Note: This is the Crunch Time column I wrote for the Cheney Free Press
The Seattle Mariners are gearing up for 2016 and they are going to have to do it without manager Lloyd McClendon.
The team announced McClendon’s release on Friday, Oct. 9. This came less than two weeks after Seattle hired former Anaheim Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto as the team’s new GM, replacing Jack Zduriencik, who was fired in August. McClendon accumulated a 163-161 record during his two-year stint with the Mariners, becoming only the second manager to have a winning record in the franchise’s history. The other? Lou Piniella.
There seemed to be some interest from the Mariners’ front office to keep McClendon on staff. Shortly after Zduriencik’s firing, Mariners president Kevin Mather said he hoped McClendon would remain on the team for 2016. Still, many fans and critics weren’t surprised by the team’s decision to fire McClendon. Many speculated McClendon’s days in Seattle were numbered after the team hired Dipoto, who had issues with manager Mike Scioscia during his time with Anaheim.
Of course Dipoto’s situation with Scioscia wasn’t the reason for firing McClendon. In a news release, the new GM said he felt a working relationship with McClendon wouldn’t have been a “good match.”
“I respect Lloyd’s baseball [knowledge] and professionalism and having players play hard through the final day,” Dipoto said in the release. “He’s a good baseball man and honorable person. Now, it’s time for us to look forward.”
Dipoto wants a manager who is energetic, a good teacher and has experience with a major league team. Previous managing experience isn’t necessary.
Some remnants of the 2015 Mariners coaching staff may return for next year. Hitting coach Edgar Martinez and infield coach Chris Woodward are invited to remain a part of the organization. Coaches Rich Waits and Chris Prieto were also invited to stay, but in different roles.
McClendon’s first year on the team showed some promise. He helped lead Seattle to a 87-75 record, and was one game shy of entering the American League wild card playoffs. With the signing of several new players and the return of old favorites, Mariner fans went into 2015 with much excitement and hope. However a sluggish offense and pitching staff resulted in a 76-86 finish.
Although McClendon came away with a winning record, it’s hard to compare him to Piniella, who spent 10 seasons (1994-2002) with the team. His tenure included three American League West division titles.
Who knows if McClendon would have had the success that Piniella had if he had stayed 10 years. Perhaps Dipoto was right when he said it was time for Seattle to move forward.
The rotating door for managers is nothing new in Major League Baseball. During the season managers Ron Roenicke (Milwaukee Brewers), Mike Redmond (Miami Marlins) and Bud Black (San Diego Padres) were fired after starting the season with more games lost than won.
The Washington Nationals fired Matt Williams, Oct. 5. Williams, who had no prior management experience before the Nats hired him, led the team to a 179-145 record during his two-year stint with the team. The Nationals also fired William’s staff.
Ryne Sandberg resigned from the Philadelphia Phillies and John Farrell took a leave of absence from the Boston Red Sox after he was diagnosed with lymphoma and was forced to seek treatment.
Now that the Mariners are moving forward, it’s time for McClendon to do the same. McClendon compiled a 499-607 record in seven seasons as a manager for the Mariners (2014-15) and Pirates (2001-05). He worked as a coach on Jim Leyland’s staff with the Tigers from ‘06-13, including the final seven seasons as the hitting instructor.
Although he has more losses than wins, there’s little chance that a team won’t hire him in a coaching or mentoring role due to his experience and working with players. Roenicke returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers as a third base coach. Black is a possible candidate for the Nationals manager position.
If another team hires McClendon, the best thing for him to do would be to use his experience to help them get better and show Seattle the opportunities they missed by letting him go.