The question eight years ago was whether Jim Leyland still had the fire.
Eight years and one completely revived franchise later, it’s more than clear that he did have it. But as every season wore down, Leyland asked himself the same question.
The answer this time was different.
When the Tigers were eliminated Saturday night in Game 6 against the Red Sox, Leyland told his team what some Tigers people had already suspected. After an eight-year run with the Tigers that included two trips to the World Series and four to the American League Championship Series, Leyland decided it was time to go.
Leyland told his players he had known for about a month, even citing a specific day — Sept. 7 — when he made the decision, a person in the room said Monday morning. He asked the players and staff to keep quiet over the weekend, not wanting to take any attention away from the Red Sox winning the pennant.
Leyland will turn 69 in December, but this was never going to be about a number. The Tigers have fallen short of the ultimate goal of winning a World Series for owner Mike Ilitch, but this was never going to be completely about wins and losses, either.
The question was always going to be the one Leyland had to answer in that first job interview the day after the 2005 season ended: Did he still have the fire?
In his meeting with the team late Saturday night, Leyland said he just didn’t have the energy to continue doing the job the right way.
With energy, Leyland was one of the best managers in the game, the one who took a 100-loss Pirates team and turned it into a three-time division winner, the one who…