CLINTON — Although Jim Leyland may not be ruling on a seat at the end of the dugout anymore, he still plays a role in baseball.
Leyland is now a special assistant to Dave Dombroski, the general manager and president of the Detroit Tigers. Leyland managed the Tigers to the World Series in 2006 and 2012.
Leyland won it all with the Florida Marlins in 1997, but now that he has stepped away from managing, he admits he was done.
“I’m nearly 70 years old and I still miss the managing the game, but I don’t miss the travel,” Leyland said. “That was enough; I managed 22 years in the big leagues, and more in the minors.”
Leyland also plays a role working with Major League Baseball in working with its replay system.
“I can pick and choose when I want to do stuff,” Leyland said in a phone interview before visiting Clinton last weekend.
The big leagues put in a new replay system that includes managers having the ability to challenge certain calls. At this point at its infancy, the new system is running its course, according to Leyland.
“I like it a lot,” he said. “Like anything else, there’s going to be some kinks in the system. I think it’s worked out very well. (The umpires) are getting the calls right, and that’s what matters.”
Leyland was to attend a meeting in New York City this week to talk about what adjustments need to be made to the current system.
“Any time you have change, people are reluctant to that,” Leyland said. “But I like where it’s going so far.”
Many fans and pundits believe that one change that needs to be made is the rule involving catchers blocking the plate. It has cost the Miami Marlins a game, and many think umpires in the New York control room are making inconsistent judgments.
“We don’t know how much of the play at the plate will be discussed,” Leyland said. “I’m sure they’re going to adjust that in some way, but I’m just not sure how much yet.”
Leyland even admits he would have been open to having replay during his managerial tenure.
“I think it would have been fine; I think I would have enjoyed it,” Leyland said. “It’s a little bit different.”
Then, in the same breath, Leyland brings up what would have happened if replay had been implemented not too long ago. It may have given Armando Galarraga a perfect game in June 2010. Needing just one final out, Galarraga was denied the feat when Joyce called Cleveland’s Jason Donald safe on an infield grounder, a call that replays showed was wrong and for which Joyce apologized.
“Umpiring is just part of the human element of the game,” Leyland said. “That’s just part of the game, it’s always been there; every now and then, they miss one. He happened to miss one, but that never really bothered me.”
According to Leyland, there have been more ejections this season than in 2013.
“That’s part of baseball,” he said. “They’re still arguing; it hasn’t really cut down on the ejections.”
Just last week, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire tied Leyland’s mark for regular-season ejections at 72. Leyland is 11th all-time in early dismissals. (Bobby Cox is the all-time leader at 161.)