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November 25, 2013 at 10:12 AM

Mariners bring in another entirely new coaching staff

Onetime New York Mets star and coach Howard Johnson becomes the fifth Mariners hitting coach of the Jack Zduriencik era, replacing Dave Hansen. The Mariners cleaned out their entire coaching staff from 2013, announcing a new slate today. Photo Credit: AP

Onetime New York Mets star and coach Howard Johnson becomes the fifth Mariners hitting coach of the Jack Zduriencik era, replacing Dave Hansen. The Mariners cleaned out their entire coaching staff from 2013, announcing a new slate today. Photo Credit: AP

ADDITIONAL NOTE: 10:46 a.m.: Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik just said in a conference call that Dave Hansen could stay on as an assistant hitting coach under Howard Johnson if he doesn’t get a job elsewhere. Daren Brown has been offered a minor league deal if he doesn’t get an MLB job elsewhere, while Jeff Datz has accepted a pro scouting job with the team.

We’ve told you about the coaches the Mariners have let go the past few weeks, despite all of them having a year left on their contracts. Today, the Mariners completed the process, replacing hitting coach Dave Hansen and third base coach Daren Brown and bringing in an entirely new staff in lieu of the one that finished last season under manager Eric Wedge.

The new hitting coach is Howard Johnson, who replaces Hansen after handling hitting coach duties for Class AAA Tacoma. AAA manager John Stearns takes over as third base coach for Brown.

Former Pirates slugger Andy Van Slyke is the new first base coach, Rick Waits becomes the pitching coach, Mike Rojas the bullpen coach and Chris Woodward is the infield coach.

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November 22, 2013 at 3:43 PM

Mariners fire Carl Willis, demote Jaime Navarro, lose Mike Brumley

Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis was told yesterday that the team is not bringing him back in 2014 despite him still eing under contract for next year. Photo Credit: AP

Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis was told yesterday that the team is not bringing him back in 2014 despite him still eing under contract for next year. Photo Credit: AP

The purging of the Mariners coaching staff continued this week when the team informed pitching coach Carl Willis that he wasn’t coming back despite having a year left on his contract. Bullpen coach Jaime Navarro — who had been interested in becoming pitching coach in the event Willis wasn’t retained — was instead told today that he would be re-assigned within the team’s minor league ranks.

And first base coach Mike Brumley, who also had a year left on his Mariners deal, told the team earlier in the week that he was taking an assistant hitting coach position with the Chicago Cubs. The Mariners had given Brumley permission to interview elsewhere, uncertain of whether he’d be retained on the staff under new manager Lloyd McClendon.

Earlier this month, bench coach Robby Thompson was fired by the team ahead of McClendon’s hiring. Third base coach Jeff Datz was told he’d be re-assigned to a scouting position if he chose to remain with the organization.

Like Thompson, pitching coach Willis was seen as very close to former manager Eric Wedge. The team had left Willis’s fate unresolved and gave him permission to interview for pitching coach jobs in Baltimore and then again late last week with the Philadelphia Phillies.

When Willis was told he hadn’t gotten either job, he phoned Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik yesterday to try to figure out whether he still had a future in Seattle.

“He told me he felt it would be too awkward for me to come back with everything that had happened,” Willis said, referring to Wedge’s abrupt departure from the organization at season’s end and stated differences with the way the team was being run by the front offfice and ownership.

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November 13, 2013 at 5:03 PM

Max Scherzer wins Cy Young Award, Hisashi Iwakuma places third

Hisashi Iwakuma finished his season with a 23-inning scoreless streak and lowered his ERA to 2.67. Photo Credit: AP

Hisashi Iwakuma finished his season with a 23-inning scoreless streak and lowered his ERA to 2.67. Photo Credit: AP

This hardly rates as a surprise, but Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers wound up riding his season-long momentum all the way to a runaway win of the AL Cy Young Award, announced earlier today. Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers was second and Hisashi Iwakuma of the Mariners finished third.

Many will suggest that Scherzer’s win total is the reason he won, but that would be a disservice to him. To be sure, starting the year 13-0 and finishing 21-3 helped build that momentum I talked about, but he was also near the tops in most other categories. I made the case for Iwakuma’s candidacy back in September, before the vote was taken, and did so again on MLB Network’s coverage of the award this afternoon.

In the end, I felt there was very little separating Scherzer from Iwakuma and there are a plethora of statistics that back that up.

But ultimately, I still voted Scherzer first and Iwakuma second on my ballot. I put Chris Sale of the White Sox third, Darvish fourth and Anibal Sanchez of the Tigers fifth.

Here is the complete vote breakdown nationwide.

Primarily, I gave Scherzer the slight edge based on his strikeout ability, which surpasses Iwakuma’s. That extra bit of dominance on Scherzer’s part wound up coming in handy in the post-season, when he escaped a bases-loaded, none-out jam against the Oakland Athletics by striking out the side in what proved a series turning point.

Of course, the votes were already in by then. But I felt comfortable with my vote after seeing that display, knowing it was one of the main things that pushed Scherzer ahead of Iwakuma in my mind.

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November 7, 2013 at 5:00 AM

How ‘Legendary Lloyd’ McClendon discovered the ‘right’ way to play

Lloyd McClendon (front row, far left) poses with Ralph Basemore (middle row, second from left), Carl Weatherspoon (second row, third from left) and others from their 1971 Little League World Series team from Anderson Field in Gary, IN. Photo Credit: The Basemore family

Lloyd McClendon (front row, far left) poses with Ralph Basemore (second row, second from left), Carl Weatherspoon (second row, third from left) and others from their 1971 Little League World Series team from Anderson Field in Gary, IN. Photo Credit: The Basemore family

This morning, I have a story in the paper about new Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon and his hitting and pitching exploits at the 1971 Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. McClendon has refered to the title game that year against the team from defending champion Taiwan as a defining moment in his baseball career.

It’s when he says he truly learned that, what matters in baseball is not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. McClendon had hit four home runs his only four at-bats of the tournament to that point, getting walked intentionally every other time and earning the media nickname “Legendary Lloyd.”

In the deciding game, the pitcher from Taiwan decided to pitch to him in the first inning and McClendon hit a three-run homer to put Gary ahead 3-0. But the Gary team managed only one other hit all day, striking out 22 times. McClendon was the Gary team’s ace starter and struck out 12 batters of his own to keep the game close.

The Taiwanese team tied it up in the regulation six innings and the mound duel continued for three more extras until it all came apart in the ninth. McClendon served up seven runs that inning and his opponents tacked on two more once he was pulled to go on to a 12-3 rout.

McClendon left the mound in tears as he was pulled, but his father was right there alongside his coach, telling him that it was OK — that he’d done his best. And McClendon says he’s strived to keep doing his best ever since.

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November 5, 2013 at 6:09 PM

Lloyd McClendon wants to show Mariners ‘the right way’ to play

Lloyd McClendon (right) has been named the 19th manager in Mariners history after spending the past seven seasons as Detroit Tigers hitting coach. Photo Credit: AP

Lloyd McClendon (right) has been named the 19th manager in Mariners history after spending the past seven seasons as Detroit Tigers hitting coach. Photo Credit: AP

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.”

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November 5, 2013 at 3:17 PM

UPDATE: Lloyd McClendon will be hired as Mariners manager

Lloyd McClendon has reportedly been named the Mariners' seventh manager since 2007. He fills the vacancy left when Eric Wedge told the team at season's end he would not be returning. Photo Credit: AP

Lloyd McClendon has reportedly been named the Mariners’ seventh manager since 2007. He fills the vacancy left when Eric Wedge told the team at season’s end he would not be returning. Photo Credit: AP

ADDITIONAL NOTE  4:12 p.m. PT: The Mariners have started to phone finalists for their managerial job to tell them that Lloyd McClendon got it and they did not. The team has also apologized to candidates for letting the news get out before telling the candidates first.

When I spoke to Lloyd McClendon on the phone about an hour ago, he said he still had not been contacted by the Mariners today despite a tweet put out by the Puget Sound Business Journal that he was being hired as the team’s manager. When I tried McClendon again five minutes ago, he’d stopped answering his phone.

The PBSJ has longstanding ties to the Mariners’ ownership, specifically CEO Howard Lincoln, so you can rest assured that their source for this is genuine. It was a pretty good scoop, too, since, as of a few minutes ago, the team had still not informed all of their finalists for the manager’s job that they were out of the running. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has since confirmed that the move is happening.

So, indeed, it looks as if McClendon has become the team’s seventh manager since 2007, reprising a role he held with the Pittsburgh Pirates during the seasons 2001-2005.

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November 4, 2013 at 9:20 PM

Mariners done interviewing almost all managerial candidates

Oakland Athletics bench coach Chip Hale (left), seen in his days coaching the Diamondbacks under Bob Melvin, interviewed in Seattle today for the Mariners' managerial vacancy. Photo Credit: AP

Oakland Athletics bench coach Chip Hale (left), seen in his days coaching the Diamondbacks under Bob Melvin, interviewed in Seattle today for the Mariners’ managerial vacancy. Photo Credit: AP

We’re down to the last brushstrokes in this Mariners managerial search and could know something in the next 48 hours or so.

Chip Hale had his final interview with the Mariners today for their vacant manager’s spot. The Oakland Athletics bench coach came up to Seattle for that final chat with Mariners brass.

Lloyd McClendon, who managed the Pirates from 2001-2005, then served as hitting coach for the Detroit Tigers during a playoff-filled run, interviewed up here yesterday. McClendon flew home to Chicago this morning and I chatted with him briefly about it this afternoon.

Joey Cora was interviewed by the team last Wednesday and is currently at home in Miami. There are no plans to make him come up to Seattle for a second set of interviews. Nor are there plans for Rick Renteria, the bench coach for the San Diego Padres, to come up to Seattle either. Renteria is recovering from hip surgery at his California home and can’t travel. In Cora’s case, the former bench coach for Ozzie Guillen in Chicago and Miami is well-known to the Mariners and their higher-ups by now.

That leaves Tim Wallach, the Dodgers third base coach and longtime Montreal Expos star third baseman, as far as remaining interview candidates.

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November 1, 2013 at 4:28 PM

Mariners fire bench coach Robby Thompson, reassign Jeff Datz

Robby Thompson got to serve as acting Mariners manager for one month in the second half after Eric Wedge suffered a stroke. But Thompson's days with the team ended early last week when he was quietly fired as bench coach. Photo Credit: AP

Robby Thompson got to serve as acting Mariners manager for one month in the second half after Eric Wedge suffered a stroke. But Thompson’s days with the team ended early last week when he was quietly fired as bench coach. Photo Credit: AP

While much of the focus this week has been on the continued managerial search by the Mariners, the team has already quietly gone about removing two members from last season’s coaching staff.

The Mariners fired bench coach Robby Thompson early last week, while they have also told third base coach Jeff Datz he is welcome back in a scouting role, but not in the big league dugout. Datz has yet to tell the Mariners whether he will accept the re-assignment or leave the organization.

All of the coaches were under contract through the 2014 season and the Mariners have said previously that they would be re-evaluating their roles both before and after the new manager is hired. So far, pitching coach Carl Willis, hitting coach Dave Hansen, first base coach Mike Brumley and Daren Brown — who replaced Datz at third base in-season while the latter underwent cancer treatments — have yet to learn their fates.

Willis interviewed for the vacant Baltimore Orioles pitching coach job, but lost out to Dave Wallace.

No reason for Thompson’s firing has been given, though he was close to former Mariners manager Eric Wedge — who informed the team at season’s end that he would not be seeking to extend his contract beyond this year. Among those being considered for the jo of replacing Wedge is Mariners broadcaster and former catcher Dave Valle.

He joins a list of coaches from other teams who have also expressed interest. The Mariners plan more formal interviews of a shortlist of candidates in Seattle next week and could have the new field boss in-place before the GM meetings in Orlando Nov. 11-13.

Valle is believed to be the long in-house candidate for the job. Contrary to rumors, assistant GM Ted Simmons did not apply, nor did Brown or Thompson.

In other news, the Mariners, as expected, declined their options on outfielder Franklin Gutierrez and pitcher Joe Saunders.

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0 Comments | More in coaches | Topics: robby thompson; jeff datz; fired; gutierrez

October 31, 2013 at 8:48 AM

What can Mariners learn from Red Sox? Can’t win if you don’t play

The Boston Red Sox were "wise" spenders of their $160 million payroll now that they've won another World Series. But last winter, they were roundly panned for their $100 million free agent spurge. Photo Credit: AP

The Boston Red Sox were “wise” spenders of their $160 million payroll now that they’ve won another World Series. But last winter, they were roundly panned for their $100 million free agent spurge. Photo Credit: AP

There will be all types of attempts to categorize the Boston Red Sox team that just won the World Series in six games over the St. Louis Cardinals.

I’ve seen them hailed as an example of how to win while “spending wisely” — which is getting to be my least favorite expression in baseball. Sure, they spent their $160 million ‘”wisely” now that they’ve won something. But how many of the supposed expert analysts were using that expression last winter when the team signed Shane Victorino to a three-year, $39-million contract?

Yeah, not a lot of folks locally or nationally.

But now that they’ve won, in hindsight, sure, we can say they spent wisely. Just like the San Francisco Giants spent wisely a year ago, when they won it all. This year? With 86 losses? Not so much.

I find it tough to award any value-spending points to a team with a payroll twice as big as what the Mariners fielded this past season. Not that I blame the Red Sox, mind you. In baseball, you don’t get trophies for bang-for-your-buck efforts. In a sport with only the softest of spending limits, what counts is winning on the field. The final four teams in this year’s playoffs were all top-four in payroll in each of their respective leagues, giving them the depth needed to withstand the arduous playoff process and outlast the thriftier clubs.

So, sure, the Red Sox spent wisely. But they also spent big. Spent $100 million on free agents last winter and did it very well. They could have been content with sitting back smugly after offloading all of those big contracts to the Dodgers towards the end of a 93-loss season in 2012. But that would have just gotten them a few more years tacked on to a rebuilding plan. They don’t really go for those in Boston, namely because they don’t have to.

In Boston, getting bang-for-your-buck takes a back seat to winning. They knew you don’t win if you don’t play when the crucial off-season helps shape your team. So, they went out and played. And they won.

Let this be a lesson for the Mariners as we — sigh — once again embark on another off-season for a team coming off a 91-loss campaign.

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