Two new pieces of news on the Mariners’ managerial front this morning from sources: Bobby Valentine (pictured above from 2005 in the Japan Series) interviewed yesterday in Seattle with general manager Jack Zduriencik and other Mariners’ officials, and former Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon will be in town this week to interview.
The known list of candidates now includes Valentine, McClendon, former Astros manager Cecil Cooper (who will interview today), former Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, and former Indians manager Eric Wedge. All will interview this week.
Notice anything about this list? Every one of the five has managed previously in the major leagues. When Zduriencik hired Don Wakamatsu two years ago, none of his finalists — Wakamatsu, Joey Cora, Brad Mills, Randy Ready, DeMarlo Hale, Chip Hale or Jose Oquendo — had managed in the majors. That’s the way the pendulum usually swings in managerial hires. You go for the opposite of the person who just got fired.
Valentine has been long speculated as a candidate, but this is the first confirmation of mutual interest between the two parties. He is also considered a strong candidate with the Florida Marlins. If the Mariners are looking to make the biggest splash, then Valentine, with both strong credentials and a strong personality, is their man. But that strong personality has also been considered abrasive by some, and there has always been a question, since Lou Piniella left, of how big a presence the Mariners want in their manager.
Valentine, 60, managed for 15 years in the majors with the Texas Rangers (1985-92) and New York Mets (1996-2002), compiling an overall 1,117-1,072 (.510) record. He was 581-605 (.490) with the Rangers, and 536-467 (.534) with the Mets, winning the National League pennant in 2000.
Valentine, who was the Mets’ Triple-A manager when Zduriencik was farm director, also had two stints in Japan managing the Chiba Lotte Marines (1995, and 2004-09). He won the Japan Series championship in 2005. Valentine is currently a broadcaster with ESPN.
McClendon, 51, is currently the Detroit Tigers hitting coach. He compiled a 336-446 (.430) record in four-plus seasons with the Pirates (2001-05). As I said yesterday, when I threw out McClendon’s name as a likely candidate, that record is not great, but it’s actually one of the more successful recent stints with the Pirates. That’s McClendon and Tony La Russa jawing in the 2004 photo above.
McClendon has been on Jim Leyland’s Detroit coaching staff the past five years, the last four as hitting coach after a season as bullpen coach. When McClendon was an outfielder for the Pirates, Zduriencik was a scouting director for the Pirates.
I’m told this list is still fluid, and could be expanded depending on the availability of various candidates. I’m surmising here, but I’d expect the Mariners to be very interested in what happens with Tony La Russa, who is at the end of his St. Louis contract and is pondering an offer to return to the Cardinals. One possible complication is that La Russa, who just turned 66, has said that he only wants to manage on a one-year contract the rest of his career. La Russa sounds conflicted in this recent story from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. From the Post-Dispatch story: “La Russa reiterated last week he doesn’t see himself managing after he leaves the Cardinals but that he does leave open the possibility of extending his time in the game in a front-office or advisory role. ”
It’s also possible the Mariners will consider a candidate from one of the teams involved in the playoffs, which could delay their decision until after the World Series.
(Valentine and McClendon/La Russa photos by Associated Press)