DETROIT — As he announced his retirement as Tigers manager Monday, Jim Leyland let fans and media in on a couple of secrets.
“This may sound selfish, but I hope in the next two or three years, I get a chance to throw out the first pitch at Comerica Park,” Leyland said. “And shortly after this press conference I’m going to be an official member of the ‘Skipper’s Rippers Club.’
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“And I’m going to be ripping those guys.”
Who will Leyland be ripping as the Tigers’ new manager? Team president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said Detroit’s status as a three-time Central Division champion and potential World Series candidate in 2014 will be a factor in the search for Leyland’s replacement.
“For me, managerial experience at some level has always been an important quality in a major-league manager,” Dombrowski said. “I think the ability to handle a club [is important].
“This is such a large job in this day and age, and people don’t have a pulse on that unless they are there day-in and day-out. …
“But I would also say there have been people who haven’t managed who have done solid jobs at the major-league level. And to be close-minded on anybody at this point would be premature.”
Dombrowski declined to discuss if any of the current coaches would be candidates to be the next Tigers manager. Two of those coaches, bench coach Gene Lamont and hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, have major-league managerial experience.
Lamont managed the White Sox from 1992-95, earning AL manager of the year honors in 1993, before leading Pittsburgh from 1997-2000. McClendon replaced Lamont at Pirates manager in 2001 and held that job until 2005; he was fired following that season and joined Lamont on Leyland’s Detroit staff the next season.
The rest of Leyland’s coaching staff includes first-base coach Rafael Belliard, third-base coach Tom Brookens, assistant hitting coach Toby Harrah, pitching coach Jeff Jones, and bullpen coach Mike Rojas.
Dombrowski was noncommittal when asked about the coaching staff, whose contracts end on Oct. 31.
“I would never stand in the way of anybody, if they were unsure what their status is with us, finding another job somewhere else,” Dombrowski said. “And I also think you have to be careful, with a new manager, in putting people on his staff that may not mesh.”
One potential candidate for the Tigers’ managerial job could be Dusty Baker, who was fired after six seasons as Cincinnati manager this year after leading the Reds to the playoffs for the third time in four seasons. Baker also managed in San Francisco for 10 years (1993-2002) and four years with the Chicago White Sox (2003-06).
Other names that have been mentioned early include Torey Lovullo, a former Mud Hen (1988-90) who played in Detroit in 1988-89 who currently serves as bench coach in Boston, and Brad Ausmus, who had two stints as a Tiger (1996 and 1999-2000) and currently is a special assistant in baseball operations for San Diego.
Reports that Arizona manager, and former Tigers standout, Kirk Gibson could be a candidate may be premature. Diamondbacks club president Derrick Hall told Fox Sports Arizona that “Kirk Gibson is where he wants to be, and he is where we want him to be.”
Gibson has one year left on his Arizona contract, and the club holds contract options for 2015-16.
Dombrowski said he and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch will begin the search for a new manager in the coming days.
“We haven’t sat down and talked much about this present situation because it just took place,” Dombrowski said. “He was aware it was taking place. I’m sure we’ll sit down this week to talk about various thought processes going into next year.”
Leyland said he would not have input on his replacement unless asked by Dombrowski.
“I have some thoughts that I would share with Dave, but I don’t think it would be right to share them publicly,” Leyland said. “I will ask answer any question Dave asks me, and if he wants me to be part of a search I’ll do that.
“But I don’t stick my nose in Dave’s business. He’s pretty good at hiring managers.”