Lloyd McClendon could be Tigers' best choice to succeed Jim Leyland

Lloyd McClendon managed the Pirates for five seasons before joining Jim Leyland's staff in Detroit.(USATSI)
Lloyd McClendon managed the Pirates for five seasons before joining Jim Leyland's staff in Detroit. (USATSI)

The Tigers will have some changes (including the manager). But they don't need major changes (including in the manager's office).

That's one reason that Lloyd McClendon could be the perfect choice to succeed Jim Leyland.

McClendon, who was on Leyland's coaching staff for all eight seasons in Detroit, is expected to interview for the job soon. While it's hard to know yet if he should be considered the favorite, he should at the least be regarded as a serious candidate.

In the hours since Leyland made the announcement that he's retiring, many smart baseball people inside and outside the Tiger organization have suggested that a Tiger team that has been to the ALCS each of the last three years should seek stability. The Tigers will be a favorite to make it at least as far next year (even if they trade Max Scherzer, as they very well might), and the suggestion is that they'd be better off not taking too big a chance with this hire.

McClendon has major-league managerial experience, and he knows the Tigers team better than any potential candidate. He also is believed to have Leyland's support, a significant point since the Tigers plan to keep Leyland on as some type of advisor.

At the Leyland press conference, general manager Dave Dombrowski said that in the Tigers' win-now situation, prior managerial experience would be a big plus, but not necessarily a must. The Cardinals were in a similar situation two years ago, went with the inexperienced Mike Matheny, and have seen it work out brilliantly.

But Matheny was already working for the Cardinals, and was already well-known and greatly respected in the Cardinals clubhouse. The Tigers don't have anyone comparable in their organization.

Brad Ausmus, believed to be someone the Tigers will consider, has long-term Tiger ties (he played there for three years), but no real ties to the current team. The same goes for Torey Lovullo, another deservedly hot name on managerial lists.

There are some ex-managers looking for jobs, including Dusty Baker. But he doesn't seem to be a perfect fit in Detroit, and it's hard to see what he would bring that McClendon doesn't.

McClendon didn't have great success when he managed the Pirates from 2001 until he was fired late in the 2005 season. But he didn't have great players, either, nothing like what the Tigers have now.

Since then, he has been a big part of the Tigers' success, a run of success that they fully expect to continue.

The Tigers will need to make changes. They need to finally fix the bullpen, something that should have happened last winter. It's very possible, perhaps likely, that they'll trade Scherzer, the probable Cy Young winner.

They'd no doubt love to trade Prince Fielder, too, but with his contract and his poor year ("The bat doesn't look right," one rival scout said), that's very unlikely to happen.

But most of the answers are already in that clubhouse, on a team so good that Tigers people are still convinced they should have beaten the Red Sox in the ALCS (even with the bad bullpen, and even with Miguel Cabrera compromised by injury).

The answer to the manager question could be right in the clubhouse, too.

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