MLB.com announced today that former manager, Jim Leyland will be at the helm of team USA during the World Baseball Classic in 2017.
It will be the first time since the 2013 ALCS that Leyland will guide a team. In that year the Tigers fell to the Boston Red Sox.
As a manager, Leyland has a .506 winning percentage (1,769 wins vs 1,728 losses). In his 27-year career as a skipper, Leyland spent time with the Pirates (1986-1996), the Marlins (1997-1998) and the Rockies (1999) and the Tigers (2006-2013).
As a player, Leyland spent his entire career in the minors as a catcher but in the final years he served more like a coach in the Tigers’ minor league system. In 1972 he had his first stint as a Minor League manager with the Clinton Pilots in the Midwest League.
As manager of the Evansville Triplets in the American Association (AAA), he guided the team to two division titles in 1979 and 1981.
Despite guiding several teams to and through the play offs, Leyland’s only World Series title as a manager came in 1997 when he was at the helm of a Florida Marlins team that was mainly a team of mercenaries. After the team won the WS title, owner Wayne Huizinga sold most of the big stars and Leyland would step back as a manager after the 1998 season.
Leyland stated that he has not thought about game strategy a lot since his retirement:
“This is probably going to take me a little time for me, to start thinking about game situations, to sharpen up again. Contrary to what a lot of people think, I don’t try to manage the game anymore. I just watch the Tigers, watch the game, watch the players. I don’t think too much about the strategy. That’s not my business anymore, not my job anymore.
“I’m not going to be a manager anymore, but this is a special thing that came up. I agreed to it right away. I’m very honored.”
With three pennants and a World Series ring he has enough experience to guide team USA. The question will be what kind of team will he create. In the past three editions team USA did not get passed the semi-finals. In 2006 and 2013 the team did not survive the second round. In 2009 the team was ousted in the semis by Japan. Team USA will need a team not only loaded with stars but also with players that are prepared to sacrifice for the team; players that are not affraid to lay down a bunt to advance a runner.
The fun part is that during his tenure as a manager, he wasn’t a big fan of the WBC because of his concern about players being ready in time for the clubs. But in his new role he surely will communicate with the MLB clubs about player use.