Jim Leyland announced Monday morning that the 2013 season was his last as the Tigers' manager, giving players, managers and everyone else across baseball an opportunity to recognize and appreciate all he accomplished during his 22-year managerial career.
Leyland said he made the decision on Sept. 7, when he told team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski. He waited to inform Detroit's players until after Saturday's loss to Boston in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. And the 68-year-old skipper officially stepped down Monday morning, explaining to reporters that his "fire has gone low" and he'll move on to another role with the Tigers.
"My gosh, when you take a step back and you see someone who's managed for what, 22 years, it's a hell of a career and I'm sure one he's extremely proud of," Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
"I just sit back and hope and wish that my managing career in the game can match all that Jim has," added Rangers manager Ron Washington. "We just lost a tremendous baseball man, an excellent manager, and I know the organization in Detroit is going to miss him. I think Jim made that decision for what was best for he and his family, and I wish him the best."
While observers were pleased that Leyland got to step down on his own terms, it was still an unexpected bit of news.
"Very surprised," Farrell said. "I had sent him a text yesterday morning just to congratulate him and the organization on not only a great team, a great year. And expressed the respect that we have for him and certainly personally have for him for all the success he had in his career. And then to see the announcement today, to listen to him and know that early September this was very clear in his mind, that's surprising."
Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, who will call the World Series for FOX after working the ALCS in which Boston beat Detroit in six games, both said in a conference call with media on Monday that they were caught completely off guard by Leyland's decision, despite many recent conversations.
"I was shocked," Buck said. "If this is it, Jim will go out as a very successful manager, but also as a man who has the ability to manage star players. That's a big deal in today's game."
"That brings back a line that Gene Mauch had," McCarver added. "He was one of the smartest people in the game. Years ago, the common belief was that a manager should understand 25 different players. Mauch said that he was being perhaps idealistic, but he asked, 'Wouldn't it make more sense for 25 players to understand one manager?' I think what Jim Leyland got out of his team was that 25 men understood one guy."
That sentiment was a common one, even for those who lined up against Leyland. Take it from Giants manager Bruce Bochy, whose San Francisco club swept Leyland's Tigers in the 2012 World Series. Bochy called Leyland "a tremendous baseball man ... revered by all the players, managers and coaches in the game."
For that reason, Indians manager Terry Francona said he was glad that Leyland was able to go out on his own terms. But he was no less surprised by the announcement.
"For my money, he is kind of the gold standard of managers, at least in my generation. Besides the fact that they beat the hell out of us all year, I respect him a lot. I consider him a really good friend," said Francona, who first met Leyland in 1981 when Leyland was managing the Evansville Triplets. "He's the kind of guy that, before the game, you talk to him and you love him. And you know during the game he wants to beat your brains out. And then after the game, you're friends again.
"I respect him so much and I've learned so much from talking to him and spending time with him. I guess he -- not rides off to the sunset, but I hope he runs off to the casino and hits three sevens, because he's just a wonderful guy."
Added Cardinals manager Mike Matheny: "I have a lot, a lot of respect for him. Jim is somebody I spent some time with and was able to pick his brain as a player when he was helping us out. I have talked to him since about being a manager. He is somebody that, I believe, is one of those top-level people, top-level managers, and I have a lot of respect for how he went about his business. What a great run he's had."
Leyland began his managerial career in Pittsburgh in 1986, leading the Pirates to three straight National League Championship Series from 1990-92 and twice winning the NL Manager of the Year Award. He won a World Series with the Marlins in 1997. En route to being named AL Manager of the Year in 2006, he became the seventh manager to ever win pennants in both leagues.
More than any of his accomplishments and accolades, however, Leyland's colleagues will remember the way he dealt with people. Washington recalled that Leyland asked him to be on the 2007 All-Star coaching staff during Spring Training, then gave Washington "a lesson on how to treat people."
"Jim was a teacher," Washington added. "He never stopped teaching, and that's something he taught me."
Astros coach Dave Trembley remembered the time in 1987 when he was stuck in an 11-game losing streak with Double-A Harrisburg in the Pirates' organization. He was in a Red Roof Inn in Albany, N.Y., when his phone rang. It was Leyland, and he told Trembley not to worry.
"I'll never forget what he did," said Trembley, who managed in the Minor Leagues for 20 seasons before skippering the Orioles from 2007-10. "A guy like Jim Leyland gave me incentive to keep going. ... He always had time for people. Guys like that, you're not going to see again. The guys that are leaving, [Joe] Torre and [Tony] La Russa and now Leyland, these guys have been at it for an awfully long time -- Bobby Cox.
"You won't see another Jim Leyland. You won't see another guy like that."