Though the press conference isn't until tomorrow, the news is official: Lloyd McClendon is the 19th manager in Mariners history, and the eighth since Lou Piniella's departure. If you're a realist, you have a great deal of skepticism that anyone can pull off the impossible and bring this franchise back to respectability. If you're an optimist, the rationalizing starts now.
Well, not right now—in a second—but first, let's look at what the man himself is saying.
McClendon gave two interviews following his hiring, and because we cited Baker last night, let's mix it up and look at what he told Tom Gage of The Detroit News first:
"It’s a great opportunity for a club with a lot of young talent," McClendon said in a phone conversation. "I’m really looking forward to it.
"At the same time, I want to say that I’ve had a wonderful time in Detroit. It’s a great organization with great fans." [...]
"You just never know," McClendon said. "I thought it had gone well. I think there was a good chemistry.
"And I could see just how badly they want to win out there.
"Some people were saying they thought I had it, but I wasn’t really sure until I got the call."
McClendon, as alluded to, also spoke with Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times—and gave some quotes that sounded awfully familiar while saying he carried what he was doing with the Pirates onto his tenure with Detroit:
"It’s the right way to go about your business, the right way to play the game," McClendon says. "There is a right way to handle yourself when you’re a major league baseball player and I try to instill that in all my players. You take care of your business and you respect the game."
McClendon also goes on to say he won't let young players use inexperience as an excuse. The Mariners also released a press release in which Jack Zduriencik called McClendon "articulate," which made me wince.
On the reaction, this from fellow LLer Nathan summed it up for me:
I'm not excited about Lloyd McClendon (is anyone?) but I am excited for the unknown. Get here soon, Spring.— Nathan Bishop (@NathanHBishop) November 5, 2013
Am I jacked that Lloyd McClendon, specifically, is the next Mariners manager? No, not exactly. He was certainly the individual among the finalists that I was the least "intrigued" by but, where McClendon may have been a 2.2 out of 10 on the excitement scale, Chip Hale might have been like a four and a half.
None of these guys were going to have me thrilled, just in their hiring, but I'm genuinely excited by the idea of the unknown, by something new.
For the two percent of you that read LL but don't read USSM, Jeff made some great points on us not being able to form any educated opinions on McClendon, but that it's still hard not to have one. And Jeff's was:
Among the Mariners’ managerial candidates, McClendon intrigued me the least. He seems like an old-school guy, a retread, a safe selection in that he’s an uninteresting selection. He’s probably got old-school ideas and old-school methods, and he’s probably not what you’d refer to as the "thinking type". Lloyd McClendon has never managed the Mariners before, but he’s probably going to feel pretty familiar, and at some point he’s probably going to get fired. Lloyd McClendon isn’t going to challenge anything but those dog-gone entitled vets in spring training, who think they’ll just be handed a job, but no, everyone’s got to fight, everyone’s got to earn it. McClendon, actually, is probably going to sound a lot like Eric Wedge, and people didn’t like Wedge much.
But that’s a feeling and it doesn’t matter because it’s not based in evidence...
For some quick hits on what McClendon was like, maybe a shred of evidence even, here's Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk:
My thoughts on McClendon: he was a better manager at the end of his time with the Pirates than the start. But was horrible initially.— Matthew Pouliot (@matthewpouliot) November 6, 2013
@clarknova11 Playing wrong players, couldn't manage a pen, lots of small-ball tendencies, his handling of Aramis.— Matthew Pouliot (@matthewpouliot) November 6, 2013
McClendon biggest problem: his inability to put flawed but still useful players in the best role to succeed.— Matthew Pouliot (@matthewpouliot) November 6, 2013
And since he was managing the Pirates, pretty much everyone, Brian Giles excepted, had some flaws.— Matthew Pouliot (@matthewpouliot) November 6, 2013
Lloyd McClendon is, by definition, a retread. And maybe he's the least interesting candidate because he's the guy we know the most about. But there have been more than a few people saying we shouldn't hold McClendon's time as Pirates manager against him, and for some understandable reasons.
There’s nothing wrong with this hire. The Mariners chose a good person for their situation. McClendon is a well-respected baseball mind. He has a good history as a hitting coach, which is the Mariners’ weakness. He did a decent job in his first managing gig with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was fired after posting a .430 winning percentage in five seasons with the previously befuddling Pirates, which is hardly cause for concern. In Joe Torre’s first managing job, he had a .405 winning percentage in five seasons with the New York Mets. Casey Stengel? A .453 winning percentage at his first stop.
Jon Morosi said the same.
Lloyd McClendon deserved a second chance to manage. The Mariners will be glad they hired him. Great baseball man and commands respect.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 6, 2013
NL Central was at competitive zenith during Lloyd McClendon's tenure with Pirates (CHC, STL, HOU good). He was better than many realize.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 6, 2013
Continuing down this path, the most optimistic look at this hiring comes courtesy of Danny Knobler at CBS Sports, as he says this is the second chance McClendon deserves while bringing in insight from Jim Leyland.
He's waited for this, for a second shot at managing, for an opportunity to take everything he learned from those five years with the overmatched Pirates and everything he learned from eight years at Leyland's side with the loaded Tigers.
In other years, we'd be calling him the perfect candidate, a guy with all the right experience and all the right people on his side.
"He's the real deal," Leyland said Tuesday.
Leyland and McClendon are close. The two of them would sit in Leyland's office after games, along with Gene Lamont. They would talk about the Tigers, and they would talk about managing.
McClendon was the Tigers' hitting coach, but he was more than just a hitting coach.
"He's had a lot of impact, and been a big part of our success," Leyland said.
Knobler also dropped this interesting nugget:
McClendon was the right guy for the Mariners three years ago. Some in the organization were said to favor hiring him then, only to be overruled by those who favored Wedge.
I followed up with Knobler in an attempt to find out a little bit more—that maybe he was Zduriencik's choice all along—but all he said was that it wasn't a media source. Though, as Zduriencik was Director of Scouting in Pittsburgh the same time Leyland was manager and McClendon played there, it doesn't sound implausible—and could've even been a "don't quote me on this" note from Leyland in the interview on his former colleague's hiring.
For our last take, let's go full circle, to our SBN brethren over at Bucs Dugout. Their quick take:
Good for him. I know the world doesn't revolve around us, but it's kind of nice to see McClendon win another managerial job right after the Pirates had their first winning season since 1992. It's as if the world has forgiven him -- not that the Pirates' struggles during his tenure were really his fault, of course.
Good for him is right. And you know what, maybe it's good for us. McClendon comes with his track record, but does that track record mean anything? We don't know.
But right now, at this moment, I'm willing to be optimistic—though I can understand those who aren't. McClendon could get a single page in the Mariners' history books as he and Zduriencik depart after 2014. Or, he could be the guy that catalyzes the organizational renaissance we've all been waiting for and is the only M's skipper besides Sweet Lou to last more than four seasons.
But the most important thing to remember is that we don't know. And that's what makes it fun.