The Mariners are hiring Lloyd McClendon to be the manager of your Seattle Mariners. I wish McClendon the best, I really do. He was manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2001-05. The Pirates were terrible, they were doomed to be terrible. There was nothing McClendon could do about, they were going to suck. After his firing, McClendon went to the Detroit Tigers as hitting coach. The Tigers do not suck, making it to the ALCS the last three years, and the World Series in 2012. Unfortunately, his time in Seattle is more likely to look like 2001-2005 than the last three in Detroit.
The hiring has brought a collective sigh from much of the blogosphere. Lookout Landing and USS Mariner are both lamenting the hiring. Jeff Sullivan went so far as to point out the hiring of six managers with no previous major league managerial experience, and that McClendon’s hiring was disappointing and uninteresting. Comments to both the LL column by Scott Weber and the Sullivan post showed little enthusiasm for the hire.
My response is likewise nonplussed. I don’t buy the whole McClendon is just another failed retread argument. The guy did the best he could in an impossible situation in Pittsburgh. John McGraw couldn’t have won in Pittsburgh. He was fiery and inspired his players. Are we saying we can’t use a fiery inspiring field leader at Safeco Field? C’mon. Lou Piniella is going to be the next entry into the Mariner Hall of Fame. If McClendon could channel a bit of St. Lou, wouldn’t that be just a bit inspiring and interesting? Jim Leyland explained that McClendon was key to the Tigers’ success. Hasn’t the guy earned another shot?
My lack of enthusiasm isn’t because of McClendon’s perceived failure. I just don’t think he can do a damn thing for this team. Unless the front office opens its wallet, and Jack Zdurencik spends the cash wisely, I don’t believe Lloyd McClendon, or Joe Girardi, or Tony LaRussa, or GOD HIMSELF can make this a .500 team, let alone compete for a playoff spot. This is complicated by the perception of this team in the baseball world. The Mariners are seen as badly run, and not dedicated to winning. They may have a few interesting bits, but as teams go, it’s as poorly run as any team this side of Jeffrey Loria. Why would Jacoby Ellsbury consider leaving the world champion Red Sox, even for two truckloads of money, to come to the baseball hellhole of the West Coast? Trading is also a possible way to get talent, but this organization is talent-thin (!?!) and risks blowing more holes in what they have by trading for what they don’t got. And what was the last good trade the Mariners made? 2009?
And I would repeat again-what the fuck is the plan? How much input will McClendon have into the plan, and will the plan in December 2013 be same as the plan in July of 2014? If the plan changes will Howie, Chuckie and Jackie let Lloyd in on it?
Perhaps the biggest task McClendon faces is changing the perception of this team. Not just in the baseball world, but here in the Pacific Northwest. How does he get someone like me–angry, cynical, alienated, but at core ever hopeful, unable to abandon the home town team I love for another–to care about this team on a nightly basis for 162 games. All the umpire baiting, base thefts, and promises to play the game the right way won’t make this team a winner, only the talent can do that.