If there is anything I’ve found incredibly refreshing about the Seattle Mariners this year, it’s Lloyd McClendon. It’s clear he’s been around this game a long time. He managed the Pittsburgh Pirates through years of futility. He also had great success as a coach in Detroit with very good Tigers teams. But in listening to him hold press conferences after games, what is really clear is this guy is about winning. He’s not afraid to hold players responsible for their performance individually or as a team. Unlike his predecessors, there is nothing opaque about Mac or what he is thinking.
Last night is a perfect example. The M’s had one of their rare offensive explosions and buried the hapless Red Sox 12-3 in what was supposed to be a pretty good pitching matchup between Felix Hernandez and John Lackey. Felix did not look sharp early and Lackey did. Tied 2-2 going into the fourth, Lackey sort of melted away, a bit like a profanity spewing Frosty the Snowman in the June sun. Six runs later, all that was left on the mound was a half eaten carrot. The M’s went tacked on four more off reliever Chris Capuano. The King left the game after the seventh for mop-up by Dominic Leone and Tom Wilhelmson.
I hung on after the game was over, even though I was really tired, to hear McClendon’s post-game interview. The question came up, wasn’t it nice the M’s scored so many runs when Felix was pitching, after so few were scored in his previous three gems? McLendon’s response was all you need to know about Lloyd McClendon.
It’s not a tough loss for Felix, it’s a tough loss for the Seattle Mariners. We’ve got to stop thinking that way. Felix is no different than any other pitcher on this team, except he’s great. But when we lose a game, we lose a game. When we lose, we lose together. It’s not a tough loss for Felix. We do everything we can to score runs for him. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
McClendon identified the the catalyst of the rout, not as the King’s performance on the mound, or Logan Morrison’s two home runs, but Dustin Ackley’s 13 pitch groundout in the 4th that scored a run, and his hustle down the line that kept the inning alive. After that, Lackey clearly, profanely, melted down to such a degree he couldn’t be bothered to hustle to first base to turn the double play.
McClendon understands the essence of this game is about winning. To win he has to have the people to do the job, but he’ll mix and match to try to put the right folks in a spot where they can succeed. He’s faced injuries to his rotation, injuries to Saunders, Smoak, and Hart. He’s gotten the best he can out of guys like Endy Chavez, Willie Bloomquist and Cole Gillespie. He won’t smooth the egos of the young and ineffective. If you can’t perform, you won’t play. Ask Stefen Romero.
McClendon makes a difference with this team. He wants to win. I suggest Jack Z. and the ownership buffoons get on the train too, and find a way to make this team better so we can all enjoy a ride to the playoffs.