Jim Leyland was on the verge of winning a second straight pennant with the Detroit Tigers. Yet on Oct. 21, Leyland stepped down two days after a tough loss in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox. It was a wrenching end to an era for the Tigers which brought them two pennants and three straight divisional titles -- though it was an era many wanted to happen in Philadelphia.
In 2004, many Philadelphia Phillies fans wanted the Phillies to hire Leyland and not Charlie Manuel, but they chose Manuel instead. When Leyland went to the then lowly Tigers in 2006 and promptly took them to the World Series, it seemed to confirm that the Phillies backed the wrong horse. However, Manuel won the race just two years later when he won the World Series -- something Leyland ultimately never did with the Tigers.
Yet over the last few years, Leyland pulled back ahead with three straight ALCS berths and one pennant, while the Phillies fell from the elite. Manuel may have won a world title, but he missed several opportunities for a second, just like Leyland missed his chances for a first in Detroit. Ultimately, both long time managers saw their tenures end in 2013, although Manuel was forced out of Philadelphia two months earlier.
Leyland leaves Detroit on top, although he also leaves after three straight failed chances for a championship. But in that time, Manuel’s Phillies were upset by the eventual world champion St. Louis Cardinals in October 2011, then missed the playoffs in 2012 and had their first losing season of the Manuel era in 2013 -- even if he didn’t finish it.
If Leyland joined the Phillies instead of the Tigers, would he have given Philadelphia the title he didn’t give Detroit, or even more than one? Given that the Phillies are in for a long rebuilding process after Manuel, while Leyland left the Tigers with the foundation for more World Series runs, Philadelphia still has to wonder what could have been.
At the least, it makes it ironic and fitting that Manuel and Leyland left in the same year -- albeit with very different endings, and with a better one for the manager that didn’t win a World Series after 2004.