Lloyd McClendon Who?

On the evening of November 5th I was in my usually position in front of the television stuck on the usual channel watching the same hour of Sportscenter over and over again.  Then without warning for about ten seconds the anchor broke away from the monotony to bring us the day’s blockbuster news in the world of sports: “Lloyd McClendon was just hired as the new manager of the Seattle Mariners.”

Literally that was it, and then there was a cut away to some Thursday Night Football promotion.

That was when I sat up from my cushioned throne and muted the television. I felt befuddled as if someone just slapped me across the face with a wet washcloth.  Hold up, was I the only one who caught that?

That was ten days ago and if it’s any surprise I’m just now getting around to writing about it.

Just like that as if it really never even happened at all to the rest of the world, Seattle’s managerial black hole that has chewed up skipper after skipper for the past decade is once again attempting to be plugged.   With eight managers in ten years the proverbial boat continues to rock but the question is when will it really stop? If Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong won’t step aside (don’t hold your breath because it won’t happen anytime soon) the next best thing for Jack to do is to work with is the managerial position the best he can. 

To be honest, I thought they would have settled on Joey Cora for the fans or some of the other extensive options they had.  The opening drew much more interest than I would originally expect given all the names that have been floating around the position in the past couple weeks and also based on who I believed would have been the best fit (recall my earlier article).  With that in mind, McClendon came out of the woodwork and seems to fit my mold rather interestingly.

Maybe I don’t give Seattle enough credit as an organization but still, they might have found someone who can fill the void for this organization’s glaring needs right now in a very proper way.  A rather unlikely candidate from my perspective Lloyd McClendon is someone not immune to the struggles of rebuilding and working with young talent thus making him ideal for Zduriencik and the large number of young Mariner misfits looking to make the big league roster next year.

Ok great, but whom the heck is this Lloyd you speak of?

Lloyd McClendon is a baseball lifer.  From Gary, Indiana, the same home as the Jackson 5, he worked his way up through the minors and got a chance to play for several systems including double A and triple A leagues before hitting the big time.   He skipped around a few different clubs only playing in a handful of major league games but he eventually went on to manage the Pittsburgh Pirates where he had one of the most memorable tirades in the history of baseball.  While disputing a bad call, he pulled first base out of the ground and proceeded to leave the field with it.  It’s number six on the top ten countdown of biggest meltdowns which you can watch here.

Oh, and if you watched the video, notice Lou Piniella on there? Coincidence? I think not!

Even so, as a manager and a professional he has requested not to be remembered for that single event in his career.  Too bad Mr. McClendon’s awesome displays of passion for the world to see will never be forgotten, especially with the emergence of the video camera and such.

I digress.

Although his record as a manager is not stellar he does have the tools and the resume boosters that the Mariners are looking for.  First of all, he moved on from the Pirates to become the Detroit Tigers hitting coach in 2007 where they went on to win the American League batting title four out of the seven seasons he was there.  Yes, I said batting; an old ancient technique of putting the ball in play without recording an out.  It may be a foreign concept to this region but not to McClendon.

Second, he worked side by side with legendary skipper Jim Leyland for several years.  Jim Leyland is one of the most respected, hard-working and winningest coaches around.  In the press conference McClendon harkened back to how important his time in Detroit with Leyland was and how that has strengthened his convictions in the process of working with young players and understanding what it’s like to win at a high level and what it’s like to lose only a couple games away from the World Series. As a fan, the support and security of knowing the manager has seen his ups and downs and has still come out an aggressive and charismatic manager is very encouraging. 

In his press conference he didn’t compare the team to the Pirates but he instead took the bold step of comparing them to the 2006 Tigers which he helped coach to the World Series.  Don’t laugh quite yet!  The expectations for that 2006 ball club were not to win a World Series but were to be solid on the mound, keep the players spirits high and encourage consistency at the plate and they were able to stay hot just long enough.  Now he did stay away from labeling this next season a winning one but he did call the years to come the ‘Golden Age’ of Mariners baseball.

Fine, you can laugh at that, I know I did.  Just slow down there buddy, pick any other metal before gold and your still setting some lofty goals.

Technically, I think he meant that in an individual way; he is awe-inspired by Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma and the one-two punch they can provide.  He also likes the young core group of hitters he will get to work with and mold. 

He has a very stern and unwavering courage about him that seemed to project outwardly onto everyone he talked to.  I have no doubt it will most certainly project onto the players.  He won’t try and control their game too much because they all have the talent now they just can’t be afraid to go out and use it.  That’s McClendon’s attitude. They just need the right formulas to use that skill to the best of their abilities.

They need McClendon’s swagger. He seems to be a big fan of not over thinking things or making major adjustments but rather keeping spirits up and making the players believe in themselves.  In his own words, “He won’t baby these players but he will kill them will love.”

Lastly, he reiterated one thing that he has told members of the Pittsburgh media, the Detroit media and now the Seattle media: winning is all that matters.  Go ask the Seattle Seahawks, check that, just go ask anyone – it’s a result driven business.  For him to be upfront with that kind of understanding tells us as fans a lot about what he will expect out of his players and how much pressure is really on this organization to start succeeding.

Bottom-line this guy said all the right things.  He will make you a believer just by listening to his word choice.  People in the press conference were laughing and it just seemed like a different swagger than what Wedge brought to the team and especially from what Don Wakamatsu or Bob Melvin could have brought to the clubhouse.

You would never have even heard about it unless you paid attention for those few briefs seconds at that exact minute on Sportscenter.   But let’s be honest, that’s about as much as the Mariners deserve right now.  With so much going on with the Seahawks, the Huskies, the Ducks and any other number of sports clubs in the region, the Mariners are the furthest from important. No doubt, the Mariners are to Seattle what the Kardashians are to society: hardly relevant and highly questionable. Asking me how the Kardashians are famous is just like asking me how the Mariners are a baseball team.

Both are conundrums.

No matter how much you cringe at the thought of comparing the two, McClendon would probably agree with me.  He knows he has got work to do, but is happy to do it.  He is one of the more high profile hires the Mariners have had at the position.  He is honest and has a whole-hearted competitive spirit that we haven’t seen since the departure of Lou Piniella.  He will change the attitude in the locker room and the mindset at the plate.

If the team can rally around McClendon’s personality, it won’t be long till we are actually proud of the product they put on the field and we can look back at his ‘Golden Age’ reference and actually believe it. Or better yet, maybe when his time is done with the Mariners Lloyd McClendon will be remembered for something much greater than literally stealing first base.

Either way, he definitely has me convinced.

About Arran Gimba