The Mariners have hired Lloyd McClendon to be their new manager according to Puget Sound Business Journal, which of course would have all the Mariners breaking news.
McClendon has most recently served as the Detroit Tigers third base coach, and is best known as the former manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Actually, Lloyd McClendon best known for this:
This isn’t an exciting hire.
You see, McClendon was the manager of the Pirates, but he wasn’t the manager of today’s Pirates. His career didn’t cross paths with Andrew McCutchen. His teams were more than 100 games under .500 while he was manager. Of course, there’s a causal argument to be made that his teams weren’t very talented, which is the cause for his poor record.
His teams were traditionally bad defensively, which is cause for concern, though UZR wasn’t as ubiquitous a metric as it is now. They were bad defensively, mind you, with a mid-20’s Jack Wilson at shortstop. They were bad defensively overall despite having one of the best defensive shortstops in the league at the time. Again, a causal argument can be made. Maybe the Pirates just valued guys that couldn’t hit very well, couldn’t play much, defense, and didn’t walk a bit higher than the rest of baseball. Who is to blame for the lineup construction can be a blurry line. One would expect that because a front office usually hires a manager that their ideas of lineup construction are at least somewhat in line with each other. Then again, John Jaso.
McClendon was hired by a Tigers organization that thinks Miguel Cabrera playing third base is a good idea. There is nobody more “old school” than Jim Leyland, who was McClendon’s immediate boss for the last eight years.
For what it’s worth, McClendon had ostensibly good plate discipline as a player. He walked at a better-than-average rate, struck out at a better-than-average rate, and did so while exhibiting close to league average power. And though he played his entire career in the National League, it doesn’t seem that his walks are cheap – McClendon only started nine career games totallin 39 of his 1375 plate appearances in the eighth position in the batting order, where having a pitcher on-deck may influence walks.
Lloyd McLendon is an uninspiring hire by the Mariners. The team interviewed a bunch of guys without managerial experience, and hired the one guy that had some.
That doesn’t make it the wrong choice – we don’t know how the other candidates would do in an equal scenario, be that the Mariners or early-mid-2000s Pirates – but it isn’t inspiring.
Too much emphasis will be placed on the incident in 2001 when McClendon picked up first base and took it with him into the dugout. It was a great baseball blooper, but people will be assigning value to it one way or the other, which is almost certainly misguided. We know that adjectives like “firey” and “passionate” carry very little value positive or negative.
McClendon has also defended Prince Fielder, which will influence some people’s opinions of McClendon depending on how they feel about Prince Fielder, because we have to be so fucking partisan sometimes. What that may say is that McClendon is a player’s manager – a guy that players like to play for, or at least don’t hate to play for. That could be different than what Eric Wedge was, and we know that Eric Wedge wasn’t very good. Different could mean better. It could mean worse, though worse is a bit harder to fathom.
The most optimistic conclusion today is to give the Mariners the benefit of the doubt. There are perfectly rational reasons to think that McClendon will fare better with this team than he did with the Pirates. There is even a somewhat-accepted idea that coaching on a successful team precedes good managing, or in this case improved managing. Optimism has boundaries, though, and it’s hard to give the Mariners the benefit of the doubt after they’ve swung so violently and missed so decidedly on their last two managerial decisions.
Today is not an exciting day for Mariners fans.
Lloyd McClendon. Throw a party. Or don’t throw a party.