Lloyd McClendon being fired from his job as manager of the Seattle Mariners was not inevitable. The odds were probably always against him sticking around, yet there definitely seemed to be a possibility that he’d retain his post, despite the team’s transition from Jack Zduriencik to Jerry Dipoto in the general manager’s seat. Since the season ended we’ve been waiting on some kind of resolution. Today it came.
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McClendon won’t be returning as Mariners manager, per Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. The same holds true for every major league coach not named Edgar Martinez or Chris Woodward. So, uh, at least Edgar’s sticking around! That’s worth celebrating, even if it was pretty widely anticipated. The new Mariners GM isn’t going to fire the most popular player in team history. Exhale, everybody.
I get the impression that a lot of M’s fans weren’t entirely sold on Lloyd after this year’s collapse. Some people think he should have been able to intervene and stop this team’s swift and incessant slide out of contention. Surely the field manager should shoulder some of the responsibility for a disappointment of this magnitude, right?
No, not really. Managers don’t really have all that much of an effect on the outcome of games: that’s on the players, somewhat obviously. The manager chooses who gets to play, though that’s really just determined by who’s playing well. Most managers choose to start their best players and keep the rest on the bench. They’re all like this. McClendon’s basic grasp of strategy is the exact same as that of just about every other manager.
Then there’s the bullpen, right? Couldn’t McClendon have pulled different strings in order to get the most out of a season-killing group of relievers? No, probably not. When the entirety of a top-notch bullpen just stops showing up what can you do? McClendon didn’t make Fernando Rodney, Danny Farquhar, and company turn to crap. He stopped using his once-trustworthy relievers as they stopped being decent. I see no fault whatsoever in the way he dealt with a catastrophic bullpen.
What’s more, the Mariners never appeared to quit on McClendon. The players visibly enjoy being around the guy, and if you wanted to argue that the team’s terrible last week and a hald is on the manager, then who are you going to credit for the hot streak that came immediately before? McClendon didn’t cause the wins, just as he didn’t cause the losses. The team’s overall performance was pretty clearly not an indictment of the manager’s incompetence, just as last year’s success didn’t prove it was Lloyd’s doing.
McClendon is out in Seattle for one simple reason: his baseball philosophies are not Jerry Dipoto’s baseball philosophies. The two met several times, and when it was determined that their compatability was less-than-ideal the decision to fire McClendon became automatic. Dipoto’s just getting started here. He quit his last job because of a less-than-ideal managerial situation. He wasn’t stuck with McClendon, so why keep him around if he’s not the guy? The Mike Scoscia situation tells us all we need to know, here.
Early reports have Tim Bogar as the most likely guy to take over in Seattle. Bogar’s currently a special assistant for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but notably filled in as manager of the Texas Rangers following Ron Washington‘s shock resignation late in the 2014 season. He’s Dipoto’s guy, and by the sound of things the team just wants to interview him and then make this formal. Lloy’d not gone for the sake of it – he’s gone because he is, at best, the second-best man for the job.
It’s refreshing to see how much Dipoto cares about his manager. When McClendon was hired, it seemed as if Jack Zduriencik interviewed a bunch of guys and then said “gimme the one with MLB experience.” McClendon worked out well for the Mariners, but his success seemed to be a fluke. It always seemed like the Mariners were lucky to have ended up with McClendon. The process was broken, even if the result was a jovial, spirited manager with a chip on his shoulder.
Under Dipoto, the Mariners are going to become more of an analytical organization. Hopefully. That’s what Zduriencik was supposed to do, too, recall, and then he turned out to be a weirdo who hated players who could field their position or find their way to first base. McClendon’s views are quite old school, and while that’s worked out so far, it might have just been because he didn’t have a GM who was trying to sell him on using more and more information. McClendon and Dipoto weren’t ever going to fit, and maybe that means we get someone new and exciting to root for in the dugout. We don’t know yet.
For now, though, this stings. I really liked Lloyd McClendon. My eyebrows were raised after his hiring, but by the time he’d wrapped up his introductory press conference I was assuredly a fan. Lloyd was competent. He was entertaining. He cared about the things that mattered. He was a lot of fun to have around, and I’ll genuinely miss him now that his time in Seattle is up.
Lloyd McClendon was my favorite Seattle Mariners manager not named Lou Pinella. He’s gone after two seasons, and hopefully the next guy will be even better. Otherwise… well, we’ll always have 2014.