Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
The Seattle Mariners are obligated to hire a new manager now that Eric Wedge has moved on. Seattle needs a new captain to take the helm of this wayward vessel so that the franchise can be expertly put back on course.
There is one major problem with the search for a new manager. A fresh skipper is not necessarily going to make a huge difference with this lineup, particularly in the short term. To win, the Mariners need a lot more than a coach from another franchise.
I must give credit to a sports radio host who years ago was making a comparison between NFL coaches, NBA coaches and Major League Baseball managers. As noted by the host, an NFL coach spends the game roaming the sideline, chattering into his headset and picking just the right play from a laminated sheet of complex formations. During an NBA game, the coach is often walking up and down, directing player movements and in some cases drawing up an impromptu play on the clipboard in the closing minutes.
What is a baseball manager doing during the 14th inning of a playoff game? They are leaning on the dugout railing, spitting sunflower seeds.
Now, do not misunderstand the implication from the radio host. This is not to suggest that anyone can manage a professional baseball team. A baseball manager must manage egos, know the limits of his players and make key decisions in the late innings of a ball game.
However, baseball is still a team sport that includes a collection of individual performances. In other words, there is seldom a strategy that a manager can put in place to help his player get a hit at the plate.
When it comes to the Mariners, perhaps a new manager can instill a “winning attitude” into this team, whatever that means. The problem is that the Mariners need hitters. Real hitters.
Will a new manager correct a fundamental flaw in the swing of Michael Saunders and cause him to suddenly hit .300 for the season? Could an upbeat manager help Justin Smoak hit 40 home runs by encouraging the Smoakomotive to believe in himself?
That seems unlikely.
What does it take to be a good manager? Is it personality? The ability to strategize? How about experience? It must not be experience because Mike Matheny just led the St. Louis Cardinals to the World Series in only his second year as a big league manager. John Farrell and the Boston Red Sox ultimately triumphed in the World Series, but was that because of Farrell’s stellar 241-227 record as a manager?
Maybe the fact that the Red Sox and Cardinals were first and third in team batting average for the 2013 season had something to do with it.
Again, do not misunderstand the point. The manager is not a useless position, nor will it have zero impact on the Mariners. The point is that Seattle needs a lot more than a manager. They need a lineup that can hit better than .237 for the season.
The fact that the Mariners reached out to Lou Piniella suggests the team is trying to rekindle a time when baseball was much more relevant in Seattle. Even if Piniella had come back, it is doubtful that the 70-year-old former manager could have made a huge impact on this club.
Lest we forget, “Sweet Lou” has some pretty good players back in the day. Does Ken Griffey Jr. ring a bell? Edgar Martinez? Randy Johnson? Maybe you have heard of these players. They were fairly decent.
Seattle will eventually pick a manager, and chances are that it will not be a particularly inspiring hire. That person may have a positive impact on the team and the new skipper may actually start to move the team in a better direction.
However, fans should just temper their expectations. This team needs more than a new manager. The Mariners need hitters. More than one would be good.