The Mariners will have a new manager in 2016.
The team has announced that Lloyd McClendon will not return, confirming reports of his firing and earlier speculation that new general manager Jerry Dipoto would chose his own manager.
McClendon had a year remaining on his contract. In addition to his firing, the Mariners announced that four other assistant coaches will not return in 2016: bench coach Trent Jewett, third-base coach Rich Donnelly, outfield coach Andy Van Slyke and bullpen coach Mike Rojas.
Hitting coach Edgar Martinez and infield coach Chris Woodward have been invited to return to the big-league staff while pitching coach Rick Waits and coach Chris Prieto have been invited to return to the organization in an unspecified capacity.
The Mariners’ announcement came Friday, five days after the disappointing 2015 season came to an end. McClendon finishes with a 163-161 record in his two seasons with Seattle.
“I have a great deal of respect for Lloyd, as a person and as a manager,” Dipoto said in the Mariners’ press release. “It is a credit to his professionalism that the team continued to play hard through the final day of the season. However, after extensive conversations it became clear to me that our baseball philosophies were not closely aligned. On behalf of the Mariners I want to thank Lloyd and his staff for their hard work the past two seasons, and I wish him the best moving forward.”
Speculation was heavy that this was the move new general manager Jerry Dipoto would make. Dipoto and McClendon have met numerous times since Dipoto’s Sept. 28 hiring to get to know each other, and in Dipoto’s words, “each other’s baseball.” Both have said that the initial meetings went well but McClendon acknowledged in an interview for the pregame show that the decision all in all should be a simple matter for Dipoto.
“The fact is, Jerry has to be comfortable with me,” McClendon said. “If he’s not, then I shouldn’t be his manager.”
While both spoke with great respect about the other, with each one calling the other a good “baseball guy,” they had no history together. That, perhaps even more than the Mariners’ 76-86 record in 2015, may have put McClendon behind the eight ball with his new boss.
“I wouldn’t say bringing in my own guy is critically important,” Dipoto said in his introductory press conference. “To have someone I believe in, who I trust, who trusts me and believes in what I am doing is terrifically important. To me, the manager more than any other is a partner. We are partners in what we are doing in building an organization, in trying to create a dynamic that puts players in a position which they can succeed day-in and day-out.”
McClendon inherited a team that went 71-91 in 2013, turning it around to post a 87-75 record the next year. Key free-agent acquisitions were made and expectations were high for the next year but the team stumbled out of the gates and was unable to put together any kind of momentum.
The Mariners will now begin the search for their seventh manager in the last 14 years.