UPDATE 5 P.M.: Cecil Cooper, former Astros manager, will interview for the Mariners managerial opening, sources confirmed. The interview is expected to take place Tuesday. Cooper’s interview was first reported by Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN. Cooper, 60, had a 171-170 record managing the Astros from Aug. 27, 2007, when he replaced Phil Garner, until he was fired with less than two weeks to go in the 2009 season. In his only full season at the Astros’ helm, Cooper was 86-75 in 2008, good for third place in the NL Central. The Astros were 70-79 when he was fired.
Cooper was a tremendous player for Boston and Milwaukee, compiling a .298 career average and making five All-Star teams. He worked in the Brewers organization during Jack Zduriencik’s tenure there, including a stint as special assistant to the GM (2000-01), director of player development (1997-99) and bench coach (2002).
Former Toronto manager John Gibbons was the first confirmed name to surface as a Mariners’ managerial candidate (he interviewed today in Pittsburgh for the Pirates’ vacancy), and Bobby Valentine is still in the mix. Reports surfaced today, however, that Valentine is a leading candidate for the Florida Marlins vacancy after an ill-fated flirtation with the Marlins during the season.
Padres bench coach Ted Simmons and White Sox bench coach Joey Cora remain often-mentioned names, though neither team had been asked permission for an interview as of late last week. In fact, a baseball source told me recently the club was seeking a candidate with more managerial experience than Cora, who has managed three seasons at Class A ball. This article in ESPN.com indicates that Cora is not in the Mariners’ plans. Simmons’ lack of managerial experience could also be a deal-breaker for him, despite his long friendship with Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik.
Now that the Mariners’ whittling-down process is occurring, here are some other possible names to keep in mind as Zduriencik heats up his search this week:
—Eric Wedge, former Indians manager, age 42. Wedge managed the Indians for seven seasons before being let go after the 2009 season, in which Cleveland went 65-97. But two years earlier, in 2007, Wedge was American League Manager of the Year after guiding the Indians to 96 wins and the AL Central title. They were within one game of the World Series after taking a three games to one lead over the Red Sox in the ALCS, but lost three straight.
Wedge, a former catcher with brief playing time in four major-league seasons, had a 561-573 (.495) record in seven seasons with Cleveland, twice exceeding 90 victories. The financially strapped club traded Cy Young winners CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee under his watch, as well as Victor Martinez and others. He is also under consideration for the Cubs, Blue Jays and Pirates jobs.
—Lloyd McClendon, Tigers hitting coach, age 51. McClendon has managerial experience, compiling a 336-446 (.430) record in four-plus seasons with the Pirates (2001-05). That record is not great, obviously, but it’s actually one of the more successful recent stints with the Pirates. They lost 100 games his first year, then improved to 72-89 his second year, and 75-87 his third before dropping to 72-89 in 2004. He was fired with a 55-81 record in 2005.
McClendon has spent the past five years on Jim Leyland’s Detroit coaching staff, the first as bullpen coach and the last four as hitting coach. The Tigers won the American League pennant in 2006. He had a 16-year playing career, with playoff appearances as a Cub and Pirate. With Pittsburgh, McClendon was associated with Zduriencik, who was their scouting director.
—Ron Roenicke, Angels bench coach, age 54. He’s had 11 seasons coaching under the highly regarded Mike Scioscia, the last five as bench coach after six years as Scioscia’s third-base coach. Roenicke also managed five years in the minors (1994-95, ’97-99), including stints in the Pacific Coast League at Albuquerque and Fresno. He had a 346-283 (.550) cumulative record as a minor-league manager.
Roenicke, a former outfielder who played 59 games with Seattle in 1983, interviewed with then-Mariners GM Pat Gillick for the manager’s job in 2002. The team hired Bob Melvin. Roenicke is expected to interview for the Brewers’ managerial vacancy.
—Tim Wallach, Dodgers’ Triple-A manager, age 53. According to reports out of Los Angeles, Wallach is going to join new manager Don Mattingly’s Dodger coaching staff as bench coach or third-base coach next year if he doesn’t get a major-league managerial job.
Wallach served as Dodgers hitting coach in 2004-05, where one of his star pupils was Adrian Beltre, who hit 48 home runs in ’04. The past four years he has managed in the minors, including the past two at Class AAA Albuquerque, the Dodgers’ top affiliate. Baseball America named him the Pacific Coast League’s top managerial prospect. Wallach was a five-time All-Star third baseman during a 17-year playing career, mostly with the Expos.
This isn’t a definitive list, and they might not all make the final cut. I’m sure there will still be surprises that emerge. But these are some of the names I’m hearing as I talk to various sources.