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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

February 16, 2007 at 8:25 AM

Hot Seat, Hot Topic

So far, so good. The Mariners have taken the field for their pre-workout stretch and no one has asked manager Mike Hargrove another “Hot Seat” question, though the Japanese media wasn’t around for Thursday’s scrum…so, who knows? In answer to some of your private e-mails, no I will not ask Hargrove about the “Hot Seat” again just to set off some fireworks — sorry. I do draw the line at humor when a man’s job future is the topic.
Another reader wrote to ask what I think about Hargrove, the man. Specifically, he asked whether Hargrove is — to paraphrase in less colorful language — a “jerk”. That’s an easy one to answer and it has nothing to do with my future job security. In the short time that I’ve dealt with Hargrove, he has always been accomodating and pleasant. And believe me, I’ve dealt with my share of managers. In fact, I had five of them in nine seasons covering Toronto. My favorite of those was Jim Fregosi, an extremely knowledgeable baseball man who had the good fortune of being a more talented player than the majority of those he managed.
Fregosi didn’t take guff from anyone, be it players or the media. But he knew what he was doing and got a heck of a lot out of the two Toronto teams he managed, both of which had players big on reputation and ego, not so big on knowing how to win. The one thing Fregosi told me that still sticks is that a manager is only as good as the players at his disposal. I’ve thought about that a lot over the years as I’ve watched various managers interract with players of equally-varying talent.
Hargrove reminds me a lot of Fregosi from a managerial sense. He won when given players of special talent in Cleveland — something that not all field bosses can do when put under that kind of pressure. And he didn’t win when working for a Baltimore squad where the owner seemed hell-bent on sabotaging his roster each and every year. So far, Hargrove hasn’t won in Seattle, though I look at the past couple of rosters he was given and am not surprised. As a Toronto writer, I pegged Seattle to finish last in the AL West in 2005 and 2006. So, when the team did finish last on both occasions, it didn’t strike me that I should automatically be blaming the manager.
Hargrove as a person seems very different than Fregosi. He does not have the same bluster, the same magnetic personality. That type of “command the room” presence has worked for Fregosi over the years and it has also hurt him at times. Hargrove seems — and I don’t pretend to know him in-depth — a lot more low key. Part of him reminds me of John Gibbons in Toronto, hardly surprising since both men hail from Texas and have a more conservative bent to them. That’s conservative as in values and humility, not in the extremity of their politics, though I know they are both Republican supporters.
Even when Hargrove came out with his “Hot Seat” comments on Thursday, it was done in a very low key, polite manner. Fregosi would have been sarcastic and acerbic to the point where you could see the volcano about to erupt. I never got that feeling with Hargrove. In fact, when I look at him, I see a man trying very hard to change with the times. He is by no means a camera darling like Fregosi, but he is trying to show more humor and appear more loosened up than his reputation.
No manager can change overnight and Hargrove is what he is. He strikes me as very much a “meat and potatoes” type, but that’s not a bad thing. The past two years, he has gone on a sailing vacation with his wife that he wasn’t necessarily crazy about, but did it anyway because he knew she would love it. That tells me a lot about his ego, or lack of one.
I am not predicting he will win manager of the year this season. Nor will I say that I can defend every one of his moves. But I also know that, in the game of baseball, every move by every manager is questionable. We were all over Gibbons in Toronto last season because of his pitching moves and he knows he made mistakes. Hargrove knows he stuck with his veterans a little too long at times last season and says he’ll remember that this season. Fregosi made the same mistakes at times in Toronto.
In short, I will not crucify a guy because he hasn ‘t finished higher than last with two rosters that I predicted would wind up last. I will not blast him for finishing fourth in Baltimore with rosters I predicted would wind up fourth. Do I think the Mariners should do better this season? Yes I do and will be looking for improvements. I also don’t think Hargrove deserves an automatic renewal of his mandate and accept that he does have a lot to prove in 2007. But for me, the bulk of the blame for what’s happened with this franchise does not rest in the manager’s office. If you disagree, fire away. But that’s my take. And again, before some of you inevitably write in to call me a team “homer”, go online, do some research and then put your words down.
By the way. I don’t mind critics. Keeps things interesting and I’d rather have fans who are passionate and interested in baseball than a bunch of ask-no-questions pro-teamers. But let’s at least do some thinking first…
Time to go watch the workouts. If the above stuff hasn’t kept you busy, here’s word about the travel woes of a former Mariner. You see? There’s at least one positive outcome of the Ramirez deal.
For my buddies down at USS Mariner, the morning would not be complete without at least one reference to an old fave.



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