The Tigers just held Jim Leyland’s press conference. The highlights:
Leyland said he wanted it to be clear that he was not at all forced out. It was all his idea. And the idea had been in his head for longer than many may have expected.
On September 7th, after the game against Kansas City, he met Dave Dombrowski for coffee and told Dombrowski that he was going to step down after the season. Dombrowski wanted him to stay, but Leyland said that “it was time” and that “the fuel was starting to get low.” No players were told. Dombrowski told only owner Mike Ilitch. Leyland told his wife, Tony La Russa and Gene Lamont, each of whose advice he took on the matter. Leyland wanted to make the time frame of his decision — and the fact that only a couple of people knew — totally clear so that it could not be said that there was any sense on part of the players that they weren’t on the same page as he was. They had no idea that he was going to be gone.
MORE: Is Jim Leyland headed for Cooperstown?
He first informed his players Saturday night after the loss to Boston. There was first silence and then applause. He had nothing but good things to say about his players and reaffirmed, without hesitation, how he was proud of being thought of as a players’ manager throughout his career. He had nothing but the most glowing praise for owner Mike Illitch and Dave Dombrowski. For whom he will still be working, by the way, as Leyland announced that he will be accepting another position in the organization and said he “wanted to retire a Tiger.”
As anyone who has watched the Tigers closely knows, Leyland is an emotional man. He lasted longer in this press conference without crying than I figured he would. But about five minute in he thanked the people of the Tigers organization and then things got awfully misty. You just want to give the guy a hug.
MORE: Who replaces Leyland in Detroit?
Most of the questions/answers after his statements were what you’d expect. But one nugget did come out: Dave Dombrowski does not feel obligated to hire a guy with major league managing experience, saying he didn’t see the point in limiting available candidates.
Oh, and Leyland told a fart joke. Seriously. It had nothing to do with anything, but you can tell the guy is feeling good about his decision.
Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.
The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.
Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.
The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.
Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.
Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.
We heard earlier this week that Marlins television analyst Tommy Hutton was let go after 19 seasons on the job. By all accounts, he’s well-liked and respected, so it smelled a little fishy with a team that has owner Jeffrey Loria calling the shots. Well, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald was told by a source close to the Marlins that Hutton was let go because he was “too negative.”
Jackson was also able to get in touch with Hutton, who provided some details about how things went down.
“I know there were times I was negative, but I thought those times were called for,” he said. “Ninety percent of what I said was positive. I tried not to be a homer, but you could tell I wanted the Marlins to do well.”
After being told that his salary wasn’t a factor in the decision, Hutton suspected that his candid, blunt analysis might be the impetus for his ouster.
So after learning his fate on Monday, he asked that question – whether they thought he was too negative — to both a Fox producer (at a meeting at Starbucks) and the Marlins’ vice president/communications (by phone).
He said the question was met with silence by both executives.
“I couldn’t get a yes or a no,” he said.
Hutton said there were three incident in recent years where he was told the Marlins were uncomfortable with something he said. He disclosed one example where he was exasperated at the ballpark’s dimensions after former catcher John Buck flew out to the warning track for the final out of a game. He was told by a Marlins vice president after the game that Loria prefer he not talk about the ballpark’s dimensions. Of course, the team is moving in the fences this winter.
To be clear, Hutton said he was told it was a “mutual decision” between the Marlins and FOX to let him go, but Jackson’s source hears that the concern about his “negativity” came from the team.
Hey, do you know the best way to prevent “negative” talk about your team? Fielding a winning baseball team without a dysfunctional ownership and front office. Crazy idea, I know, but it could be cool?