Lloyd McClendon was confirmed as the 19th manager in Mariners history about an hour ago. McClendon, 54, will be introduced at a Safeco Field press conference at some point on Thursday, but have yet to finalize the details. My sources tell me McClendon got a multi-year deal and that GM Jack Zduriencik will likely be extended beyond 2014 as well in the very near future.
The Mariners had to scramble to get this news out after somebody leaked McClendon’s name to the Puget Sound Business Journal. That led to some hasty afternoon phone conversations with the remaining candidates before the Mariners finally released the managerial news a day ahead of schedule.
In any event, McClendon now gets back into managing after nearly a decade’s absence from that role. He was fired as Pittsburgh Pirates manager midway through the 2005 season and has been a hitting coach with the Detroit Tigers under Jim Leyland since 2007. He’d been that team’s bullpen coach in 2006.
I asked McClendon, by phone moments ago, whether he’s had a chance to reflect from a distance the past seven years on his prior managerial career and whether he’d now do anything differently.
“I’ve been managing every day,” McClendon told me, with a chuckle. “Jim (Leyland) has had a running joke with me for years. He’d say that when we’d lose, he was the manager and when we’d win, I was the manager.”
That says a lot about the respect that McClendon, the longtime baseball man with 34 years in pro ball, carries around the game.
McClendon said his time in Detroit reaffirmed the beliefs he’d had with the Pirates that he had indeed been doing things “the right way” as a manager. Many of the teachings he’d tried to instill on the Pirates were things the Tigers implemented with their own winning clubs.
“It’s the right way to go about your business, the right way to play the game,” McClendon says. “There is a right way to handle yourself when you’re a major league baseball player and I try to instill that in all my players. You take care of your business and you respect the game.”
McClendon has known GM Jack Zduriencik from his days as a player in Pittsburgh in the early 1990s. Zduriencik was the director of scouting for the Pirates from 1991 to 1993.
“Lloyd is a bright and articulate guy,” Zduriencik said in a release. “He has Major League managerial experience and has served in a vital capacity in Detroit under one of the game’s best managers. He is a tireless worker and is very respected by the players with whom he has worked. We look forward to Lloyd embracing our players as we move the Mariners forward.”
McClendon knows about young and rebuilding teams, having had those in abundance with the Pirates from 2001 until that final 2005 season. There is a certain patience factor required in handling younger players and knowing when to push them and when to back off.
But McClendon really didn’t have to deal with that to nearly the same degree in Detroit, where his latter years were spent working with some of the biggest money hitters in the game today — guys like Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez. They don’t yet have hitters of that ilk in Seattle, so McClendon might soon find himself reminded of that patience factor and that things have certainly changed in terms of the firepower at his disposal.
Then again, as McClendon reminded me, not all of the Tigers players were older.
“We had a lot of young players in Detroit, too,” he said. “They weren’t all veterans.”
And also, the Mariners say they want to jumpstart this rebuilding plan and let their young players know that it’s time to kick things into gear. So, maybe patience won’t be the necessity now that it was for Eric Wedge and his coaches as they tried to break an endless string of rookies into the majors.
McClendon told me that even with the Pirates, when payrolls were rock bottom and players raw and inexperienced, he didn’t let them use it as an excuse.
“You can’t think that way if you’re a player,” he said. “Because the minute you start to think that way, it becomes the reality.”
McClendon insists he never gave up hope he’d someday be a big league manager again.
“My commitment never wavered,” he said. “I’ve been down a few times, but I’ve had the ability to get up. They’ve given me an opportunity to control my dream again.”
Zduriencik has his manager in place. Now, it’s up to him to go get some additional players so McClendon can keep the dream going.