Tigers bring back manager Jim Leyland for 2013


Tigers bring back manager Jim Leyland for 2013

DETROIT (AP) Jim Leyland insisted throughout the latter part of the season that there would be a time and a place to discuss his managing future.

That moment came Tuesday - when the Detroit Tigers announced Leyland would be back in 2013 with a one-year contract extension.

``I really don't know why this is such a shock to everybody, because we told everybody that we weren't going to talk about this until after the season,'' Leyland said. ``It's not even 48 hours and it's done. I think it was pretty much exactly like we had planned it.''

The Tigers and their manager quickly ended any remaining speculation about his status, just two days after Detroit was swept by the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. Leyland was managing on a one-year deal this year as well - and he seems comfortable taking his future year by year at this point in his career.

``I'm going to be here in 2013, and we'll take that from there,'' Leyland said. ``I wanted to manage, but I did think long and hard about it, because I wanted to make sure that I was going to be doing everything that you need to do to continue to keep this club headed in the right direction.''

The 67-year-old Leyland leads all active managers with 1,676 wins, a total that puts him 15th on the career list. Next season will be his 22nd as a major league manager and his eighth in Detroit. He's led the Tigers to the postseason three times and the World Series twice.

Leyland's coaching staff is also expected back, although some roles within it could be altered.

By the time the World Series started, general manager Dave Dombrowski had indicated Leyland would be welcome back in 2013, but both the manager and GM sought to postpone any public discussion of his status until after the season.

``I think he pretty much understood that we wanted him back, but it was not something that he really wanted to talk about,'' Dombrowski said. ``When you know somebody for an extended time, you know what areas you prefer to leave untouched - you don't talk about certain things until it's that time.''

Detroit faced high expectations this year after signing slugger Prince Fielder in the offseason. By mid-September, Leyland's future seemed uncertain as the Tigers struggled to keep pace in the AL Central, but they overtook the Chicago White Sox to win the division and then beat Oakland and the New York Yankees in the American League playoffs.

Despite the poor showing in the World Series, it was a happy enough ending for Leyland, who is well aware of the occasional criticism from fans and talk-show callers when things aren't going well.

``Probably `Tom in Royal Oak' isn't too happy right now, but that's OK.'' Leyland said. ``That's just the way it goes. I'm sorry Tom, but I'm back.''

With Leyland remaining in charge, the Tigers can turn their attention to the rest of the offseason. They exercised a $6 million option on shortstop Jhonny Peralta and a $3.5 million option on RHP Octavio Dotel. Each had carried a $500,000 buyout.

Detroit is prepared to let closer Jose Valverde and designated hitter Delmon Young leave via free agency. Valverde had a poor postseason, and Young's spot will be taken by Victor Martinez, who is set to return next year from the knee injury that kept him out all of 2012.

The Tigers will try to re-sign free agent right-hander Anibal Sanchez, but he figures to be one of the top starting pitchers on the market.

``I had a great conversation with him the other night,'' Leyland said. ``I told him, `This is your chance, chase it, be happy. ... I'm telling you right now to your face, I really want you back. But this is your time. Go take advantage of it.'''

Dombrowski sounded confident Detroit might find an in-house candidate to close next year in Valverde's absence. The Tigers still have right-hander Joaquin Benoit in their bullpen.

Minor leaguer Bruce Rondon has turned heads, too.

``People don't sometimes believe this, but it is true. He averages 100 miles an hour and topped off at 103, and throws his breaking stuff for consistent strikes,'' Dombrowski said. ``This guy is a special potential closer with the makeup of a closer, and normally you're not going to thrust that in a young guy's hands and say automatically, `It's your job' - but it would not surprise me if he earned that job. With the number of good arms that are out there, there are not many arms like this, and he cherishes that type of role.''

Detroit also has several regular players eligible for arbitration, which could inflate the payroll. Among them are catcher Alex Avila, reliever Phil Coke, center fielder Austin Jackson and starters Doug Fister, Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer.

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RGIII plays the final minutes of Ravens' OT loss to Chiefs

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RGIII plays the final minutes of Ravens' OT loss to Chiefs

With the Baltimore Ravens needing to get in field goal position to stay alive in overtime against the Kansas City Chiefs, it wasn’t Joe Flacco or Lamar Jackson under center with the game on the line on third and 22. 

It was Robert Griffin, III. 

It was the second straight week Griffin has had to step in for relief for Jackson following an injury. A hit on Jackson by Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston sidelined the Ravens’ rookie, forcing Griffin to come in at a less-than-ideal time. 

Griffin had no time to work his way into a rhythm or pass time until Jackson potentially returned. His first pass attempt to John  Brown was nearly picked off and his second pass to Willie Snead was incomplete. Following the game, several Ravens players -- including Griffin -- felt Chiefs defensive back Kendall Fuller interfered with the play. 

Moving forward, the Ravens find themselves in a dilemma. If healthy, stick with the young Jackson who won three games in a row and was in the game against the class of the AFC, albeit limited in the passing game, give Griffin a shot who gives the team more options in the passing game or go back to the veteran Flacco for the stretch run of the playoffs. 

At 7-6, the Ravens are holding on to the final playoff spot by the slimmest of margins. Head coach John Harbaugh has an important decision to make before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town next week. 


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The Ravens lost to the Chiefs, but it was beautiful chaos nonetheless

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The Ravens lost to the Chiefs, but it was beautiful chaos nonetheless

A lot of times, when somebody says “that game really had it all” it’s not entirely accurate. What they usually mean is “wow, that game had multiple exciting moments.”

Well, today, I actually mean it. The Ravens' loss to the Chiefs really did have it all.

-- There was so much going on, actually, that it will be very easy to overlook several wild moments.

-- There was Lamar Jackson’s beautiful 21-yard rush during an 8-play, zero-pass touchdown drive from the Ravens to tie the game at 7-7.

-- There was Harrison Butker’s 51-yard field goal attempt going wide right to keep the game tied.

-- There was Patrick Mahomes hitting Travis Kelce in the end zone, a combination the Ravens struggled to contain all afternoon.

-- There was the Ravens failing to convert a short 4th-down conversion after an unfavorable spot from the officials, and Mahomes giving the ball back three plays later on the Ravens’ first interception in 293 pass attempts (longest drought in team history).

-- There was the Ravens not hesitating to go for another 4th-down conversion, this time capping a 14-play drive with a touchdown pass to Maxx Williams.

-- There was Patrick Mahomes completing a no-look pass

Allow me to repeat. In football, not basketball, he completed a NO-LOOK PASS.

-- There was a phantom offensive pass interference call against Michael Crabtree to derail a potential 4th quarter go-ahead drive.

-- There was offsetting penalties on a punt attempt, and Baltimore-native Cyrus Jones returning the second-chance punt 55 yards deep into Kansas City territory to set up another touchdown.

-- There was Patrick Mahomes flinging up a prayer on 4th-and-9 for a 48-yard completion to Tyreek Hill, keeping hope alive for the Chiefs.

-- There was the Chiefs’ own 4th-down touchdown completion, this one to tie the game at 24-24.

-- There was a Lamar Jackson fumble to seemingly give the victory to the Chiefs, followed by a second Butker miss to send the game to overtime.

-- There was Mahomes fumbling the ball away untouched, only for Terrell Suggs to overrun it and the Chiefs to recover.

-- There was Lamar Jackson leaving the game with an injury, and Robert Griffin III coming in on 3rd-and-22 near midfield. 

-- There was a perfect throw from RGIII on 4th-and-22 that grazed off Willie Snead’s fingertips as Kendall Fuller wrapped him up a second early with no call to seal the devastating loss.

Like so many games and seasons before, the Ravens were just one play short of getting over the hump. Even entering the game as heavy underdogs, it’s hard to feel satisfied with a “good loss” or a “moral victory” at this point in the season. Not only are the Ravens hoping to stay alive in the AFC North, but there’s now a 4-way tie among 7-6 teams fighting for the AFC’s 6-seed.

The Ravens currently hold the tiebreaker, but face a tough schedule the rest of the way and now have zero room for error.

Ultimately, it was a terrific performance by the defense for 56 minutes, before looking gassed at the end of the game. It’s no coincidence that the first time the defense has failed to close the game late in the 4th quarter during the Lamar Jackson Era is also the first time the Ravens have lost the time of possession battle.

It was especially frustrating for John Harbaugh to see so many borderline calls go in favor of the Chiefs. Baltimore was called for 11 penalties for a whopping 112 yards, many coming on calls described by the broadcast as “ticky-tack” or “weak” or just plain “ehhhhhhhh.”

Nobody ever gives sympathy to the team complaining about the refs, but it makes a tough loss that much tougher. It’s more difficult to swallow a loss when the refs swallow their whistles.

There’s a lot to be encouraged by if you’re a Ravens fan. The moment wasn’t too big for Jackson, and the defense did as well as any defense has to try to defend Mahomes this season. 

There won’t be a ton of solace to take if they wind up on the outside looking in come January, though. Every game from here on out is critically important, and hopefully, the Ravens can finish more strongly against competition that isn’t as talented and downright scary as the 2018 Chiefs.