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Jim Leyland, Hall of Famer?

Oct 21, 2013, 10:47 AM EDT

In the wake of news that Jim Leyland is stepping down as Tigers manager after eight seasons I wondered how strong his Hall of Fame case is if he’s headed for retirement at age 68.

First things first, Leyland has 1,769 wins to rank 15th all time among MLB managers. Of the 14 managers with more wins, nine are already in the Hall of Fame and at least three others (Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre) seem likely to be in Cooperstown eventually as well. That leaves Gene Mauch and Lou Piniella as the only managers with more wins than Leyland without a (probable) spot in the Hall of Fame.

However, of the 15 managers with 1,700 or more career wins Leyland has the fourth-worst winning percentage at .506, ahead of only Connie Mack, Bucky Harris, and Mauch. He also has “only” one World Series title, although Leyland’s teams also lost twice in the World Series and he made the playoffs a total of eight times in 22 years as manager. He won three straight division titles with the Pirates in the early 1990s and three straight division titles with the Tigers in the early 2010s, and in between won a World Series with the Marlins.

MORE: Who replaces Jim Leyland in Detroit?

At this point in baseball history trying to predict which great players will be inducted into the Hall of Fame is difficult enough, so doing the same for managers could be really tough. With that said, it’s pretty clear that Leyland has a strong Hall of Fame case, but seems nearly as clear that he’s behind La Russa, Torre, and Cox among this generation’s most successful skippers, perhaps putting him in a group with managers like Davey Johnson, Bruce Bochy, Mike Scioscia, Terry Francona, and Piniella.

Is that enough to warrant a spot in Cooperstown? I’d tend to lean yes, but I’m admittedly a Leyland fan and it’s definitely not an open-and-shut case either way unless the Hall of Fame starts inducting a lot more managers than it has in recent years.

  1. jonirocit - Oct 21, 2013 at 10:58 AM


    • cohnjusack - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:37 AM


    • dickclydesdale - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:51 AM

      Not unless they have a wing section for managers that put in pitchers that gave up the most playoff grandslams. A sucky strategy manager wing if you will.

      • notaretard - Oct 21, 2013 at 1:40 PM

        yes, because we should clearly throw out his entire career and base our decision on one bad series. moron

    • okwhitefalcon - Oct 21, 2013 at 12:05 PM

      Leyland’s a Frank Sinatra/Johnny Carson/Casey Stengel hybrid.

      He should get in on “cool” alone.

      • skids003 - Oct 21, 2013 at 1:06 PM

        I agree. But 15th in all time wins, I think he should be a shoo in. His record speaks for itself.

  2. bobthis - Oct 21, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    I’m not a Tiger fan but Leyland should definitely be a first ballot Hall of Famer. His record speaks for itself.

    • aceshigh11 - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:14 AM

      His record DOES speak for itself, and what it says is that his record is actually rather mediocre.

      His managerial longevity is impressive, but a .506 winning percentage? 8 playoff trips out of 22 seasons managed? One WS title?

      Believe me, I like the guy, but I don’t know if he’s quite at the caliber of HoF.

    • bobulated - Oct 21, 2013 at 12:12 PM

      First ballot? Do you know anything about the history of the BBWAA and how they vote? A no brainer like Greg Maddux is a first ballot guy IMHO but there will still be a few guys who don’t vote for him for silly reasons and it won’t be unanimous although it should be.
      In Leyland’s case, as the post mentions, there are several managers clearly ahead of him and a bunch that are neck and neck with him.
      If Leyland gets in, it won’t be terribly soon and it certainly won’t be on the first ballot.

      • Kevin Gillman - Oct 21, 2013 at 7:17 PM

        Which is why the media should not have a say in who gets in HOF. Why not have the peers vote yes or no?

  3. jeffchadwick - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    Tiger fan, and I’m a “no” on the HOF discussion.

  4. Charles Gates - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:04 AM

    Nope. Tobacco is a PED. Ever see a smoker go without a cig for any length of time?

    • jcmeyer10 - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:32 AM

      He led the league in “Cigarettes Smoked Per Game” or “CSpG” for 30 years. What more do you want from a manager.

      • asimonetti88 - Oct 21, 2013 at 2:19 PM

        You people and your fancy new-fangled “Sabermetrics”. I don’t need any statistics to tell me he was an elite cigarette smoker, my eyes tell me so.

      • gloccamorra - Oct 21, 2013 at 2:46 PM

        But I’ve been to the HOF in Cooperstown. There are no smoking signs all over the place.

  5. ilovebaxter - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    Curious… Would Charlie Manual get into the HOF? 1,000 career wins as a Manager, World Series Champion, 5 Straight NL East Titles, and a .548 wining percent. Just wondering…

    • largebill - Oct 21, 2013 at 12:46 PM

      I really like Charlie Manuel, but have to say no. He got a fairly late start as a manager and falls just short. He wants to get another shot to manage. He might throw his hat into the mix for the Tigers job.

  6. pwshrugged - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    I think that .500 winning percentage keeps him out, honestly. Leyland has had a marvelous career, but so have a lot of guys, and he ultimately never did anything that truly stood out and set him apart from anyone else. I think a second World Series win would have helped, but man, that .500 win percentage really looks stark to me. He’s kind of like Jack Morris – a great pitcher of his era, but with only one ring and nothing that really sets him apart from his peers.

    While the Hall of Fame is a sticky situation in baseball and they need to relax and let some more guys in, I’d rather it not open the gates too wide. It should be reserved for legends of the sport, and when I think legendary managers, I think La Russa or Torre or Cox… not Leyland.

    Think of it this way – based on the 30 teams in the league right now, if you could have your pick of those 30 managers, how many are you taking ahead of Leyland? If you even have to stop and think about it for a bit, I think that says a lot.

  7. dtownbeatdown - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    As a tiger fan I respect him and he is a class act. But .500 average and being shutout in the world series twice might keep him out. Im going to say no.

  8. jlinatl - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    When looking at record, consideration should be given to where a manager got their W-L record. Not every job is equal and winning percentage should just be a starting point.

  9. rbj1 - Oct 21, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    Let’s take a look at Casey Stengel. HoF to be sure, what with all those Yankees World Series. But those were great teams. Outside of that he only had one barely .500 team in 1938 with the Boston Bees at 77-75. Leyland has guided different teams to the playoffs, where everything is a crapshoot. Right now Peyton Manning is a HoFer, even though he only has one ring.

  10. largebill - Oct 21, 2013 at 12:47 PM


  11. pike573 - Oct 21, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    I would say “yes”. A manager is dependent on what he has to work with. We say he is behind Torre, Cox, and LaRussa (which I happen to agree with) but I would also submit that those 3, over the course of their careers had more to work with.

  12. aiede - Oct 21, 2013 at 2:22 PM

    Yes. Not just because of numbers, but because of narrative (which the HoF voters love). Leyland presided over the rehabilitation of two old and proud franchises that’d fallen on cellar-dwelling misery in Pittsburgh and Detroit, and took a Florida expansion team to what was then a historically-quick World Series win. Yes, he had the players…but just ask Sciosa or Manuel or Francona or Dusty whether great players automatically win games.

    There’s a certain amount of simple longevity in Leyland’s success, but the fact remains that he averaged better than a playoff appearance every three seasons over the course of his career. That’s pretty damn impressive.

  13. thegreatstoneface - Oct 21, 2013 at 2:52 PM

    he didn’t really resurrect the pirates…there were a solid team for a good long time before they hit the doldrums for 3 sub .500 years during the great pittsburgh drug trials/chuck tanner’s feelgood show (including leyland’s first year at the helm)…and climbed back into contention in leyland’s second year on the job. not much reserrecting to be done there…

  14. gloccamorra - Oct 21, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    Manager Of The Year three times, twice in the NL, once in the AL, and three second place, again, twice in the NL and once in the AL. That worth anything?

  15. kardshark1 - Oct 21, 2013 at 3:51 PM

    I just don’t see it.

    The average payroll of the teams he’s coached is always one of the highest payrolls in the league. (Yes, even the Pirates of the early 90s). To have the league’s best players and consistently one of the highest payrolls and STILL only have a .500 winning percentage, I just don’t see what is special about that. I truly feel that just about any mediocre coach could win 50% of their games with the players and payroll he’s had.

  16. cur68 - Oct 21, 2013 at 4:51 PM

    I want a “yes” to this. But…well…ah hell. I like the guy. He made me laugh. That’s a Yes from me.

  17. uuddlrlrbastart - Oct 21, 2013 at 6:37 PM

    I’m not a fan of this game, but if Whitey Herzog is in, then Leyland is more than deserving.

  18. lawyermalloy - Oct 22, 2013 at 7:42 AM

    Leyland is such a well liked guy with the sports writers who vote for the HOF, he’s certain to get in at some point. While i’ve always been offended by the power these writers have and was always in favor of taking it away, I have to agree with this choice.

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