By Shannon Drayer
On Thursday we will learn a lot about new Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon, as the introductory press conference will be held at 1 p.m., and he will do the rounds on TV and radio as well. (Programming note, McClendon will join the Brock and Danny show at 10:30.) I wanted to get a jump on that and spoke with a number of media members and one former player about him and the situation in Detroit for my own knowledge, but will share a few things here with you.
The reaction around baseball was generally positive about the hiring, with many expressing that this was a long time coming and well deserved by McClendon. The question that was asked by many of the fans however was, if he was so great, why didn’t Detroit hire him?
Interestingly enough, McClendon came with the endorsement of Jim Leyland and Tony La Russa, but the association with the former may have in part cost him the job.
By all accounts there was some conflict between wanting the continuity of keeping McClendon, who had sat next to Leyland for the past eight years, and bringing in a new voice. Brad Ausmus tipped the scale. Quite simply, he blew them away in the interviews.
Lynn Henning of the Detroit News shared his strong feelings about this on 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Bob and Groz” Tuesday.
“After eight years, Dave Drombowski knew he had fan fatigue with the current administration,” Henning said. “It wasn’t anything born of hostility or people not realizing they had a good run here but very analogous to a presidential administration where you have had someone in office for eight years. People are generally ready for a new direction.
“Along with that, I thought Lloyd McClendon was probably getting the shaft because of that natural fan fatigue, and that he would be perfect for the M’s,” he continued. “He’s got the experience you need, he’s a strong character, good man, he’s solid. You don’t have any worries about how he is going to handle a clubhouse or dugout situation, so I think you did very well.”
Just how much input did McClendon have in Detroit? That is hard to tell. Leyland runs the show in a different manner than most managers. He put a high priority on having a number of coaches that specialize in different areas of the game, and up until last year sacrificed the bench coach position in order to carry another specialist. Those I talked to said that he didn’t feel he needed a bench coach. He was going to make his decisions himself, and if he needed input he had a number of coaches to go to.
There did appear to be a hierarchy of coaches, however, with McClendon and Gene Lamont being closest to Leyland. “Cut from the same cloth” is how one person I talked to described them.
I think there is little doubt McClendon is old school. How receptive he is to numbers and metrics is another question. The Mariners have an entire department devoted to baseball analytics. How does this fit into the mix with McClendon? We will have to see. What we do know is McClendon has managed before. He has been the guy before, so there should be no transition or growing pains in that department, according to Henning.
“He is a steady ship captain you are going to need to run all the phases of the game and run them well,” Henning said. “He ran a lot of the spring drills. He has an ability to know how to get the guys to laugh, and he does it with command. The general in him has not disappeared since Pittsburg.”