Lloyd McClendon: Mariners job ‘a golden opportunity’
By Shannon Drayer
Lloyd McClendon no doubt heard the word that he had an excellent chance to take over for Jim Leyland in Detroit. He coached there for eight years, and was seen as an extension of Leyland and someone who could provide a seamless transition. The odds appeared to be in his favor. Still, he threw his hat into the ring for the Mariners’ managerial vacancy while awaiting word from the Tigers. He had interviewed in Seattle once before and told 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Danny” Thursday morning that he had his eye on the managerial position here all along.
“When this opportunity came around again, obviously I considered it a golden opportunity, and I am extremely happy,” he said. “I told [general manager Jack Zduriencik] before any decisions were made, for me this was the most attractive job, and if I had the opportunity, this is where I wanted to be.”
Why was that?
“No. 1, you have got a guy by the name of King Felix that makes anything attractive. Then you have got another guy by the name of Iwakuma that makes it just as attractive. Then you have got a couple of power arms that mix into that rotation that are going to make it real real attractive,” he answered.
“Pitching is the name of the game. And I think the plan here has certainly started to come to fruition. You have some power arms that are going to be real good with this organization for a long time, and I am excited to be a part of it.”
McClendon has seen big arms turn a franchise around once before.
“I remember coming to Detroit in 2006,” he said. “That team was coming off 119 losses the year before and things seemed very abysmal, and there was a lot of negativity in the city of Detroit.
“But they had a couple of power arms. A guy named Verlander, Zumaya, Rodney, and we went out and made some key acquisitions that seemed to be off the radar somewhat but they fit in and they complemented very well. Jim had that charisma and that understanding with his players to get them to play for him, and I certainly think I bring those same qualities.”
McClendon likes what he sees in the Mariners’ arms and admitted that as the Tigers’ hitting coach he was happy to see Taijuan Walker shut down before Seattle faced Detroit in late September, but not so thrilled that they had to face James Paxton.
“I saw some tremendous arms, power arms in the bullpen,” McClendon said. “I remember making a comment to Jim that these guys have got a chance to be really good really quick. I think the learning curve is going to be shortened quite a bit, from what I see.”
While he clearly appreciates the arms, McClendon knows that pitching alone will not turn things around for the Mariners. His Tigers teams made some big additions to the offense and he is hoping Seattle can do the same.
Felix Hernandez and the Mariners’ other talented pitchers were a big draw for Lloyd McClendon, but he knows the club will need to bolster its offense. (AP)
“I certainly think we have a group of core players that have a chance to be pretty good here from an offense standpoint. I am not going to sit here and tell you that we don’t need more,” McClendon said. “I think Jack is committed to trying to make the right decisions as far as going out and trying to get players to help us be competitive, particularly in the middle of the lineup. I think if you look at our lineup, we certainly have guys that are capable of being pretty good ballplayers, but we need that impact player, hopefully one or two of them.
“If the timing is right and situation is right, hopefully we can get those guys. I don’t know who they are at this point but we will sit down and talk about those things.”
While it more often than not comes down to talent in winning or losing baseball games, co-host Danny O’Neil wanted to know what role McClendon as a manager could play in that.
“When it comes to X’s and O’s, I’m no smarter or dumber than anybody else,” he said. “I know when to hit and run, when to bunt, when to change pitchers and I think most guys do. When you talk about leadership in the clubhouse, I think that is the responsibility of the manager to make sure his clubhouse is running in the proper order. I would never put that on anyone else. My biggest challenge is to make sure I am communicating and getting my players to relax and perform on the field.
“Give me the criticism and give them all the credit. I have got broad shoulders and I can certainly handle it, but I’ve got to get my players to a state where they are relaxed and they are performing on the field.”
There is a lot to be learned about his new team, and the team that he sees in Peoria, Ariz. in February could be very different from the team he saw from across the field in Detroit last September. Moves will be made, the roster will be changed. This has no impact on his expectations for his first season as the Mariners’ manager.
“My expectations are always the same,” McClendon said. “I don’t ever ask a team to go out and win on any particular night, but I do expect my players to be prepared from a mental and physical standpoint to go out and give their best on that night. One thing I can promise the fans of Seattle, I am going to give you everything I have got to prepare my team and get them ready to win ballgames, and I will ask the same from my players. Give me everything you’ve got, every night, and at the end of the day, we will take our chances.”
“The one thing I know is if we can get our team believing in each other and believing in the word teamwork and teammate,” he concluded, “we have got a chance to be real good real quick.”