since becoming manager, the Tigers have won two American League championships, a division title and two wild-card berths. They've featured two AL MVPs, a Triple Crown winner, a Cy Young Award winner and three batting titles.
Here is a look at the top five moments of the Jim Leyland era:
1. Magglio Ordonez's home run sends Tigers to World Series, Oct. 14, 2006
With the game tied 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, Magglio Ordonez drove a 1-0 pitch from Oakland Athletics closer Huston Street deep into the left-field seats at Comerica Park, sending the Tigers to their first World Series since 1984. The majestic swing sent the ball high into the cold October air, and everyone in the ballpark knew it was gone the moment he made contact.
Hysteria ensued as Ordonez circled the bases with his arms held high. The Tigers would go on to lose to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, but that home run is one of the most dramatic moments in Tigers history. Of all the great moments over the past seven years, this is the one fans will always remember most.
2. Leyland loses it on team after early-season loss, April 17, 2006
As memorable as the Ordonez home run is, it was a post-game rant earlier in the season that set the tone for the club and sparked it to the team's first playoff berth in 19 years. After losing a game to the Cleveland Indians, Leyland spoke out about his team to the media.
Although the team was only 7-6 on the season, Leyland went off, saying the team was uninspired and lacked effort. It was unacceptable behavior to Leyland for a team that went 71-91 the season before. After the rant, the Tigers won 28 of their next 35 games, including a stretch of 15 out of 16 games in May.
3. Complete domination of the New York Yankees, October 2012
This wasn't so much a moment as it was a week-long whooping of the Yankees. Few things in sports beat sweeping a team in the playoffs, but beating the Yankees in such fashion is that much sweeter. Aside from Jose Valverde's meltdown in the ninth inning of Game 1 of the ALCS, the Tigers were in control for the entire series.
The Yankees did not hold a lead for even a half inning in the series and as a team scored just six runs in the four games. The Tigers scored eight in Game 4 alone. The Tigers scored nearly as many runs as the Yankees had hits and cruised to their second World Series berth in six years.
The series win also marked the third time Leyland and the Tigers beat the Yankees in the playoffs since 2006.
4. First AL Central crown, first division crown in 24 years, Sept. 16, 2011
It had been 25 years since the Tigers had won a division title before securing the AL Central crown with a 3-1 win over Oakland. The title was also the team's first AL Central championship, having not won one since joining the division in 1998.
Doug Fister threw eight shutout innings and Wilson Betemit's triple in the top of the sixth inning put the Tigers ahead 2-1, before Don Kelly extended the lead with a solo home run the in the next inning.
The division title was the first of back-to-back crowns won by the Tigers, marking the first time since 1934-35 that the team repeated as divisional champs.
5. Tigers clinch first playoff berth since 1987, Sept. 24, 2006
With a chance to clinch a playoff berth on the line, the Tigers jumped out to a big lead early, scoring nine runs in the second inning, highlighted by a Craig Monroe three-run home run. Justin Verlander pitched five innings and the bullpen finished off the Kansas City Royals as the Tigers won 11-4.
After years of toiling around in baseball's basement, the win officially signaled the Tigers' return to relevance. The team that not had a winning season since 1993 was going back to the playoffs and thus began Jim Leyland's march toward Tigers history.
Matt Durr is a reporter from Michigan who has followed the Detroit Tigers his entire life. He has covered University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University athletics for Annarbor.com. Follow him on twitter @mdurr84.
- Sports & Recreation
- Detroit Tigers
- Jim Leyland
- Magglio Ordonez