By Noah Trister, AP Baseball Writer
DETROIT (AP) – The record-setting Cleveland Indians have earned the admiration of an old rival — former Detroit manager Jim Leyland.
“Not at the Tigers’ expense, obviously, but I’m enjoying that Cleveland run,” Leyland said Friday. “I think it’s exciting. It’s great for the city of Cleveland. It’s great for baseball. I wish it was the Tigers and not the Indians, but hey, it’s great what’s going on.”
Cleveland had its 22-game winning streak snapped later Friday, but that run — which set an American League record — had become the sport’s biggest story. Leyland, now a special assistant to the general manager for the Tigers, said he stopped at a restaurant Thursday night and watched the end of the Indians’ extra-inning victory .
“It’s remarkable, but it shows you what a fickle game it is,” Leyland said. “Three weeks ago, everybody was saying that the Los Angeles Dodgers had the greatest team in the history of baseball. They lost 15 out of 16. They can’t even get on the front page anymore. Cleveland’s taken over all of the sudden.”
Leyland was in Detroit for Friday night’s induction ceremony for the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. He’s part of a 2017 class that also includes former Detroit Pistons star Dennis Rodman, Fab Five member Jalen Rose, former Michigan State standout Andre Rison, former Michigan offensive lineman Jon Jansen, longtime Oakland University basketball coach Greg Kampe, former Michigan State baseball player and longtime NFL official Dean Look, and author and Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom.
Leyland stepped down as Tigers manager after the 2013 season, and Detroit has made the postseason only once since then. The Tigers recently traded stars Justin Verlander, Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez in a series of moves that put the team firmly in a rebuilding mode.
“I think everybody pretty much knew that this was going to happen, or had a chance to happen,” Leyland said. “In fact, a lot of people were suggesting that it should happen. So you can’t have it both ways. You can’t be upset when it does happen, so hopefully there’ll be some patience with everybody.”
Leyland was asked if he’d be rooting for Verlander and the Houston Astros in the postseason, but he pointed out that there are a lot of ex-Tigers who could be playing well into October.
“I’m certainly pulling for Verlander,” Leyland said. “I’m pulling for Max Scherzer, I’m pulling for Rick Porcello. I could go anywhere and be pulling for somebody — J.D. Martinez. I want to see all those guys do well, but there’s only going to be one winner.”
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