First of all full credit to Bob Dutton from The News Tribune, who had this thing from the get to. I always think it's kind of funny that our culture is so ready to heap so much praise on reporters for reporting news first, but it's a thing we value and Bob nailed it.
While everyone was lurching, reporting, and denying the rumors that the Mariners were interviewing/offering their managerial position to Heathcliff Slocumb purchasing currency Jason Varitek the news of McKay's hiring has been a bit under the radar. I'll confess I'd never heard of him prior to yesterday, but that shouldn't surprise you as suits tend to all blend together to me unless I've met them in person. I have not met Andy McKay in person.
What little we know on McKay at this point:
- He was the head coach for 14 seasons at Sacramento City College
- Has worked the past 3 seasons as the "Mental coach" for the Rockies
- No that's about all I know at this point, sorry.
It's all speculation on my part, I'm just a fan with a computer, but Jack Zduriencik never struck me as the kind of guy willing or able to focus on psychology as a potential performance enhancer/inhibitor. With McKay's hire Dipoto appears to be pointing to the mental game as a key part of his philosophy. With the Mariners seemingly burning through so, so, so many high level draft picks and prospects with little to show for it this is a welcome change of direction.
Despite the brevity of information available at this moment make no mistake this is a big hire. Player development is the engine that drives successful baseball teams. Jerry Dipoto appears to believe, as we have for some time, that something was very wrong with the Mariners' engine. Rather than simply chuck it all out he's taken it apart, looked at it piece by piece, and appears to be set on keeping the good parts while bringing in new, shiny pieces only to replace things broken beyond salvage.
Andy McKay is stepping into a role he's never had before, but at this point these kinds of promotions are fairly common in the baseball industry; from front office to manager a short resume appears to be easily overcome by a light's out interview and networking skills. Is that a good thing? Well sure, if the Mariners farm system starts bearing regular fruit. What continues to be clear is that Jerry Dipoto's front office is going to have a very, very different feel to it from Jack Zduriencik's.
As hirings/firings continue and the front office continues to take shape I'm going to have a hard time not being overly optimistic. Without the burden of past defeat every new manager/general manager/front office member can potentially be part of the structure that finally turns this organization from one of North America's saddest franchises into the power we all so desperately want them to be. We've got over 5 more months to dream, and with Jerry Dipoto's smile, and Andy McKay's encouragement, it's pretty easy to do so.