DETROIT -- A picture of Jim Leylands face stared out from the video board at an empty Comerica Park, next to that familiar Olde English "D" and a message that said simply: "Thank You Jim." After eight seasons managing the Tigers, including three division titles and two American League pennants, Leyland stepped down Monday. His voice cracking at times, his hands wiping away tears at others, he announced his departure two days after Detroit was eliminated by Boston in the AL championship series. "Its been a thrill," the 68-year-old Leyland said during a news conference at the ballpark. "I came here to change talent to team, and I think with the help of this entire organization, I think weve done that. Weve won quite a bit. Im very grateful to have been a small part of that." Leyland made his managerial debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986, and from Barry Bonds to Miguel Cabrera, hes managed some of the sports biggest stars and been involved in some of baseballs most memorable games over the past quarter-century. In 1992, his Pirates lost Game 7 of the NLCS when Atlanta rallied in the bottom of the ninth inning. Five years later, Leyland won his only World Series title as manager when his Florida Marlins beat Cleveland in an 11-inning thriller in Game 7. Hes experienced some of the highest highs the game has to offer, but also endured difficult rebuilding periods in both Pittsburgh and Florida. After one season with the Colorado Rockies, Leyland didnt manage at all from 2000-05 before Detroit hired him. Leyland led the Tigers to the World Series immediately after taking over in 2006, losing to St. Louis in five games. The Tigers went to the World Series again in 2012 but were swept by San Francisco. Leyland worked under one-year contracts the last couple of years, saying he was content to wait until after the season to address his status. He was reflective late this season, mentioning to reporters that he had already managed the Tigers longer than he had expected they would keep him, but he also said in September that he still loved the atmosphere, the competition and his team. In fact, hed actually told general manager Dave Dombrowski in early September that he didnt want to return as manager. He expects to remain with the organization in some capacity after going 700-597 as Tigers manager. "Im not totally retiring today, Im just not going to be in the dugout anymore," Leyland said. "I hope and pray that you give the next manager the same respect and the same chance that you gave me." Leyland says his health is fine, but its time to stop managing. He said he started weighing his decision around June. "I started thinking this was getting a little rough. I thought that the fuel was getting a little low," Leyland said. "I knew that Id get through it because I knew wed be playing for something." The Tigers figure to contend again next year, which may lead Dombrowski to look for a proven commodity who can come in and manage. Kirk Gibson, who led Detroit to the 1984 World Series title as a player, is now managing in Arizona, but Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall tried to quash any speculation that Gibson would return to the Tigers. "We would not grant permission (to the Tigers to talk to Gibson) if asked because we want him here, and he told me this morning he has no interest in leaving," Hall said. Detroits players found out about Leylands departure after Saturday nights game in Boston, where the Red Sox won Game 6 to take the series. "Youve got your head down, you lost and the seasons over, and then Jim dropped that bomb on us," outfielder Torii Hunter said. "I just had a feeling that it could have been his last year. All year, he was kind of emotional, and I just felt it." Leyland said there was no announcement Saturday because he wanted the focus to be on the victorious Red Sox. However, he was honest about how much this defeat hurt. "With all due respect to the Boston Red Sox -- who earned it, they won it, they deserve to be where they are -- I truly believe the Detroit Tigers should be playing here tomorrow," Leyland said. "This is one thats going to stick with me, this is one that really hurts, because I really felt like we let it get away." When Leyland arrived at the Tigers spring training camp this year, it marked 50 seasons since he first showed up there as an 18-year-old prospect. His playing career never amounted to much, but his accomplishments as a manager over more than two decades have been impressive. He is 1,769-1,728 overall during stints with the Tigers, Pirates, Marlins and Rockies. "I had sent him a text yesterday morning, just to congratulate he and the organization," Boston manager John Farrell said. "Not only on a great team and a great year, and express the respect we have for him and certainly personally have for him throughout his career. To see the announcement today, and listen to him and know that early September this was clearly in his mind, that surprised me." When Leyland took over the Tigers, they had gone 12 years without a winning season. During his tenure, they finished under .500 only once. Detroit has become one of baseballs glamour teams of late, with stars like Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer helping the team win games and draw fans. Cabrera won the Triple Crown and MVP award last year. Verlander won the MVP and Cy Young Award the previous season. "Its been as much fun for me to manage Ramon Santiago as it has Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander," Leyland said. "Now in saying that, it was also an honour to manage the Triple Crown winner, an MVP, a Cy Young winner." The Tigers should be able to keep their core of players mostly together for next season, but now theyll need to find a new manager to replace Leyland, who always earned high marks for his ability to keep his veterans focused. "He really cares deeply about his players," utility man Don Kelly said. "When you go out there, the way he treats you, you want to run through a wall for him, go out there and get a win. Thats the way he treated me. He treated everybody like that." Ecco Shoes Online Outlet
.C. -- Al Jefferson knows few people will be giving the Charlotte Bobcats a chance to upset the Miami Heat in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Ecco Sneakers On Sale
.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes have activated defenceman Joni Pitkanen from injured reserve. http://www.cheapecco.net/
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.J. Ellis hit an RBI single in the ninth inning, Hanley Ramirez hit a tape-measure, three-run homer in the first against Cliff Lee and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Philadelphia Phillies 4-3 on Saturday night.OAKLAND, Calif. -- Blake Griffin buried bank shots, turnaround jumpers and spinning layups. DeAndre Jordan gobbled up rebounds and opposing shots, often flexing his muscles and letting out a roar. The high-flying finishers who spawned the nickname "Lob City" are doing far more than dunking in the playoffs. The frontcourt tandem has carried the Clippers to a 2-1 lead in their first-round series against the Golden State Warriors, who have found no answer for either with centre Andrew Bogut out with a fractured right rib. "Just two animals out there just beastin right now," Clippers guard Darren Collison said. And both are finally performing in places they havent always flourished -- on defence, in the playoffs and at the most pivotal points of games. Since losing Game 1 in Los Angeles, Griffin has dominated David Lee and every other defender the Warriors have thrown his way. And Jordan -- who tied a franchise playoff record with 22 rebounds and five blocks in the Clippers 98-96 win in Game 3 on Thursday night -- has been the kind of rim protector coach Doc Rivers had long believed he could become. The two big men, both just 25 years old, have caused so much disruption that Warriors coach Mark Jackson said Friday hes considering changing his starting lineup for Game 4 on Sunday. The most likely swap would insert Draymond Green at power forward and push Lee to centre for Jermaine ONeal in a smaller, quicker lineup. "Weve got to figure out a way to present some resistance. I think things are going a little too smoothly for Blake," Jackson said during a light shootaround at Golden States downtown Oakland headquarters. Griffin has scored 32 and 35 points the past two games, respectively. Hes shooting 64 per cent from the floor in the series and has been at his best in the biggest spots. The All-Star power forward made five straight baskets -- three bank shots, a mid-range jumper and a short turnaround -- against Lee to open the third quarter in Game 3, part of a run that put the Clippers ahead by 18 points. "Just continuing to believe," Griffin ssaid, speaking to reporters at the teams downtown San Francisco hotel Friday.dddddddddddd"My teammates give me the confidence to go out there and shoot every time Im open." Lee promised hed be better against Griffin in Game 4. He has mostly been tasked with guarding Griffin by himself, though Jackson hinted more double-teams might be on the horizon. "Hes playing at a high level right now," Jackson said. "We forced him to be a jump shooter, and hes making jump shots. On the block, hes aggressive. Hes having an outstanding series capping off an outstanding year." While Griffins star has shined brightest, Jordan has been the insult-to-injury figure. The Warriors tried to lure Jordan away from Los Angeles in the summer of 2011, signing him to a four-year, $43 million offer sheet as a restricted free agent. Instead, the Clippers matched the deal. Now the Warriors -- who waived Jeremy Lin and amnestied Charlie Bell to make room for the offer -- can only watch Jordan make a major difference on defence while Bogut -- acquired in a trade with Milwaukee in March 2012 to be Golden States franchise centre -- sits out with another injury. Three years ago, though, Jordans game was not nearly what it is now. Jordan fell out of favour at times under former coach Vinny Del Negro, who was let go after the Clippers lost to the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of last years playoffs. Jordans rising game speaks to the Clippers commitment on defence under Rivers, who challenged the young centre to focus on rebounding and protecting the rim this season. Jordan finished third in voting for the NBAs defensive player of the year award behind winner Joakim Noah of Chicago and runner-up Roy Hibbert of Indiana. "These guys really rely on me a lot defensively, and when Im out there, they have all the confidence in the world in me," Jordan said. "So its definitely a huge step for me in my career, but at the same time, its always something to build on and its more motivation for me. As long as Im my teams defensive MVP, thats all that matters to me." ' ' '