After a grueling (?) couple-weeks long search, the Seattle Mariners have reportedly found a replacement for Eric Wedge in the dugout. According to the internet, former Pirates skipper and current Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon has been selected as the next manager of the Seattle Mariners.
McClendon was one of four or five finalists for the job, and was notably the only one with previous big league managing experience. This hiring stands in the face of a recent trend towards rookie managers, as the Tigers, Reds, and Nationals have all chose to hand the 2014 reins over to guys who have never before led a major league club. Seattle has chosen to buck that trend, which leaves us with McClendon.
Most managers are former catchers, but McClendon spent most of his playing days as a first baseman and utility type after being transitioned away from backstop duties. What does this mean? Nothing, presumably, as he most likely was able to learn about game-calling and awareness despite not catching much. In terms of this hire, it is simply another unusual quirk.
As a member of the Tigers staff, McClendon has overseen some successful offenses in recent years. Again, there’s no way of knowing how this experience will translate to his new gig as the head of all field operations for a much, much less talented team. His experience with Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera does not mean that Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager will slug .500 next year. Who knows if he will be more patient or easily frustrated by the kids in the Northwest.
With the Tigers McClendon also got to watch some horrible defense, Austin Jackson and Jose Iglesias be damned. Ideally he will be able to help influence upper management to avoid a similar catastrophe, as the Mariners simply can not ignore their fielding woes again after last year’s disastrously one-dimensional team. Is McClendon an answer to these woes? Probably not. Could he help guide the team towards more balance? Sure.
Nobody knows what made McClendon a better candidate than Chip Hale and company except the Mariners. The Mariners statements in the coming days will be interesting to watch, as they may provide a rare glimpse into the carefully-guarded thought process behind the team’s operations. If they choose to talk about McClendon’s openness to statistical analysis and willingness to use all the tools at his disposal to be the best manager he can be, then that will be a positive sign. If they rave about his grit and experience we’ll have another good reason to roll our eyes and count the days until Jack Zduriencik is inevitably relieved of his duties. If McClendon is here mostly because he has worked with Miguel Cabrera, we should – and will – worry.
At the end of the day, the manager doesn’t do much. The difference between the first and thirtieth-best skippers is best considered negligible, and there’s no reason to believe that a team’s worth won’t continue to be determined by the quality of the players on the field. The Mariners have solved the manager problem, but they still are a team comprised largely of bad players. Any of the guys who got second interviews should be assumed to be capable leaders of men, and of course this should be considered true of McClendon. He’ll probably make some infuriating in-game decisions, just like all managers. He’ll probably do some invisibly little things right and help guide a group of well-paid adults throughout a long, challenging season.
We should neither celebrate nor chastise the hiring of Lloyd McClendon as manager of the Mariners. Rather we should wait until they tell us why he was their choice, and keep our fingers crossed that their reasoning makes sense. Because if it doesn’t, there’s not much reason to believe this ship is any further from capsizing today than it was yesterday.