Manager Lloyd McClendon says he needs to change things after giving his players “a lot of string,” and the Mariners’ chances of making a major move at the trade deadline appears slim.
NEW YORK — Lloyd McClendon knows the cameras catch everything and video lives forever. He can’t escape the highlights of him as a young manager carrying a base off the field in a fit of rage over poor umpiring. He’s seen manager-player dugout confrontations looped and analyzed endlessly on highlight shows. And he’s been around long enough to understand that being unpredictably emotional wears on players over the course of a 162-game season.
There’s an intensity to McClendon. It’s quiet and constant. His players see it. He makes his expectations and feelings known to them without making it a big show for everyone else to see.
And yet there are times when his control of it is lessened by chance or choice. Following Sunday’s error-filled 10-3 loss to the Angels to go into the All-Star break, a frustrated McClendon was critical of his team and its first-half performance.
Mariners @ N.Y. Yankees, 4:05 p.m., ROOT Sports
“We’ve got to get better, and we’ve got to start stringing together wins,” McClendon said. “That’s the message I’m going to send to my club starting the second half. I’ve given my club a lot of string and allowed them to do a lot of things, but it’s not working and we’ve got to change things.”
But what changes can the Mariners make beyond playing better?
From a roster standpoint, they are relatively locked in with this group. There isn’t much at Class AAA Tacoma that could make the team better. Shortstop prospect Ketel Marte has returned from a broken thumb. But Brad Miller has started to play better at the big-league level, and the Mariners won’t stunt Marte’s growth by playing him part-time in the majors.
General manager Jack Zduriencik acknowledged that acquiring a big-name player before the trade deadline is unlikely.
“We did the Mark Trumbo thing,” he said. “We tried to jump the market and make a deal at the time that we thought could bring in, what we considered, a pretty good power bat for our lineup, to help augment what we already have. I think anything else will probably be moves within the organization. There’s always the possibility something could happen, but you’re not really counting on it.”
The asking price to bring in a big-name player is beyond what the Mariners have to give in terms of legitimate prospects.
But that doesn’t mean they will be dormant. They are searching for a backup catcher to replace Jesus Sucre. Trading Welington Castillo as the key part of the package for Trumbo has been costly. The Mariners signed veteran catcher Erik Kratz to a minor-league contract but quickly released him.
Seattle also could add a right-handed reliever for the middle innings. With Danny Farquhar no closer to figuring out his struggles, Tom Wilhelmsen lacking consistency and Mayckol Guaipe not ready for full-time MLB status, the need for a productive right-handed reliever looms.
Key stretch of games
The next two weeks and 14 games before the July 31 trade deadline could change that. If they get on the hot streak they say is coming, Zduriencik could decide to add more, based on ownership approval. If they continue to spiral and are 10 to 12 games under .500, Zduriencik might decide to trade pitchers Hisashi Iwakuma, J.A. Happ, Fernando Rodney and outfielder Austin Jackson — all free agents after this season — for prospects and depth.
Mariners’ second half by the numbers
73 Games remaining this season.
39 Road games remaining. They are 21-21 on the road.
34 Home games remaining. They are 20-27 at home.
22 Games left against teams with winning records.
Of course, if the Mariners fade like that, Zduriencik’s future with the team could be tenuous. Zduriencik received a contract extension last season, and there were expectations from ownership and fans. The Mariners have invested more money than any season in Zduriencik’s tenure — more than $120 million. Eight years into his time with the Mariners, Zduriencik still could be without a playoff appearance.
Zduriencik believes the team will figure it out.
“All of us are disappointed, (but) there’s still a lot of baseball left to be played,” he said. “I do think that we’ll play better baseball the second half. We talk about it all the time, waiting to get that 7-out-of-10, 8-out-of-10 run going where you get back in it. It hasn’t happened. Hopefully it will, I think we’re all optimistic, but, we have to perform on the field.”
The players also believe.
“I don’t think we are frustrated,” All-Star pitcher Felix Hernandez said. “We are still together. We know we are good and that we are going to win.”
Said reliever Joe Beimel: “I don’t think anyone in here is panicking. We still believe we have a chance.”
McClendon also believes. But it seems as though he’s done with the approach he had in the first half. He protected players from criticism and handled discipline internally while giving players “string” and freedom. It’s a veteran group that he trusted. But their inconsistent play and inability to play at a high level for an extended basis appears to have exhausted his patience.
“You try to stay positive and encourage your club, but maybe it takes prodding of a different nature,” McClendon said. “And if that’s the case, then that’s what I have to do.”