Jim Leyland closeup

Jim Leyland won’t discuss his contract status … starting now

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Jim Leyland is in the final season of his contract, but today the 66-year-old manager responded to questions about his status by saying “I’m not going to discuss it.” And then he discussed it. A lot, actually:

If we do all right, I assume I’ll be here. If we don’t, I probably won’t be. People write about all this pressure. There’s no pressure on me other than to win games. I love to win baseball games. I want to win a division and get to the postseason. Other than that, there’s no pressure on me whatsoever. I’m not going to listen to that silly stuff about the last year of my contract. I’ve been going through that for a hundred years. I don’t really give a care about that, and I’m not going to discuss it.

I’ve been reading all this and that. It’s simple. If you don’t win, people point fingers. Sometimes it’s the manager. Sometimes it’s the players. Sometimes it’s the general manager. But it doesn’t make any difference to me. We’re out here to win games. If we’re in the middle of a game, we’re not thinking about our jobs. We’re thinking about how to beat the other team, win as many games as we can. That’s what we do for a living.

So I’m not going to discuss all that silly stuff. That’s for the writers to gossip about and put in the paper and all that. I’ve been reading that stuff for a while now. I don’t pay any attention to that. I mean, they know in Japan that this is the last year of my contract, because it’s been written about enough.

Jason Beck of MLB.com has a lot more where all that came from.

Leyland saying “sometimes it’s the general manager” is interesting, because Dave Dombrowski is also in the final year of his contract and the GM made a pair of bold, risky free agent signings in Victor Martinez and Joaquin Benoit. I have the Tigers pegged as co-favorites in the AL Central alongside the Twins and White Sox, but Detroit finished 81-81 last year and hasn’t won a division title since 1987.

After filling up reporters’ notebooks with quotes about his contract status, Leyland ended the media session by saying: “But that’s the end of that stuff for the whole year. I’m not talking about that.”

We’ll see how long that moratorium lasts. My guess is the answer will be “whenever the Tigers have their first extended losing streak.”

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.