NEW YORK—Immediately following the Yankees' first-round playoff elimination last Saturday, George Steinbrenner released a statement announcing his intention to fire the Detroit Tigers, whose "inexcusable postseason performance stunned and saddened" the 76-year-old Yankees owner.
"The Tigers' level of play during the ALDS was deeply disappointing and absolutely not acceptable to both me and the great and loyal Yankee fans," the statement read in part. "This is a mid-budget team with a payroll under $85 million, and I expected them to play like one."
Even though Steinbrenner was reportedly pleased with the way the Tigers played down the stretch, and even commended the team's starting pitching after Game 1, his mood soured as they went on to win three straight games, at one point holding the Yankee lineup scoreless for 20 consecutive innings. This drew the ire of the historically volatile Yankee owner, who had "certain expectations" for the Tigers heading into the series.
"I made it very clear how I wanted the Tigers to perform this postseason, and they failed on every level to produce the desired results," Steinbrenner's statement continued. "They had several opportunities to turn this series around, but they just went out there and played like they didn't care whether the Yankees won or lost."
"The pitching was fantastic, the offense was timely, the defense was flawless… Frankly, it made me sick," Steinbrenner added.
Steinbrenner was especially critical of Tigers manager Jim Leyland, whom he claims was primarily responsible for the Yankees' ineffective postseason. A poll conducted after the ALDS echoes Steinbrenner's sentiments, as an overwhelming 100 percent of Yankee fans say they do not support Jim Leyland, and nearly zero percent say they would be disappointed if Leyland were fired from his current managerial post.
"We were all relying on Jim, but he just didn't get the job done for us," Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. "We thought long and hard about it, but in the end we decided that the Yankee organization is better off without the Detroit Tigers around."
Steinbrenner concluded his statement by criticizing the Tigers' "shameful post-game celebration," saying that "the way they were acting, you'd think the Yankees had won the pennant."
Among the other Tiger players fired by Steinbrenner are Carlos Guillen, the Tigers shortstop who batted a "disappointing .571" during the series; outfielder Curtis Granderson, who hit two home runs and had five RBI in what Steinbrenner called "an abysmal performance"; and pitchers Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman, who "cost the Yankees the series" with back-to-back outings in which they recorded a combined 12 strikeouts and gave up just two runs.
Yankee players were not shocked by Steinbrenner's announcement.
"He's the Boss—he owns the Yankees, and that gives him the right to fire whoever he wants," shortstop Derek Jeter said. "The Yankees have a long tradition of winning, and the Detroit Tigers failed to respect that."
For the Tigers, news of their firing couldn't have come at a worse time.
"I know we didn't quite live up to the expectations of certain fans, media, and baseball organizations, but it felt like things were really starting to come together for us, like something big was right around the corner," Leyland said. "We thought we still had a lot to prove here. Who knows, if we weren't eliminated in this unexpected fashion, we might have even gone on to win a world championship."
With the Oakland A's currently waiting for an opponent for the championship series, Steinbrenner is expected to announce that the newly vacant Detroit Tigers roster will be filled by the roster of the 2006 New York Yankees, effective Game 1 of the ALCS.