Published January 20, 2011
DETROIT – Tigers manager Jim Leyland is blunt as he assesses the situation he and his boss, general manager Dave Dombrowski, face entering the final years of their contracts.
"My tail's on the line, Dave's is on the line," Leyland said Thursday at Comerica Park as the team started its winter tour across the state, a few weeks before spring training. "We all know that."
Leyland's deal was extended by two years during the 2009 season, giving him at least one more shot of helping owner Mike Ilitch hoist World Series hardware.
"I came here to give Mr. (Mike) Ilitch a world championship trophy," Leyland said, entering his sixth season as the Tigers' manager. "That's what I'm going to continue to try do as long as I'm the manager. If it got to the point where they don't want me to be the manager anymore, then so be it, that's their business.
"If somebody thinks that I'm going to be intimidated by the fact that this is the last year, I've got all kind of energy, I feel good. I'm really looking forward to it. That's not going to be a topic."
It certainly won't be one that Dombrowski is going to fuel with candor.
Dombrowski was rewarded in 2006 with a four-year extension that runs through 2011 after turning around the franchise in his first five seasons in charge.
"I'm not going to talk about my contract publicly," Dombrowski said. "I've always gone about my job, working the hardest I can, in the same fashion no matter what my situation."
The Tigers hope newcomers Victor Martinez, Brad Penny and Joaquin Benoit will help holdovers such as Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Austin Jackson put them in the postseason for the first time since 2006.
Leyland and Dombrowski might have a lot to lose if that doesn't happen.
"I'm not going to go to spring training and say, 'Oh, I got to do something different, this is the last year of my contract,'" Leyland said. "They know me. I've managed 20 years. I doubt that it takes someone 21 years to figure out if I can manage or not."
Leyland, who helped the Florida Marlins win the 1997 World Series, managed Pittsburgh from 1986-1996, Florida for two seasons and Colorado in 1999 before taking a break.
The Tigers won the American League championship five years ago, in Leyland's first season in their dugout. Since then, they have had two winning seasons, an 88-loss year and are coming off a .500 finish to an up-and-down season.
"Sometimes people act like we haven't done anything here," Leyland said. "We did go to the World Series in 2006. We went to a 163rd game two years ago. It's not like we haven't provided pretty good entertainment for people. It's not like we've been a bunch of donkeys. We did draw 3 million (fans) a couple years. If I remember right, it was 12 years that they didn't come close to .500, so it's not like we haven't done something."
Detroit seems to have a chance to win the highly competitive AL Central with a solid mix of pitching, hitting and defense.
"If we don't win the division, the year will be a disappointment — period," ace Justin Verlander said.