One day before their big series against second-place Cleveland, the Detroit Tigers ended months of speculation about their manager and front office.
The Tigers have extended manager Jim Leyland's contract through the 2012 season, and general manager Dave Dombrowski has agreed to a four-year extension through 2015. Both contracts were set to expire after this season, but with Detroit in first place, owner Mike Ilitch decided the time was right to work out new deals.
"Dave has built a solid foundation for this organization and assembled competitive teams that give us a chance to win year in and year out. We have a lot of confidence in his continued leadership of the Detroit Tigers," Ilitch said. "I know Jim shares our desire to deliver a winner. We're pleased to have him continue leading the Detroit Tigers on the field."
The announcement came on a day off for the Tigers as they prepared for probably their biggest series of the season so far. Detroit begins a three-game set at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Tigers lead the second-place Indians by four games in the AL Central.
Detroit hasn't won a division title since 1987 and hasn't made the postseason since 2006, when the Tigers went to the World Series as a wild card in Leyland's first year.
"I want to thank Mr. Ilitch and Dave Dombrowski for the support and confidence they have shown in me and I look forward to managing the Detroit Tigers in 2012," Leyland said in a statement. "Also, my many thanks go out to generations of Tigers fans who have supported the Tigers through the good times as well as the tough times."
Dombrowski is also the team president and CEO. He was hired by the Tigers shortly after the 2001 season.
Detroit lost 215 games from 2002-03, but Dombrowski helped rebuild the team, and the Tigers have finished under .500 only once under Leyland.
Detroit went 81-81 in 2010, and Leyland was blunt back in January when assessing the situation he and Dombrowski were in.
"My tail's on the line, Dave's is on the line," Leyland said then.
Dombrowski added designated hitter Victor Martinez, pitcher Brad Penny and reliever Joaquin Benoit during the offseason, and Martinez leads the team with a .323 average.
More recently, Dombrowski acquired third baseman Wilson Betemit, starter Doug Fister and reliever David Pauley before the trade deadline in an attempt to shore up the roster for the stretch drive.
The Tigers have their share of older players, such as Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen, but Dombrowski doesn't expect this season's success to be fleeting. Ace Justin Verlander, a favorite for the Cy Young Award, is 28, and fellow starters Max Scherzer (27) and Rick Porcello (22) are even younger.
Slugger Miguel Cabrera is 28 and in his prime.
"I think we're in the best place we have been since I've been here," Dombrowski said. "I think we're in a position where we're very stable and I look for us to be good for years to come."
Detroit, of course, still has work to do this season. Dombrowski said the extensions were announced on a day off so the focus can be on the field when the Tigers start playing again.
"I don't think it has been a distraction — we're in a position where we're four games in first place," he said. "But it always has the potential to be a distraction."
Dombrowski, who held a conference call Monday, was asked whether the team considered a longer extension for Leyland — and if the manager showed any interest in one.
"He did not ask me for more than that. We offered him that and he gladly accepted," Dombrowski said.
The Tigers also extended the contracts of assistant general manager Al Avila, vice president for amateur scouting David Chadd, vice president for player personnel Scott Reid and baseball legal counsel John Westhoff.
Duane McLean was promoted to executive vice president for business operations.