After his messy divorce with the Angels, you just knew Jerry Dipoto wasn’t going to have another incumbent manager foisted on him.
Lloyd McClendon was doomed from the moment Jerry Dipoto was hired as Mariner general manager Sept. 29.
Of course, the cynical would say that each manager in the growing line of Seattle’s successors to Lou Piniella — eight and counting, if you include interims — was doomed from the moment they were hired.
For McClendon, the handwriting on the wall wasn’t in erasable pencil. It was in indelible ink, even though Dipoto said all the politically correct things about wanting to get to know McClendon before making any decisions.
Dipoto also said that arranged marriages aren’t the best way to go. It’s better to fall in love and then get married, he quipped. And after his messy divorce with the Angels, at the core of which were Dipoto’s conflicts with an inherited manager, Mike Scioscia, you just knew that he wasn’t going to have another incumbent manager foisted on him — no matter how much McClendon charmed him in their week of meetings.
And McClendon can indeed, be charming and likable. He has a gruff manner that hides not only a keen sense of humor, but a caring heart. Just ask his third-base coach, Rich Donnelly, who will never forget McClendon’s compassion in the aftermath of the death of Donnelly’s daughter, Amy, of a brain tumor in 1993.
Dipoto mentioned many times in his conference call Friday how much he likes McClendon. He called him “a good baseball man and an honorable person.” But that was followed, pointedly, by this: “Now it’s time to look forward.”
McClendon not only had the Mariners’ underachieving 2015 season working against him. He falls decidedly into the old-school camp — which he no doubt has always felt is a virtue, and in many ways can be. McClendon’s mentor is Jim Leyland, who might be the poster-boy of old school. Leyland won a lot of games, and he won a World Series.
Dipoto is looking for someone who is progressive — a new-school man, for lack of a better word. He downplayed the importance of metrics, calling the reputation of his marriage to sabermetrics and their influence in a ballgame “a little overblown.” But I would bet he wants his new manager to more conversant in analytics than McClendon.
The most telling sentence in Dipoto’s statement announcing McClendon’s firing is that “after extensive conversations it became clear to me that our baseball philosophies were not closely aligned.”
I’ve gone on record that I think McClendon deserves to keep managing the Mariners. He instead follows their organization’s regrettable pattern of booting a skipper after a single bad year following one good one. It happened to Bob Melvin (93-69 first year, 63-99 second year, gone), Don Wakamatsu (85-77 first year, 42-70 second year, gone) and now McClendon (87-75 first year, 76-86 second year, gone).
But deserving to manage, in this case, isn’t quite the same as being the right person for the job.
The last thing Dipoto needed was a manager who wasn’t on the same page as him, so it’s understandable that he chose to hire his own man. And by many accounts, that man is likely to be Tim Bogar, a long-time friend and associate whose philosophies are, indeed, closely aligned with Dipoto’s.
Others who may get consideration are former Padres manager Bud Black, Angels third-base coach Gary DiSarcina, and White Sox third-base coach Joe McEwing. Another name being tossed around is former major-league catcher Scott Servais, who was an assistant general manager under Dipoto with the Angels. But he has no managing experience and is more likely to come to Seattle in an executive capacity. Don’t be surprised if Raul Ibanez, a finalist for the Rays’ managerial opening last year, gets a look. And if Dan Wilson is interested, it would be hard to not give the former Mariners catcher due diligence.
In describing the traits he is seeking in the next Mariners’ manager, Dipoto kept coming back to one word: Energy.
“Players need to be energized and inspired,” he said.
McClendon got credit for doing just that in 2014, when the 91-loss team he inherited was in playoff contention to the last day and won 87 games. This year, when the Mariners were one of the worst offensive teams in the majors for the first half, with a dysfunctional bullpen, they looked flat. But even Dipoto noted in the news release announcing McClendon’s firing that “it is a credit to his professionalism that the team continued to play hard through the final day of the season.”
I would argue that the bulk of the blame for this year’s Mariners’ team falls on Jack Zduriencik, the former general manager who took his own fall in late August. Zduriencik burdened McClendon with a roster that had more holes than were readily apparent when all the playoff hype hit in spring.
If you want to get technical, McClendon was probably doomed when Zduriencik was fired. McClendon was Zduriencik’s third manager, and the GM often said that he would be his last. Zduriencik knew he would not have the latitude to fire another manager and survive. He was, in essence, bound to McClendon.
Dipoto had no such ties, and so this morning, the inevitable happened. Dipoto opted to annul his arranged marriage.