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September 27, 2007 at 4:40 PM

Bavasi, McLaren back in 2008

As many of you have no-doubt read, the Mariners have been meeting with media outlets all afternoon to announce that general manager Bill Bavasi and manager John McLaren will be back next year.
This will come as a shock, no-doubt, to some of you. I am still trying to gather my thoughts on what this means. I made no secret of the fact I thought McLaren should probably get another season for the way he handled an explosive clubhouse situation. But when a team loses 13 of 14, or 15 of 17 in crucial stretches, that has to be examined in-depth. Not sure the team has done that. This sounds like a foregone conclusion that was reached long ago, when players were telling me they’d been advised that McLaren was here for years to come.
McLaren told the players in a closed-door meeting that he was coming back and they burst into applause.
“I think he did a great job,” Raul Ibanez said. “He’s got great qualities as a leader and he’s a standup guy. He looks you in the eye and tells you the truth. What you see is what you get with him and I really appreciate that, not just as a boss but as a human being.”
Ibanez added that he was “relieved to hear today’s news and that McLaren faced a tough task taking over a clubhouse halfway through the season without much prior notice.
“You’re managing people,” he said. “Twenty five different personalities. You’re managing different people than in other industries. You’re managing personnel, intense, obsessive, hard-working personalities. Intense, driven. There’s obsessive drive with that. So, it’s not an easy job to come into.”
Just finished meeting with McLaren. He was obviously pleased, but said he’d been prepared for any type of news.
“I think when all is said and done we had a good year this year,” he said. “Got into the final week of the season in contention for the wild-card. I think we’ve come a long way.”
McLaren added: “I think I’ve grown with these guys. They know me, they trust me. I think we all have the same goal, which is to get the ring.
“it’s been a rollercoaster,” he continued. “I mean, a real rollercoaster. Not just a couple of ups and downs. I went straight down there that one trip. We were 20 games over and we’d been real hot.”
He concluded with: “There’s a lot of work to be done. It’s something where we’ve got to get in and dig and do what’s best for the club.”
Who would help the team most right now?
“Bob Gibson,” he quipped.
As for Bavasi, you read what I wrote in this morning’s post about how his ill-fated deal for Horacio Ramirez damaged both the bullpen and starting rotation and arguably led to the downfall of this year’s team. Bavasi’s off-season acquisitions of Jose Guillen and Jose Vidro did balance out the offense, helping it withstand the terrible slump by Richie Sexson to some degree. But Sexson was a Bavasi acquisition in the first place. And the improvements to the offense in no way compensated for the pitching downfall that ultimately wrecked this season.
Bavasi has plenty of work ahead of him to undo some of the long-term damage to this team. Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln talked to Larry Stone, our paper’s representative, and told him that Bavasi enjoying a winning season weighed heavily in his favor. Lincoln repeated his assertion, made exactly a year ago as well, that it’s not the time to “change horses in mid-stream.”
The only thing is, Lincoln’s horses may be closer to drowning than he thinks.
This will be a very challenging winter for a Mariners crew that will find it tougher to acquire top pitching than at this point 11 months ago. Trades will probably be the order of the day and Bavasi will have to do a better job than he’s done so far. He has the trade bait to get things done. And the future of this franchise over the next three to five years could very well depend on how well he does.
Should fans buy into this 84-74 season so far? Possibly. We’ll know in a year’s time how legitimate it was. I get an uneasy feeling about it all, though. I look at the Third Order Adjusted Standings from Baseball Prospectus (W3, L3 on far right) and I see a team that, based on run differential and park factors, is supposed to be closer to a record of 75-83 than 84-74. If Bavasi was 75-83, would he be keeping his job? Has Lincoln ever looked at the adjusted standings? He might want to at some point.
Do I care? Not really. I don’t have a personal stake in this. But I know that a lot of you do. I also know that I’ve seen a situation like this before (WARNING: obligatory Toronto Blue Jays reference ahead). The Blue Jays team I covered in 2003 won 86 games and had a run differential of +69. Trouble is, that team had a +41 run differential in September against some of the worst teams baseball had ever assembled. Toronto went 19-7 that month, with 17 of the wins coming against clubs with a combined winning percentage of .378.
The rest of that run differential came during one of the bigger offensive surges you’ll ever see over a four-week span, giving the team a +77 for the month of May. But the rest of the way, the team was outscored and didn’t look all that good. A few of us saw the warning signs. So did some coaches who recommended more power bats be acquired. The Blue Jays, cocky as heck after that season, had their manager boldly predict a 95-win campaign that winter.
The team finished 67-94 the following season. Behind even the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. And they had better run differential numbers than these Mariners do. That manager was fired by August. Practically the entire roster has since been turned over, other than Vernon Wells and Roy Halladay. Will this happen to the M’s? I’m not saying that.
All I’ll say is, this is not the time for this franchise to get cocky about its “success”. Because real success is fleeting and this club has yet to taste it,



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