Mariners manager McClendon will not return for 2016 season
Given the opportunity that he didn't get in his previous stop as a general manager, Jerry Dipoto decided the best move for the Seattle Mariners was to bring in his own field boss from the start.
That was reasoning behind Dipoto's decision to fire manager Lloyd McClendon on Friday after two seasons. Instead of moving forward with someone who had differing baseball views, Dipoto will start his tenure in Seattle with someone he chooses.
"Everything we do is as a group," Dipoto said. "This isn't an indictment of Lloyd. This is a representation of what we would like to build going forward. That is what we'll do."
McClendon's firing was far from a surprise and came less than a week after the Mariners concluded a disappointing 76-86 season. Seattle started the year with expectations of contending in the AL West and reaching the postseason, but instead finished in fourth place in the division.
Dipoto was hired during the final week of the regular season to replace Jack Zduriencik and said he would take his time evaluating whether McClendon would return. McClendon was under contract for the 2016 season.
Dipoto said he has great respect for McClendon but realized in meetings this week and last that their baseball philosophies would not be the best match going forward.
"This was an opportunity to come into an organization and create a vision and I feel like this is the best way to do that," Dipoto said.
Dipoto came to Seattle after leaving behind a rocky relationship with the Angels and manager Mike Scioscia over the summer. Scioscia was already entrenched when Dipoto was hired in Los Angeles.
Rather than try to force a relationship in Seattle, Dipoto will now be able to bring in someone he wants to work with, although he said the situation with the Angels didn't play heavily into his decision with McClendon.
"I thought through all the different angles, the way the clubhouse would be affected, the way the organization would be affected," Dipoto said. "I incorporated a number of people in making the decision and I'm comfortable with it."
Dipoto said he wants a manager who is energetic, a good teacher and has experience in a major league clubhouse but previous coaching or managing experience isn't necessary. And he has a list in mind.
"Leadership will be an important element to me and energy will be an important element to me. Players need to be energized, to be inspired to do something," Dipoto said.
The Mariners said hitting coach Edgar Martinez and infield coach Chris Woodward have been invited to remain with the Mariners staff and Dipoto was hopeful both would accept. Pitching coach Rick Waits and coach Chris Prieto have been invited to remain with the organization in different roles. All other coaches on the major league staff will not return.
Martinez joined the club as hitting coach in June.
"Listening to him break down hitting and how clearly invested he was in making the players better, really excited," Dipoto said. "I'm very excited about the opportunity to bring him back and I think he is. This is where he wants to be."
Seattle was McClendon's second chance as a manager and he raised hopes of a turnaround after the Mariners went 87-75 in his first season and missed the playoffs by one game. But Seattle could not sustain the success from the first season and, combined with Zduriencik's firing, McClendon's status was in doubt once Dipoto took charge.
McClendon was 163-161 in his two seasons with the Mariners and was the only black manager in baseball. Dipoto's decision means Seattle will have its 10th manager, full-time and interim, since the club's last playoff appearance in 2001.
McClendon was well-liked by his players in Seattle, specifically Robinson Cano. But the success of the first season, when Seattle had a lackluster offense but outstanding pitching, couldn't carry into the second year. Seattle's bullpen regressed significantly, the offense slogged through the first half of the season led by the struggles of Cano, and the Mariners could never recover from a 2-9 homestand in late May and early June.
"I look in the mirror every night and I know I gave it everything I had every day," McClendon said on the final day of the regular season. "And, I said this earlier, my players gave me everything they had every day. Some nights it was good enough, some nights it wasn't very good. But, the effort was always there."