By Shannon Drayer
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Wyman Mike and Moore” Wednesday afternoon and gave insight into why he chose former Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon as his next manager before giving some quick thoughts on a number of free agents Seattle might pursue.
McClendon, who will be introduced to the media Thursday afternoon, was a finalist for the Mariners job in 2010 when Eric Wedge was hired. Why now and not then, Zduriencik was asked?
“He’s a tough guy, he’s a quiet guy,” M’s general manager Jack Zduriencik said of new skipper Lloyd McClendon. (AP)
“I think he is just three years more experienced if you will,” Zduriencik answered. “I think with the manager we hired the last time, he hit all buttons and Lloyd did, too. It was a very close call at that time. We did what we did. I think the fact that the previous manager had experience taking the club close to the World Series weighed in his favor.”
Zduriencik admitted that McClendon’s managerial experience was a factor in his selection but revealed that he wasn’t the only candidate who had managed at the big-league level.
“Experience as a manager helped but we had many discussions with guys who had managerial experience before that,” Zduriencik said. “At the end this was the group of five that we thought were the best fit for us.”
Part of the vetting process included talking to numerous players who had played for McClendon. Zduriencik liked what he heard.
“To a man, even the players in Detroit right now had great things to say about his demeanor,” Zduriencik said. “He’s a tough guy, he’s a quiet guy, very humble. It’s not out there, it’s not in-your-face personality but it is a very confident inner quietness about him, but his players play hard for him and they respect him.”
Most view McClendon as an “old-school” type of manager much like the man he coached under for the past eight years, Jim Leyland. The Mariners, however, have been moving toward using numbers more, and utilize an entire analytics department in baseball operations. According to Zduriencik, this is something McClendon is ready and willing to work with.
“We went over a lot of the things that we are doing – some of the stuff we view that we are going to do in the future – presented it to him, and Lloyd’s response was, ‘This is great. I am all in on everything. Anything that is going help us get better, give us an advantage, I am going to be wide open to. I am looking forward to sitting down with all your baseball ops guys and hear their contributions as well as the old-school baseball guys and kind of put the whole package together and make decisions and move forward with that thought process.’ “
With the manager search behind him, it is now time for Zduriencik to turn his focus to the roster. Jim Moore went rapid fire with his question for Zduriencik and got the following responses:
Moore: “Will you be pursuing Jacoby Ellsbury?”
Zduriencik: “Good call.”
Moore: “Shin-Soo Choo?”
Zduriencik: “Good call.”
Moore: “Masahiro Tanaka?”
Zduriencik: “Outstanding talent.”
The closest Zduriencik came to actually answering a question about pursuing a free agent was when he was asked if Seattle would bring back Raul Ibanez.
“Raul was a integral part of what we have been done and certainly we are going to have discussions with Raul, no question,” Zduriencik answered.
Finally, Zduriencik addressed the question of what he personally could do through player acquisition to help interest the fanbase again. He pointed out that in addition to having “a lot” of payroll flexibility this year he believed that the young players would take another step forward with another year under their belts and that there should be excitement for what we saw from the young pitching in September.
Despite the positives he sees, he understands that at this point of the year it is nothing but talk.
“I realize that the proof is in the pudding,” Zduriencik said. “You have to prove it on the field. I am not going to make great promises right now. We have to do it in spring training and when the season starts, but I can tell you we have worked hard for five years to get us to a point where we have young talent. We have that and I think if we are able to augment it this winter, it is going to be good times moving forward. And we have paid the price.
“Trust me, I understand where the fanbase is, I understand the apathy that is out there.”