General manager Dave Dombrowski, who met La Russa and Leyland when he was a young front-office assistant in Chicago three decades ago, is certain all the stars are aligned. He knows few managers could get over the way Detroit was clobbered by San Francisco in the series last year and that none would come back any hungrier.
‘‘If most of what you know about Jim is seeing him talking after games — giving short, gruff answers — you wouldn’t know how much baseball means to him,’’ Dombrowski said. ‘‘He’s seen just about everything and he still loves everything about it. He just doesn’t always come across that way.’’
And that’s the only shame. To make ends meet at various times, Leyland stamped out windshields at a General Motors plant, delivered mail and hauled construction materials around. But even now that he’s flush and in control of one of a handful of serious contenders, he isn’t about to loosen up.
‘‘I never thought all those days ago about making it or not making it,’’ Leyland said. ‘‘I'm just happy they kept me around long enough to find a way I could stick.’’
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him on Twitter.com/JimLitke.