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On The Mariners' Next Manager

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When a manager gets fired, I think everyone wants about a day or so to reflect on why it happened, and whether it was the right decision to make. Once those inquiries are exhausted, though - and it doesn't take long - it becomes time to look ahead to who comes next. Who's the next skipper going to be? It turns into a frequent topic of conversation, stretching from the time the opening is created right up to the time that it's filled.

What's weird about this particular discussion, though, is just how different it is from other ones of a similar nature. If your team needs a new pitcher, you talk about possible new pitchers, and you analyze which ones are good and which ones are not. If your teams needs a new second baseman, you talk about possible new second basemen, and you analyze which ones are good and which ones are not. If your team needs a new general manager, you talk about possible new general managers, and you analyze which ones have the right philosophies and which ones have the wrong philosophies.

In other words, when it comes to other openings, it's fairly easy to identify good fits and bad fits, and so, as fans, we're able to root for certain options and against certain others. Even with GMs - though a potential GM is obviously more difficult to analyze than a potential player, there are usually indications somewhere in his history. We knew, for example, that Jack Zduriencik would have a pretty good idea of what he's doing, and we knew, for example, that Ed Wade would not.

But with field managers, it's just so completely different. Larry Stone talked about Bobby Valentine as a possibility to take over the Mariner job earlier this afternoon, and Valentine is a name that gets a lot of fans excited. A lot of fans would love to see Bobby Valentine in Seattle. But, why? Why would Bobby Valentine be a good fit? Can we really say anything with any degree of certainty about how he'd work out?

What about Daren Brown? Brown's a no-name - a managerial prospect of sorts - but he's been in the organization for a while, and he's familiar with a number of players already on the team. Should the Mariners go the internal route and just take away the interim tag? What are Brown's upsides? What are Brown's downsides? To what degree do we know these to be upsides and downsides?

It becomes an interesting discussion, because different people will start to align themselves with different managerial candidates, even though at no point can we actually say very much at all about how they'd work out. Managerial performance is difficult to analyze. Maybe impossible. We certainly don't have an agreed-upon way to do it for now. And if we don't know how to evaluate managers, we definitely don't know how to predict how managers will do in different situations.

One need look no further than Don Wakamatsu for an example of what I mean. Overall, there wasn't a whole lot that changed about the Mariners between 2009 and 2010. Based on team performance and clubhouse morale, I think most would say that Wak was a good manager in 2009. Based on team performance and clubhouse morale, I think most would say that Wak was a bad manager in 2010. How did that happen? Who could have possible predicted it? Who could have known that one of last year's more successful managers would go on to be one of this year's greatest failures, especially with Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney remaining on the roster?

People will speculate about options to fill the Mariners' managerial vacancy. Later, we''ll get something of an interview list. Names will come out. People, in turn, will discuss those names, and discuss their perceived strengths and weaknesses. This guy has experience managing young teams. This guy rides pitchers too hard. This guy has a history of confrontation. This guy is a hardass. This guy is a player's manager. And so on.

And fans will select their favorite candidates, based on their favorite characteristics. I know a lot of fans want to see the Mariners hire someone fiery, so they'll root for the most fiery candidate. Other fans want someone more cerebral, so they'll root for the candidate who talks about OBP and platoon splits and leverage.

But what we have to realize is that, in the end, we just can't really predict who'll fit and who'll flop. We can prefer certain candidates over others - and we all invariably will - but we can't predict who'll succeed, and for that reason I will caution against getting too invested. There's just little sense in getting super excited or super disappointed about whoever the Mariners hire, because we won't actually know if he's a good hire until the season is well underway. And even then, who's to say about the season that follows?