Jim Leyland surprised some within the baseball community when he announced Monday that he’d be stepping down from his managerial post after eight seasons at the helm of the Detroit Tigers.
Leyland, who most recently guided the Tigers to an appearance in the 2013 American League Championship Series, also led Detroit to two World Series trips and three American League Central titles from 2006-13.
Following Leyland’s announcement, names of potential candidates almost immediately began to emerge, and not surprisingly a local skipper found himself right in the middle of the speculation.
According to CBSSports.com’s Danny Knobler, Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson and San Diego Padres special assistant Brad Ausmus have already been linked to the vacancy in Motown.
Kirk Gibson helped bring the Tigers their last World Series title.
Could he also bring them the next one?
Gibson is on the Tigers’ list of possible successors to Jim Leyland, sources say. But Gibson remains under contract with the Diamondbacks, who invited him back after a disappointing 81-81 season and are unlikely to allow him to leave for Detroit.
Gibson, who succeeded A.J. Hinch as Arizona’s manager on July 1, 2010, is 290-279 in three-plus seasons with the D-backs.
During Gibson’s tenure, the D-backs have won one National League West title and made one trip to the postseason — both occurring in 2011.
The link between Gibson and the Tigers makes perfect sense, as the 56-year-old was selected by Detroit in the first round of the 1978 MLB Draft. Gibson played nine seasons with the Tigers from 1979-1987, winning a World Series title with the club in 1984.
In addition to spending a majority of his playing career in Detroit, the Michigan native served as the team’s bench coach under Alan Trammell from 2003-05 and hitting coach for the second half of the 2005 season.
The 2011 National League Manager of the Year is, however, under contract with the D-backs through the 2014 season, and as CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman noted, the team is unlikely to let him out of the final year of his deal.
D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall reiterated those sentiments, telling FoxSportsArizona.com’s Jack MacGruder that “Kirk Gibson is where he wants to be, and he is where we want him to be.”
With that said, USA Today baseball columnist Bob Nightengale tweeted Monday morning that the D-backs would likely let Gibson interview for the Tigers’ job if the team should request permission.