Lloyd McClendon had his longstanding baseball beliefs put to the test repeatedly while managing rebuilding, cost-cutting teams in Pittsburgh a decade ago.
But through all the losing, the growing pains and the second-guessing of his style, he never wavered on how to hold players accountable. That was reinforced for him the past eight years as a coach in Detroit, where he saw a winning Tigers club holding its championship-level players to the same standard.
And it’s a standard McClendon plans to bring with him to Seattle after the Mariners on Tuesday named him the 16th full-time manager in club history.
“I hear people say all the time, ‘It’s my way or the highway,’ ’’ McClendon, 54, said in a phone interview after landing the job. “But in baseball, there really is only one way to do things and that’s the right way. It’s the right way to go about your business, the right way to play the game. 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 business and you respect the game.’’
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Sources say the Mariners — who will introduce their new manager at a Safeco Field news conference Thursday — took care of business with McClendon as well, inking him to a multiyear deal. The same sources said Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik is to soon receive an extension beyond the 2014 season.
McClendon declined to comment on his contract status.
But when it comes to money and talent, he said he never let his Pirates players use low payrolls or rookie-laden rosters as an excuse for losing on the field. “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 managed the Pirates from 2001 until being fired midway through the 2005 season. He compiled a 336-446 (.430) mark overall and gained the reputation as a tough, demanding field boss who could be fiery with umpires when the situation called for it.
He has tried several times to get back into managing, interviewing with the Mariners three years ago when they decided to hire Eric Wedge. In fact, many of the things McClendon said Tuesday about managing seemed to echo beliefs held by Wedge about a “right way’’ for players to conduct themselves.
McClendon also seemed to channel his inner Wedge in describing himself as a leader of young men. He made the comment in describing what he missed most about managing.
“Obviously, I consider myself a guy who is capable of leading young men to a common purpose,’’ McClendon said. “I often tell my players that we’re like a family. Not a real family, but the family they’re going to be around for a big period of time every day. And like a family, you have to look out for one another.
“And so, that’s the type of camaraderie and the bond that I try to create on the teams that I manage.’’
McClendon was a lifetime .244 hitter as an outfielder and first baseman in 570 games over parts of eight seasons with the Reds, Cubs and Pirates from 1987 through 1994. Those final few seasons in Pittsburgh overlapped with the time Zduriencik served as the Pirates’ scouting director from 1991 to 1993.
“I knew Jack was a tremendous baseball man when I was in Pittsburgh,’’ McClendon said. “He had tremendous passion for the game, and I’m going to enjoy working with him.’’
Zduriencik said in a release that “Lloyd is a bright and articulate guy. 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.”
Zduriencik’s current senior adviser, Ted Simmons, was the Pirates’ GM back then, though he did not partake in McClendon’s interview process this time.
The Mariners look to be more like those younger, inexperienced Pirates teams McClendon managed than the talent-laden Tigers juggernaut he just left after seven seasons as hitting coach and one as bullpen coach under manager Jim Leyland. But McClendon noted that he had to coach a number of young hitters there beyond veterans Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez.
And his passion to get back into managing, he added, has never subsided. Even as the rejections from numerous managerial applications — including Seattle the last time — started piling up.
“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.’’
McClendon as manager
|Lloyd McClendon managed the Pittsburgh Pirates for five seasons. How he fared:|
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @gbakermariners.
Read his daily blog at www.seattletimes.com/Mariners.